Crafting Your Own Natural Body Lotion: An Affordable Yet Luxurious Treat for Your Skin

DIY Personal Care Products (Part 1)
Crafting Your Own Natural Body Lotion: An Affordable Yet Luxurious Treat for Your Skin
(Anna Ok/Shutterstock)
Sina McCullough

In this series we explore how to harness the healing powers of nature through home-made personal care products and avoid the side effects of chemical additives, artificial fragrances, and toxic preservatives in commercial products.

In a world inundated with commercial personal care products, it's essential to take a closer look at the ingredients we apply to our bodies.
"On average, women use 12 personal care products a day, exposing themselves to 168 chemical ingredients. Men use six, exposing themselves to 85 unique chemicals," according to the Environmental Working Group.

Chemical additives, artificial fragrances, and toxic preservatives can potentially lead to health issues and systemic imbalances.

In contrast, crafting your own personal care products allows you to exercise control over the ingredients you use, steering clear of harmful agents while harnessing the healing power of nature.

Saving money is an equally compelling incentive to embark on this transformative journey. Mainstream personal care products often carry exorbitant price tags. By creating your own formulations, you save substantially without compromising the quality of the products you use.

In this exploration of more empowering self-care, we'll dive into the art of crafting exquisite skin care solutions, revitalizing hair care remedies, and gentle yet effective hygiene products.

Let's begin this journey by focusing on one of the essentials—body lotion.

In this article, we explore the potential dangers of chemicals found in some store-bought lotions and the advantages of formulating your own using an all-natural recipe.

The Perils of Conventional Body Lotions

Here are some of the potentially harmful chemicals commonly found in store-bought lotions:
1. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT): A widely used preservative in personal care products, MIT is a biocide used industrially to control microbial growth. However, MIT has been associated with inflammation and may be toxic to neurons.
A 2020 study published in PLoS One reported that topically applied MIT triggered local inflammation and persistent tactile sensitivity in mice A 2002 study in the Journal of Neuroscience reported acute and chronic exposure to MIT caused neuronal cell death in rat cells. The researchers concluded that “a significant portion of the general population is being constantly exposed to low levels of these compounds, which are potent neurotoxins.”
2. Parabens: As synthetic preservatives, parabens extend the shelf life of lotions. However, research has linked parabens to hormone disruption because of their ability to mimic estrogen in the body, raising concerns about their possible role in breast cancer development. A 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology reported the presence of parabens in 90 percent of breast tumors tested. Parabens were also shown to alter the expression of estrogen-responsive genes in human breast cancer cells, according to a study published in Pharmacological Reports.
3. Artificial Fragrances: The alluring scents in body lotions often come from synthetic fragrances that may trigger allergic reactions and dermatitis. Fragrances can consist of dozens of chemicals that aren't required to be disclosed on the product label. Some fragrances have shown endocrine-disrupting or neurotoxic effects, according to a 2021 review article in Current Treatment Options in Allergy. Benzophenone and styrene, fragrance ingredients, are listed as possible carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program.
4. Artificial Dye: Added to some lotions and creams to create an appealing color, these synthetic chemicals are commonly made from coal tar. According to a 2012 review article in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, “all nine currently US-approved dyes raise health concerns of varying degrees” ranging from hypersensitivity reactions to carcinogenicity.
5. Mineral Oil: Commonly found in lotions, mineral oil is derived from petroleum through various refining steps followed by purification using acid or catalytic hydrotreatment, according to an article in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.
You can avoid these harmful chemicals and protect your health from risks associated with long-term exposure by making your own body lotion.

Benefits of Making Your Own Body Lotion

Beyond the assurance that you're avoiding certain chemicals, by incorporating natural body lotion into your skin care routine, you unlock a host of benefits, such as:
1. Cost savings in inflationary times: Natural ingredients used in homemade body lotion are often more affordable when purchased in bulk. You can also reuse containers to further reduce costs.

This article includes a recipe for natural body lotion made from organic ingredients. Using today’s bulk pricing, the body lotion recipe costs $1.10 per ounce, which is approximately 40 percent less expensive than many comparable organic body lotions.

2. Personalized ingredients and tailored formulations: Crafting your own body lotion allows you to select specific ingredients, such as essential oils, that cater to your unique skin care needs and aromatic preferences.
3. Thorough moisturization: Natural ingredients, such as shea butter and coconut oil, provide deep hydration, leaving your skin soft and nourished.
4. Environmental consciousness: Crafting your own body lotion promotes sustainability by reducing reliance on single-use plastic containers. Natural ingredients are usually biodegradable, minimizing their effect on ecosystems.

DIY Body Lotion Recipe for Dry Skin

Below is a recipe that harnesses the power of natural ingredients to promote skin health, including:
Shea butter: Because of its fatty acid content, including linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids, shea butter is naturally moisturizing.
Shea butter contains antioxidant properties and is a “significant source of anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor promoting compounds,” according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Oleo Science.
Specifically, several components of shea butter inhibited tumor promoters, and one compound in particular, lupeol cinnamate, inhibited skin tumor promotion in vivo. According to a 2014 study published in Phytochemistry, some constituents of shea butter also demonstrate potent inhibitory activity against skin cancer cells.
Coconut oil: In addition to moisturizing and soothing the skin, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine concluded that coconut oil protects the skin by enhancing skin barrier function through its ability to suppress inflammation.
Coconut oil contains natural antimicrobial properties that may help rebalance the skin microbiome. Whether it's applied topically or ingested, coconut oil is broken down to lauric acid and monolaurin, which have significant antimicrobial activity against gram-positive bacteria and a number of fungi, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society.
Jojoba oil: A widely known medicinal plant, jojoba has a long history of use in treating skin disorders, such as psoriasis and acne. It's also useful for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial effects, according to a study published in 2021 in Polymers.
Essential oil: These natural oils add desirable aromas to body lotion while providing health benefits.
Rosemary essential oil, for example, contains antimicrobial and antiseptic properties that can extend the shelf life of body lotion by staving off microbial growth. Rosemary also contains anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, and anticancer properties, according to a 2023 study in Antioxidants.
Clary sage oil can prevent damage caused by free radicals, which are partly responsible for skin damage and aging. Clary sage has astringent properties, affording it anti-aging benefits to skin by reducing fine lines and dark circles, according to a 2021 review article in the Journal of Plant Science.

A Word on Ingredient Quality

Choose organic ingredients whenever possible. Organic crops haven't been genetically modified and haven't been sprayed with most synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Also, select oils that are 100 percent pure, cold-pressed, unrefined, and have been tested for heavy metals, microbes, and glyphosate. Essential oils are sometimes adulterated by adding a similar but cheaper oil or diluting the natural oil with various solvent oils in order to reduce costs. In 2023, tested 11 peppermint essential oil samples, and four were reportedly adulterated.

Recipe: Soothing Body Lotion

  • ¼ cup shea butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon jojoba oil
  • 10–15 drops of your favorite essential oils (I enjoy 4 drops clary sage, 1 drop rosemary, and 10 drops vanilla essential oil)
  1. In a glass bowl, combine shea butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil.
  2. Melt the mixture over medium-low heat using a double boiler, stirring until well combined. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a large pot and the glass bowl as a substitute. The glass bowl should fit comfortably over the top of the pot, almost like a lid, but with enough space between the bottom of the glass bowl and the pot to ensure that steam can flow between them. Place water in the bottom of the pot, place the glass bowl containing the ingredients on top of the pot, and simmer until the water steams.
  3. Once all ingredients are melted and thoroughly combined, remove from heat.
  4. Allow to cool, mixing occasionally with a hand blender.
  5. Add essential oils of your choosing and mix with a hand blender.
  6. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow the body lotion to harden.
  7. Remove from the refrigerator and mix with a hand blender until the lotion achieves a creamy consistency.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a clean, airtight glass container, and store it in a cool location. If lotion melts, place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and then blend with a hand blender until creamy.
  9. To apply, place a small amount on your finger and gently massage it into your skin.

Contraindications and Precautions

Pregnant or breastfeeding women, children younger than the age of 2, and anyone consuming prescription medications should consult their health care providers before using essential oils. Essential oils may irritate the skin. People with high blood pressure or epilepsy should avoid rosemary essential oil. People with low blood pressure should avoid clary sage.
Before using the recipes in this article, consult with your health care provider to ensure that the ingredients are aligned with your specific health needs. Always check for sensitivities or adverse reactions by applying a small amount of product. Don't use these recipes if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients.

Final Thoughts

As you venture into crafting your own personal care products, remember to research the ingredients and choose the ones that best suit your unique needs and preferences.

Next: We'll explore crafting your own natural shampoo to revitalize your hair without harmful chemicals.

Sina McCullough is the creator of the online program "Go Wild: How I Reverse Chronic & Autoimmune Disease,” and author of “Hands Off My Food” and “Beyond Labels.” She has a doctorate in nutrition from the University of California–Davis. She is a master herbalist, Gluten Free Society certified practitioner, and a homeschool mom of three.