After finishing your first batch of homemade lotion, you realize something is not right. The lotion did not emulsify correctly, and you have no idea why this has happened. This is a very common problem that many novice home crafters struggle with, and in this article, we will see why this happens, and you solve it.
Why does homemade lotion separate? Homemade lotion separated when the emulsification did not hold or has failed. It might also be because the ratio of oil and water was incorrect when using e-wax.
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Why is my homemade lotion separating?
Nothing is more frustrating than seeing your batch not emulsifying well together, but not knowing why this happens is worse. Sure, you can ask someone who is knowledgeable in this who can give you some guidance. But, most people aren’t that lucky to have someone like that, so we go on forums or do a google query search.
The problem with that is that the information might not always be accurate, and because of it, they’d still end up with the same problem.
But hopefully, after reading this article, you will finally have a clear view of why this happens and what to do about it.
The importance of emulsion
One of the most common reasons for a lotion to separate is when the lotion mixture could not emulsify or did not have a stable emulsion. And solving this problem is half of the battle won. So let’s see what and why this happens.
Use the right emulsifying wax.
If you purchase emulsifying wax, you might be fighting a losing battle and might not even realize it. In most cases, this so-called “emulsifying wax” requires you to add a co-emulsifier for it to work.
You need to read the product descriptions and check the INCI carefully. If it only says “Cetearyl,” this means this is not an emulsifying wax. However, if you see something like Cetearyl and Polysorbate, you are good to go.
Beeswax as an emulsifier
Another cause might be beeswax. If you’re using it as an emulsifier in your recipe, you might want to reconsider. Beeswax is a troublemaker in this area, so in most recipes, I would advise using vegetable wax as an emulsifier instead.
Not using enough emulsifier.
Depending on the emulsifier you choose to go for, the dosage needs to be adjusted accordingly. Even though most emulsifiers work well around 20–25% of the oil phase, it is still advised to check the manufacturer’s rate with theirs. A slight dosage difference may be the source of the problem.
You did not stir long enough
I know this sounds very simple, but many people don’t know that constant stirring is necessary to maintain emulsion during the cooling phase with some emulsifying waxes. It is recommended to use a blender, in this case.
Adding distilled water (or liquid hydrosol) too fast
Just like with most homemade products, taking your time when adding your ingredients is important. The same can be said for distilled water or liquid hydrosol. If you want the emulsion to occur, you need to take your time and do this process slowly; the ingredients will gradually mix together.
Careful of preservatives
Not all preservatives are the same, and some might be, in fact, the cause of destabilized emulsions. Unfortunately, in order to know which one works, you’d need to try several and find one that works for your recipe.
Don’t change emulsifying wax with beeswax.
If the recipe calls for the beeswax, go for the beeswax. However, if you see it says emulsifying wax, you cannot use beeswax; instead, your mixture will not emulsify, and you’ll just end up frustrated, not knowing why this has happened.
The cool-down phase
If the cool-down phase is bigger than or equal to 10%, this may destabilize emulsions.
Other probable causes for your lotion to separate
If you are using E wax, it might be possible that the ratio of oil and water is not correct. Most e-waxes only work with precise ratios.
Usually, this “mistake” is when you convert the recipe from weight to volume in measurements. I would even say this is, in many recipes, the leading cause of failure.
If that isn’t your problem, then the temperature might be it. Each phase (oil and water) must have the same temperature when mixing for it to work. So to be on the safe side, you should use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature or make sure both are at room temperature.
Leaving your lotion under the sunlight for an extended period is asking for trouble. Lotions are very sensitive to hot temperature change, and if it’s exposed to high temperatures, you will most likely end up with your homemade lotion that has separated. Creams should always stay at room temperature for them to last long enough.
How to tell if your lotion will not separate?
Your homemade lotion may separate at any time. This means it might happen right after you finished making your lotion or months later. Or worse, it might separate when the customer who bought your product opens it during their summer holiday after leaving exposed to heat for an extended period.
Luckily there are some ways to know if the emulsion is sufficiently stable.
It’s unrealistic to wait one or two years to see if the homemade lotion has separated or not. A much faster solution can be used instead.
Since we know that lotion changes take place the most at higher temperatures, the best way to test out your homemade lotion is to do a 3-month stability test. During this period, you’ll expose the lotion to different environmental conditions.
But you’ll also put the lotion in several different temperatures to see how it reacts—ranging from 4°C up to 45°C. To behave a solid test, this should be done several times during these 3 months at 2, 4, 8, 12 intervals. If you see that there is almost no change after 8 weeks at higher temperatures, your lotion should most likely be able to last you a year at room temperature.
How do you fix separated lotion?
You can save your batch by reheating the mixture in a double boiler while stirring until you get back to its liquid form again. But make sure to keep an eye on the temperature as it’s imperative that it stays under 140 degrees. This way, you won’t need to add any extra preservatives.
In case it does go above it, stop everything and let it cool and add more. Also, as previously mentioned, use a blender for mixing everything, so the same goes for this situation. This should be enough to get back a stable emulsion.
Without the right emulsifier or the correct amount, chances are your lotion will most likely separate at some point. If you are able to solve the emulsion problem, you only need to check for temperature using a thermometer and use a blender to mix everything. I strongly advise you to test out your lotion before selling it using the 3 months testing method explained above. Once you have a stable emulsion, you are good to go.