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I have been making lotion for many years now. I have been content with my style but often when I am in the middle of making a batch I start wondering if there is a better way, or if other lotion makers also deal with the little quirks and things that I deal with so I am finally taking the time to ask!
I would love to know what you other lotion crafters are using to mix your lotion? I have been using a basic stand mixer with regular beaters. It takes awhile for the lotion to thicken and I have wondered if using whip style beaters would make it quicker but the whip ones aren't available for my mixer. I know that some lotioners use a stick blender but I have wondered how they sterilize a stick blender with all the nooks and crannies a stick blender has? I am wondering if the whip would put more air into the lotion or be better?
Another concern is all the air getting beat into the lotion. My lotion usually ends up being light/fluffy so that when I pour it into my bottles it doesn't weigh what the bottle size is...ex. I can't fit 4 oz weight of lotion into the 4 oz sized bottle. Is this a common occurance?
I have many more questions I would love to bounce around with other lotion makers but I will wait to see what kind of response this gets. I don't have anyone local who makes lotion that I can talk with and share ideas with so I'm hoping I will be able to here!
I'd love to hear from you!
I use a standard hand mixer for mixing my water & oil phases in lotions. I don't mix constantly until it cools completely. That would be hours and hours of non-stop mixing, since my phases incorporation temperature starts at around 150 degrees. I mix periodically (maybe every hour or so) to keep it moving and bring contents from top to bottom, bottom to top. I do sometimes immerse my bowl into COLD Ice water after the the initial incorporation of ingredients, just up to the level of the contents inside to cool it more quickly, mixing every 15-30 minutes for a few minutes. I use a really large stainless steel bowl, I don't fill it to the top and it does usually float in the cold water a bit but that is ok. I make sure the sink water doesn't get into the bowl. I just put the iced water in my clean, sanitized sink and then sit the bowl down into it. I've found this can cut my cooling phase down to about 1/3 the time of allowing it to cool by itself. The mixing just blends the ingredients and phases together really well and aids in the texture, emulsion and creaminess. The thickening comes from the ingredients you use (ewax and thickeners) and the cooling is where that becomes visible.
I've tried the stick blender for mixing but personally prefer a standard mixer so I can really move the emulsion around and get it from top to bottom. Sanitation with a stick blender isn't really a problem, I don't think. At least not the one I have which has a removable stainless steel stick/blade unit for easy cleaning. You do it just like you would with any utensil you use. Just wash it really well in very hot, soapy water, rinse well under very hot water and sanitize it like you would any other tool you use for your products.
You are correct in thinking the whisk or whip beater would incorporate more air. And as you already know, more air means less product in the container and ultimately that air will settle out and leave you will less than full bottles, sometimes much, much less. I've found that most people love that my lotions are thick and fluffy, like a whipped cream or frosting.
Here's a photo graphic that I did a while back of a side by side comparison of one of my lotions with a typical store brand.
Not sure if any of this helps you or not. Making lotions is one of my favorite things to make. I love formulating them. I love the phases. I love the entire process and the results. It's wonderful to see the phases come together, transform and become something so luxurious, so silky, so yummy. I just love it!
IBN Local Director, Chattanooga
Hi Ginger, I love your photo. what a great comparison.
I also use a stand mixer with large beaters which I use to whip/blend my lotions. I use it for the convenience of not having to stand around holding a stick blender while it emulsifies and thickens. I do find that the mixer makes the lotion very airy, so the when pouring, your actually pouring less into bottles. What I do now is fill the bottles, then cap it and give it a good shake and tap. I find that this actually helps to get the air out of the lotion, so that more can fit. At first, I thought, ok, just let it be and label by volume, not weight, then one day, after shipping the lotion (luckily to a friend... it was still in the tesingt phase) she received the item and said that the bottle was half filled. What we had come to realize is that the packaging/bottles were probably taking a beating during shipping, so the air was getting knocked out of the lotion, which caused the lotion to deflate, which in turn, made the bottle look 1/2 filled. So now we just do the shaking/knocking out the air ourselves. I also found that when we add our fragrance oils after the lotion has thickened, helps to release the air from the lotion as well. Lastly, I found in my case, the ingredients played a factor as well. In the past, I used a heavier butter in my lotions and that made the lotion more weighty. Now I've reformulated and use a lighter butter, which gives the lotion a lighter feel and I think because it's lighter, it tends to be more airy.
Hope some of this helps. Looking forward to hearing from others as well.
Hi, Kelly. I do use a stick blender for all my emulsions. All of my equipment, including the stick blender attatchment, go into the dishwasher for a 2 hour super hot wash (200 degrees), so I've never been concerned about contamination. If you blend your oil and water phases when they are still very hot, it will take much longer for them to cool and thicken. I was taught to heat and hold both phases, and then let them cool to 120 degrees before blending. My emulsions come together fairly fast. I use the stick blender and a silicone spatula to wipe down the sides of my container (I use an ENORMOUS beaker for blending) to make sure all is incorporated. A stick blender is so powerful that you don't have to use it much. Just a few quick zips several times, along with mixing and scraping with the spatula. That is how I keep air bubbles out (if you beat too much with a stick blender you get actual bubbles - not good). I use disposable pastry bags to fill all my bottles and jars, so I actually fill my bags while my emulsion is still a little thin. It's much easier to fill the bags when i can still pour the emulsion. Then I let the emulsion sit for as long as an hour in the bags, until it is thick enough to cut the ends off the bags without squirting liquid lotion all over the place! A good emulsifier and a good powerful blender will give you a nice thick lotion or cream, without having to continue beating throughout the entire cool-down period. I've done this often enough to trust my emulsions will come out rich and thick, even if I beging filling the pastry bags while it is still in a pourable consistency.
Here is a a great photo of one of my products that was a little bit over-mixed with the stick blender. You can see the bubbles at the top! This doesn't happen anymore now that I know i can trust both my emulsifier and my stick blender!
Thank you Ginger, Tieast, and Katie for sharing your process with me! It's very comforting to know that I am not alone in my concerns. Your comments have really helped me :)
I have been leaving my lotion overnight in a ziplock hoping that air will come out of the lotion. I shake the bag awhile to also help with removing air...even after this my weights don't quite get to what the bottle is supposed to hold. My lotions eventually do become creamy and thick but I would like to have them weigh right.
Ginger, I am going to give the ice water method a try. I'll let you know how it works for me :)
Thank you all so much!
These jars are beautiful, Katie, and your labels are very nice! Where do you get the jars?
When I make my lotions, I do them in two phases. I combine my water phase (liquid, humectant, citric acid) in a measuring cup and set that in a pot of boiling water. (There's much more in the water phase, so it takes longer to get to temp.) Then I combine my ingredients for my oil phase (oil, stearic acid, e-wax) in a measuring cup and set it in another pot of boiling water. I let them heat up for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I take them off the heat and set the measuring cups on the counter until they've cooled to 120 degrees. I pour them both into a larger measuring cup, add my preservative and fragrance and blend with a stick blender before pouring into bottles. I let them cool completely before capping. The only time I have problems with bubbles/foam is when I'm making aloe vera juice-based lotions; a few spritzes with alcohol knocks them down.
To sterilize my stick blender, I rinse it off really well, then send it through the dishwasher. It's been my faithful companion for 10 years now. :-)
Thank you for sharing! All of my lotions are aloe vera juice based...that must be why I get so much foam! I thought it was because I add tapioca starch. I will give the alcohol a try! Thank you!
I use a commercial stick blender. We mix about 50 lbs of lotion at a time. Using the stick blender cuts the mixing time down considerably, ensuring a complete emulsion is done.
When selling lotions, I believe you can list as fluid ounces, not net weight. So, for example, your whipped lotion might weigh 16.25 ounces, or 15.00 ounces, even though it is 16 fluid ounces.
If the lotion does contain too many bubbles, I tap the filled bottle on the worktable slightly (without spewing out product) and then top the bottle off with more lotion. I pour while the lotion is warm, knowing it is going to shrink and thicken as it cools. I never cap until the lotion has cooled and thickened.
To minimalize bubbling of the formula, I pull the stick blend up at an angle while finishing the whipping (not directly, up and down at the surface). It pulls the foamy portion of the formula down under the surface a bit more, leaving a smaller area of bubbles to tend to.
I use a regular kitchen blender, what a mess to clean. I make my infusion in a crock pot, (I do healing lotions so I simmer comfrey and such in my oils, then strain and add beeswax and additional oils) then I put it in the blender and add distilled water, I try to warm it first or it cools the oil too fast and clumps. I use a spatula or chop stick to keep it moving and sometime get them caught in the blade, I ruined a few batches that way. When i finally get it creamy I pour it right in my container. clean up is the worst part, next is blending, I am looking for a better way.
Ok, I bought a good stick blender, what a mess, I will give it another chance. reheating my oil now as I had to run out in the middle and it hardened. I did a batch and it didn't blend so well, the water is separating as I put it in the container. I would love to hear how others do it, is there another way to make it creamy without adding water?
I'm not sure, but from what you posted it sounds like you are making a beeswax emulsified lotion? These are more tricky than using an emulsifying wax. I have tried water/oil emulsions using beeswax and have always had a mess and the water always separated out! Maybe another Indie on this site will give some help. I remember an old post on emulsifiers that you might want to search for...if my memory is correct they were talking about using beeswax to make lotion.
Hang in there and keep experimenting! You will find something that works for you :)