Learn: How to

Skin cream formulation: How to

Hello guys! Today I would like to go deeper in an important topic: how to formulate a skin cream. If you are interested in creating your own beauty products, it could be useful to discover what there is behind a simple mix of ingredients. This could help you to become everyday more independent and able to find the appropriate ingredients for your own skin. 🙂
But let’s start with the basics..

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Skin cream formulation: How to

1. What is a cream?

Looking through the dictionary, a cream is defined as “a thick liquid or semi-solid cosmetic or medical preparation applied to the skin”
Creams are composed of two phases, that in normal conditions cannot be mixed, such as a water phase and an oil phase. If we pour some oil drops into a glass of water and we mix them vigorously, no matter how we shake it, oil and water will stay separate. This is due to their nature: water is a polar solvent while oil is apolar. This condition makes a mix impossible and, as result, we will have always two phases. During the formulation of a cream, we refer to water and oil phase as phase A and phase B, respectively.

To mix these two phases we will need a compound that have both a polar and an apolar part:

an emulsifier.

soap chemistry

They will act in this way: the polar part or “hydrophilic head” will be dissolved in phase A (water) while the apolar part or “hydrophobic tail”  will be dissolved in the phase B (oil).  At the end, we will obtain a mixture called emulsion.

Now that we know what is essential for a cream, let’s go deeper.

2. What kind of cream to prepare?

Face or body cream? For oily, sensitive, normal, or dry skins? Maybe better an anti-aging or an anti-acne cream?  When we want to formulate a cream, first of all we have to know for which part of our body we need it. Then analyse the skin type in that area and, only at this point, start to formulate a cream recipe. These steps are crucial because from those depends the amount of required oil phase.

I’m following this guideline and it works properly for my skin.

% oily phase in face cream

  • 3-4% very oily skin
  • 5-8% oily skin
  • 10% normal leather
  • 15% dry skin – mixed skin

% oily phase in body cream

  • 10-15% slightly moisturising and nourishing
  • 20% average moisturising and nourishing
  • 20-25% highly moisturising and nourishing

3. What kind of oil to use?

Another important aspect to consider is to choose the right oil. Oils are classified in different groups according to their viscosity.


  • Jojoba and coco-caprylate are considered really light;
  • argan, olive, coconuts oil are light,
  • babassu and avocado oil are medium,
  • castor and linseed oil are heavy.

After those we have butters as mango and shea butter.

For my formulations, I try to use a representative oil of each category, of course in different % according to the goal of the cream. For example: if I want to prepare an oil-free skin cream, I will use more ‘really light’ oil than butter.

Read the ingredients you should have to start with DIY by clicking here.

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4. Skin cream formulation

So far, we have covered only 2 phases (A and B), but an additional one exists. Once the emulsion between phase A and B is ready, it is possible to add further ingredients. These are grouped under the name phase C and are introduced when the compound is cold due to their thermolabile properties. An example are preservatives and anti-aging ingredients.

Now that we know what phase A, B, and C are, let’s try to formulate a cream, for example:

face cream for dry skins.

We know that in this case the % of phase B will be around 15%.

To formulate a cream we aim to 100g of final product so that 15% will be 15g of phase B (different oils at your choice + emulsifier = 15g) in 100 g of product.

Phase C: preservative 0,6% + other ingredients at your choice, ex. vitamin E (ex 1g), panthenol (ex. 1g)

Phase A: here we can insert glycerin and thickening agent (xanthane gum or guar gum) because they are water soluble.  For my formulations, I normally use 5g of glycerin. Then, thickening agent, ex. Xanthane gum 0,3g.

Once that we have selected the ingredients and the quantity for each one, we have to sum all the amount  and subtract from 100g. The difference will represent the amount of water required.

Ex. 15+0,6+1+1+5+0,3=22,9       Water: 100-22,9= 77,1

These are the guidelines for the formulation of cream, hope it will be useful:)

An example of skin cream formulation is here!

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