Learn: How to

Skin cream formulation

Today, I would like to go deeper into an important topic: how creams or lotions are made. 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. If you want to know more about skin cream formulation, this post can help you to put a solid foundation in your DIY beauty products path. Let’s start with the difference between lotions and creams. I think this is a good starting point to understand how to formulate creams at home. But let’s start with the basics.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. By clicking through them and making a purchase, I may receive a small commission WITHOUT any additional cost to you.

How to make creams and lotions

1. What is a skin 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 and lotions 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 a result, we will have always two phases. During the formulation, we refer to the water and the oil phase as phase A and phase B, respectively.

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

an emulsifier.

formulate a cream for skin

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).  In the end, we will obtain a mixture called emulsion.

Now that we know what an emulsion is, let’s go deeper.

2. Lotions vs Creams

Both lotions and creams are the results of an emulsion, but what is their difference? The main difference is due to its consistency. Lotions, in fact, are much more fluid than creams, which result, instead, semi-solid.
The different consistency is given by the amount of water used. In fact, lotions have a large amount of water, which gives them their fluid appearance. Creams, on the other hand, have a water content of around 50%, making them much denser and more consistent.

3. Lotions vs Cream: What to choose

Depending on our skin type we will have to choose whether to formulate a lotion or a cream.
The lotion is ideal for normal or oily skin that does not need extra oils to be moisturized. The lotions are quickly absorbed, unlike creams.
The creams, due to their high amount of oils, are suitable for dry skin, which needs more oils to be nourished and moisturized.

4. What kind of oil to use?

Beyond the amount of water used, a certain % of oils and butter are used in lotions and creams, which may vary depending on the formulations and skin type. However, the oils are not all the same and their choice should not be random. 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 butter like 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 lotion, I will use more ‘really light’ oil than butter.

Short break: “Do you want to start making your own beauty products from scratch?” Start now learning how to make an entire lip care routine (scrub, lip mask, and lip balm)!

I designed this short ebook to help makers to create their own products at home starting from zero! Knowing why certain ingredients are used is the key to creating perfect and effective products! In this ebook, you will find not only 3 recipes (about lip scrub, lip mask, and lip balm) and instructions but also the basics of understanding why and which ingredients to use. Check it out!

ebook how to make lip balm
Click here to read more details!


Read the ingredients you should have to start with DIY by clicking here. An example of skin cream formulation is here!

If you like my content, help me with a small donation. With your support, I would like to buy new ingredients and create original healthy beauty products! Thank you :).


Hey, don’t miss my FREE natural skincare challenge! Grab it now and switch to natural!!

Get you “5 days Zero Waste challenge “