Step 3: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
For the most basic cream all you need are three ingredients:

1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup ewax
3/4 cup water

From this basic formula, you can add all sorts of extras. The following are all standard ingredients, and won't add drastically to the cost:

1 tbsp glycerin (add this to the water)
1/4 tsp vitamin E
12-15 drops of essential oil
1/8 tsp of Germall Plus (a preservative)

Note on ingredients:

I wanted to avoid fragrance which meant I had to choose my oil carefully, since I couldn't use perfume to mask an unpleasant oily smell. I chose grape seed oil for all sorts of reasons: the smell is neutral, it gives a cream with a very pleasant texture which absorbs nicely without feeling greasy, it does not clog pores and give you pimples, it has a good shelf life, it is widely available from any grocery store and it is (relatively) cheap. Jojoba oil, for example, which shares many of the same qualities, is much more expensive. Castor oil is also odor free and has a great shelf life, plus it has the advantage of containing lots of ricinoleic acid. This compound has a useful anti-inflammatory effect -- but castor oil gives the cream an unpleasantly heavy, sticky feel if there's too much of it. I could go on and on about all the different oils... suffice it to say, after much experimentation, this one is my favorite. If my eczema test subject is suffering from an outbreak I might combine it with castor oil (I'll use 1/3 cup grape seed, then enough castor oil to get 1/2 cup oil) to help reduce inflammation.

Ewax is a blend of cetearyl alcohol and polysorbate 60. The E stands for emulsifying, and it's purpose is to blend the oil and water into a smooth, stable cream (you might find it under the name "emulsifying wax NF" in online stores). It comes in white, waxy flakes which are easy to measure and melt. I like it better than the "all natural" alternative of beeswax and borax because the cream is less sticky and more stable (i.e. the water and oil in the cream are less likely to separate). Although I've never seen this sold in a brick and mortar store it is very easy to find online. I bought mine here. One pound will last a long time...

Although supposedly distilled water is better, try as I can I have never been able to discern any difference in quality between creams made with distilled water compared to plain old tap water. Save yourself the trouble and use tap water.

Glycerin is a by-product of soap making. It is a humectant, which means it attracts and absorbs moisture. Adding it to cream helps your skin absorb moisture from the air, but if you use too much the texture of the cream suffers, it starts feeling sticky. You can find glycerin or vegetable glycerin (derived from vegetable oils rather than animal fats) in most drug stores, or you can order some with your ewax.

Vitamin E (aka tocopheryl acetate) is also sold in drug stores, but usually it is not pure. They mix it with water or glycerin and other stuff... you can buy it pure wherever you order your ewax. I like adding it to any cream I make because it is a very strong anti oxidant. This means it will help prevent your oil from going rancid, but it will also help protect your skin against UV damage, bring nourishment to the cells, assists in the healing of damaged tissue and prevents scarring. However, it also prevents blood from clotting so it should never be applied to a bleeding wound.

Essential oils will give your cream a nice scent, and different oils are reputed to have various therapeutic properties. Others, such as any citrus essential oil and ginger will sensitize your skin to UV radiation, so avoid using them if you anticipate any sun exposure.

Preservatives are ESSENTIAL if you plan on giving your cream to someone as a gift or selling it. I speak from experience: I once gave some cream to my mother in law in an opaque pump container. She thought it was so special that she never used it and kept it in her guest bathroom. When I visited about six months later I was very glad to be the first guest -- the stuff was absolutely foul, black, smelly, disgusting in all ways, and since the bottle was opaque someone could have easily used it without checking... That said, I don't generally use preservatives for myself because I make small quantities and use them up very quickly. Instead of putting the cream in one big jar I'll use several small ones and store all the spares in the refrigerator. I also make sure I can see the cream before putting it on, and if hairy stuff starts growing or if it smells "off" I'll throw it out. That's doesn't happen often, and when it does it's not a big deal: at about $1.15 per 16oz of cream, I'm not loosing much. I have only experimented with Germall Plus (again, order it wherever you buy your ewax) because it is a paraben-free preservative which is easy to use, but there are plenty of others. This one works quite well though, I have a one year old test jar of cream still going strong.

starny4 years ago
I looked for a method to make my own cream, once I got the idea that it could be done! This is very helpful. My main question is about almond oil. I picked some up yesterday and am hoping I can use it for this. I know that some massage therapists use it for massaging. Have you tried it?
belsey (author)  starny4 years ago
Yes, I have, and it's a fine oil for using in moisturizer.
ebbstarr4 years ago
How long does it last without the preservative?
belsey (author)  ebbstarr4 years ago
That depends on a lot of factors, the main one being how clean your tools, containers and hands are. If you've got the patience to sterilize everything (except your hands of course) in simmering water for 15 min then not touching it, that's best (just like canning). But even so, it varies. The shortest time I had a batch before it spoiled (out of the fridge) was three or four days, the longest out of the fridge was about 6 weeks. In the fridge I had a cream last over a year! On average I'd say they last at least 3 weeks. That weird batch which spoiled so quickly was a freak. But usually I prefer to leave it out because I don't enjoy putting cold cream on. I almost never put any scent (like essential oils) in my creams so that I can sniff it to make sure it's OK. A scent might mask the odor of spoilage.
RachelinWI5 years ago
Have you experimented at all with adding paraffin or oatmeal?
belsey (author)  RachelinWI5 years ago
Yes, I have. I found that using paraffin instead of ewax makes a much less stable emulsion. It tends to separate. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it is harder. The way I used oatmeal was to cook it in water (using more water than if I'd been planning on eating the oatmeal), strain it then use the oatmeal water instead of the plain water in this recipe. It makes a nice cream, but you will need to refrigerate it (just think how long a bowl of oatmeal can sit on the kitchen counter till it's too gross to eat: that's how long your moisturizer will last too).
Marsh5 years ago
This is just what I've been looking for!
Tap water will DEFINITELY contain Chlorine and very likely contain Fluoride and trace amounts of Aluminum Sulfate. The Alum will not likely react, but the Fluoride may and the Chlorine WILL react with anything else in the mix that it can react with...like those essential oils and whatever compound were used as emulsifiers. 
The reaction is probably going to be minimal (as evidenced by the fact that you haven't noticed any difference), but it will occur and in a way that you cannot predict. Distilled water is only $1.59/gal. It's a small price to ensure the highest quality you can get. That is after all the reason we would undertake this project...to ensure that we have the highest quality.
A small boiling of the tap water will get rid of the chlorine and the fluoride, and you will have sterilized water too. Cover the boiled water while it cools down. 

Water one usually finds as distilled is really de-ionized and de-mineralized water, which is not quite the same thing.

As far as to say it has alum, I don't know in your country. If you fill your swimming pool or a large container and it is turbid, you deffinitely don't have alum in it.
 Boiling will remove chlorine, but that won't do anything about Fluoride. Most filters won't even remove that. People don't realize this but the first part of the definition of toxic waste is: "A compound that has no commercial value..." If the chemical used to fluoridate your water was not used for that purpose, Toxic waste is what they would call it. The stuff is poison, plain and simple.  Alum is a very common chemical used in water treatment the world over so if your water came out of a river or lake, it very likely has trace amounts of Alum in it.
The issue here and the reason to use distilled or de-ionized water in the first place is to reduce the likelihood of a chemical reaction between anything in the water and the ingredients you ad. D.I. water is much less reactive than tap water because there are no mineral ions present to react. $1.59 per gallon is a really cheap and easy way to insure a higher level of quality control.
Without going  to deep into chemistry, you either have alum or you have fluor ions and salts, but you can not have both in noticeable ammounts. The mission of alum is to make water electricaly conductive so any fine particles held in suspension by electrostatic charges (Van der Wals forces) equalize their electric potential and drop, binded to the alum, to the bottom of the container that holds the liquid. That is what makes the river deltas and not the water slowing down.
   In fact, the standard procedure to remove fluoride from drinking water is to add alum and later remove the sludge (with the alum).
   What we are doing when we mix the ingredients is blending oils, all the ingredients, except the polysorbate, do not react with water or any other polar substance. It really is the quality of the greases and oils that matters.

   If using vitamin E,  I would rather keep it, and whatever the mix, away from strong light or UV radiation.

   Anyway, using distilled water is a good way of achieving consistent results.
dstoeck5 years ago
what is "ewax"?
belsey (author)  dstoeck5 years ago
 There's a description with a link to where I bought mine right above...