Can I save lotion that has separated?

Oils in lotion that separate

Set of coconut products. Milk, water, oil and lotion

Today’s topic is about how to salvage a batch of DIY lotion that you thought was just about to come out perfect, only to find that it began to separate shortly after you packaged it. Yup, it happens. So, let’s talk about why and how to fix it.

Recently, one of the Crafter’s in our Thermal Mermaid Community struck up a conversation about a recipe she was working on. After working on a body butter / lotion combo, Nia got her product put together and after a little time the butter started to change appearance in the glass jar.

DIY lotion after blended and packaged that is beginning to separate.

What we’re looking at here is where the oil is pooling out of the mixture and starting to create pockets on the edge of the jar. You might be thinking, oh well, can’t it just be swirled back together? Yes, you can do this and it will blend right back up, but it won’t stay together. As soon as it begins to settle, it will go right back to separating, and this wasn’t the desired final out come for Nia’s project. To be sure of what Nia was looking at, she took it back out of the jar to get a better look at it,and after some time this is what it looked like.

How did this lotion separate if I followed the directions?

The cause of this is because the lotion did not emulsify properly. The oil part of the recipe did not completely bind with the water part of the recipe and when it was left to rest it did not stay together. There are a couple of common things that can keep a lotion from emulsifying properly:

  • The recipe having the wrong ratio of oil, emulsifiers, and/or water
  • The lotion not being mixed long or hard enough when it was made at the right temperature

Chances are if you are making your first batch of lotion you are trying a recipe you found or researched before you try to craft your own recipe. If you’re proportions are wrong in the recipe, you’ll quickly learn that they don’t balance well. This will result in a smooth lotion that is too sloppy wet with water pooling toward the bottom, or oil floating on the top. Make sure you are getting your recipe from a trusted source.

Once you get the water, oils, and emulsifying wax together in the mixer, you need to give the e-wax plenty of time to do its job. This may mean, allowing it to mix for ten full minutes or more. Often, the lotion will turn a smooth solid color and look perfectly blended before the E-wax has been able to fully bind the oil and water together. This will result in a nice creamy lotion at first, which will separate eventually. The ingredients may not separate immediately, they may take 24 hours or longer, but if the e-wax isn’t thoroughly incorporated into the lotion it can’t do it’s job.

Can I salvage this batch?

The short answer is – Probably. Remember, there are so many variables involved in your personal projects that the recommendations here are just general recommendations and NOT science, because we can’t control for all the factors in your kitchen, and don’t really know how you made your personal product. However, the take away here, is that your batch doesn’t necessarily have to be ruined just because it separated. There are some things we can do, but before we start you’ll have to remove the lotion from the jars, bottles, and containers you used to package and replace it all back in one container. Ugh, what a headache!

So, as we just covered in the section above. The issue is likely to be one of two problems: mixing vs. time, or incorrect oil,water, e-wax %s. So, we will address the easier issue first, the binding issue. Let’s give the lotion more time to bind. The best way to do this is to warm the lotion first. These ingredients relax and bind better when they are warm, so place the lotion back in a double boiler and slowly warm the product. Be careful not to simmer or boil the lotion. We don’t want it to get that warm. Another way to warm the lotion is to give it short bursts in the microwave. It is entirely possible that the lotion cooled down too much before it was mixed together to begin with. A lower temperature makes it more difficult for the e-wax to do its job, so you will have the greatest chance of success if you mix as soon as the water and oils are right off the stove from the start.

In Nia’s case, once her lotion had been packaged she put it right in the fridge for safe keeping. The drop in temperature could have easily accelerated the separation if it didn’t have time to take enough time to get the e-wax completely blended. She wasn’t sure if this was the case, so she warmed up her lotion and melted more e-wax into the total amount and blended it again. This time the lotion came back together for her.

How do I know if the lotion will separate if I am making my own recipe?

You may want to jump right into crafting your own recipes after to learn to make body butters and lotions. If you do, start off by sticking to a basic frame work.

A good ratio to start with is:
20% Oils
70% Waters
10% Emulsifiers

With this in mind, you can create the framework for your recipe that has a good balance of water to fats and plenty of e-wax that will bind the two together.

If you find you aren’t having too much sucess and your projects just aren’t coming together for you, don’t get discouraged. Take a breath and set this project aside for just a minute. Try a body butter recipe that does not call for water or e-wax. These recipes are entirely oils, butters and additives, and they’ll never separate because there is not water in the recipe. These recipes are more dense and rich in oils, so they can be packaged in smaller containers. In fact, they are 70% smaller and the butters are typically scooped from the jar. However, you will still get a rich moisturizing product this way. This will give you a bit more practice learnig how to work with ingredients that won’t turn on you. Check out this video on a water-free body butter.

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