How to Make Hand Lotion with Preservative


I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! We had a very nice long weekend and I was so touched by all the ebooklet orders and the sweet emails that came with them. Thank you! Since I’ve been on a body care making kick I have a few things that I want to share with you this week. The first is about preservation.

About this time of year my Hand Lotion post becomes very popular for the DIY Christmas crowd. And for good reason, it’s a great lotion and so easy to make, don’t you think? However because of it’s relatively short shelf life, I started to research preservatives. And I found one that so far I like. Potassium Sorbate. But let’s back up for a moment. There are, as I have learned, three things that can go wrong when you mix water and oil. Yeast, mold, and bacteria can form. None of them are things you want in your lotion and especially on your skin.

To keep your lotion making as sanitary as possible you want to use clean measuring utensils. You want to use pure water, either well water, rain water or distilled water. You want the container you store your lotion in to be as clean as a whistle. Preferably just out of the hot dish washer.

As you go about using your lotion you want to scoop it out using clean dry hands. Even better, keep this lotion in a pump bottle. Store it in a cool place, preferably the fridge. Now personally, if I keep lotion in the fridge, I’d rarely use it as it would surely be hidden behind a jam jar and forgotten completely. So I keep it on the counter top during the winter, and during the summer, I still keep it out, but I make half the amount, so I use it faster.

I’ve found that this lotion stays stable for me for a good three weeks, however it doesn’t hurt to go an extra step and add a food safe preservative if you are giving this as a gift. Potassium Sorbate is an effective preservative against molds, yeasts and aerophile bacteria. It’s cheap (this bag cost me less than $4), it is easily soluble in water and you only need 1/4t. per lotion recipe. I would say that this extends the shelf life of this lotion to about 3 months.

So once again, my Hand Lotion Recipe with preservative!

How to Make Homemade Hand Lotion with Preservative

1 1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup emulsifying wax (Don’t use beeswax, here’s an easy homemade beeswax lotion recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil (I’ve been using grapeseed oil lately for an even lighter lotion)
1/4 teaspoon Potassium Sorbate
24-36 drops essential oil

Combine olive oil and emulsifying wax in a microwaveable container and heat until just melted. About a minute in my case. Once it is melted, you may add your essential oils.

Then heat water to approximately the same temperature as the oil (again about a minute in the microwave). Then add 1/4 t. Potassium Sorbate. Stir well.

Pour water mixture into oil mixture and give it a good stir with a spoon.

Pour it into a decorative pump bottle, let it cool and you’ll have a beautiful, longer lasting lotion to enjoy!


Filed under Body Care, Recipes

28 responses to “How to Make Hand Lotion with Preservative

  1. Thanks for the post about Potassium Sorbate – Now, about that lovely bottle you have your lotion in…Smiles…Is there a place I can buy those? Thanks!

    • asonomagarden

      Laurie, I bought this bottle at Anthropologie, link is in the post. I wish I could find the original source to buy them in quantity!

  2. Patti

    Where did you buy the potassium sorbate? Thanks. Patti

  3. Valerie

    how many ounces does this make?

  4. Jennifer Middleton

    This summer I used Hemp Seed oil because it has a natural spf of about 8ish. It feel lovely and light on my skin, and I Did Not Burn ladies! I just love it. However in the winter I use ex virg olive oil and almond oil blend. FYI ‘no, you will not get high from Hemp Seed oil.’ that effect would be come from Hemp oil which is not allowed into California.

  5. Chris

    First, let me thank you for the ebooklet! I’m gathering all the ingredients to make gifts for Christmas! I also want to thank you so much for this new preservative! I know you spend a lot of time researching ingredients and I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to! I’ve been making your daily lotion ever since you first put it online…and I love it! When you said that grapeseed oil makes the lotion “lighter”. Do you mean “thinner”?
    P.S. Sometimes I buy TJs Lavender Lotion. When it’s used-up, I put my homemade lotion into that bottle (with it’s leftover lotion) and whatever preservative that is in that makes my lotion last longer. ALSO, I found a 16 oz. glass pump bottle, similar to the one in your picture, at IKEA for $9.99.
    Thanks for all your wonderful posts!

  6. Alishia

    This is the BEST lotion ever! I just made 12 jars today for Christmas gifts (and one for me). So glad I found your blog!


  7. Kerry

    What kind of essential oil do you use?

  8. Marta

    I got your ebooklet, its great, thanks! I have also filled everyones stockings with lotion! But I do have a question, why didn’t you put the preservative in the body butter recipe?

    • asonomagarden

      That’s a great question Marta. I am still learning about lotion preservation myself, however I have learned from an expert who never used preservative in her body butter. I think it has to do both with the ratio of oil to water and because you emulsify the two together in a different way. The hand lotion is mostly water and I know from experience goes bad after a while, so that’s why I recommend it for that one!

  9. Just used your basic recipe to create a Lavender Earl Grey Lotion! It is incredible! Thank you so much for sharing! I am planning on giving this out as gifts for Christmas!

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  11. paula paula

    Hi!  I am interested in making the lotion below.  Below it says to use “emulsifying wax (not beeswax, here is an easy beeswax recipe lotion)”    So, when I click on the link it gives me a separate recipe for something different.   when I click on the link for emulsifying wax, it opens up to a beeswax, so i scrolled down and then found the emulsifying wax.  my question is – for this recipe below, I buy only the emulsifying wax.  if i want to make the beeswax recipe that is an entirely diff recipe?  thanks for your help.  i have never made anything even close to this and it was a little confusing to me with the links, etc.        paula meyer 


  12. cerena walker

    how long is the lotion good for?

  13. Monika

    I just made your beeswax lotion. Looks great! Is it necessary to add the Potassium Sorbate to the beeswax lotion as well?
    Thank you!

  14. Mermarie

    I used this recipe for your lotion with preservation just before Christmas, and perhaps it’s due to the cooler climates during that season, the lotion is just as potent and safe to use. :] The reason that I even have it, is because the essential oil I used as a bit potent, so I waited to use it last. 🙂 I was wondering, if you actually knew any rosewater recipes that could be used in lotions? Thanks! 🙂

  15. Lyra Alluse

    Would you happen to know the ratio of the preservative to the measurements in different natural product recipes? Like for example do you use 1/4 tsp. of preservative per every cup or something? If you could let me know I would be so grateful! Thank you so much.

  16. But how safe is this preservative? Wikipedia states that “Potassium sorbate is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant.[9] Although some research implies it has a long term safety record,[10] in vitro studies have shown that it is both genotoxic and mutagenic to human blood cells. Potassium sorbate is found to be toxic to human DNA in peripheral blood lymphocytes (type of white blood cells), and hence found that it negatively affects immunity.[11]”

  17. Q

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I have made your beeswax lotion and this lotion, I’ve loved both recipes!
    Being my first attempt, I read through ALL the comments from the original post to here. I’ll like to thank those who suggested adding Vitamin E (I added 3 capsules).

    My first batch, I tried to be creative and replaced 1/4 cup of distilled water with freshly harvest aloe vera gel (aloe vera stolen from mum’s garden.. shh!!). I tried double boiling instead of using the microwave as well. So I don’t know whether it was because I heated and mixed all the ingredients together or I shouldn’t have boiled the aloe vera as well, the aloe vera did not mix with the lotion.

    My second batch, this time, I actually listened and followed instructions! =) I added 3 capsules of Vitamin E and did not attempt to add aloe vera gel. This batch came out a bit runny and I felt like I added too much essential oil because the scent was too strong……and so I started on my third batch. Followed the recipe to the tee and then I added cornflour to the mixture at the end to thicken it up (I got this idea from the comments in your beeswax balm recipe). Then I mixed the second and third batch together and now I have a very lightly scented lotion that is firm/thick but very light and non greasy. I-LOVE-IT!

    Not normally one to leave comments.. but I’m so happy with this recipe that I just wanted to share my experience and thank you personally! =)

  18. Pingback: How to Make Handmade Hand Lotion (w/ label download) | A Sonoma Garden

  19. Tiffany Hansen

    Would you see any issues with using coconut oil instead of olive oil? Thanks! I am hoping to make some for teacher gifts this Christmas.

  20. Ramona

    How many cups of emulsifying wax can you get out of the 1 lb. bag? This looks great can’t wait to try it!!!!

  21. Hello,

    I made this lovely lotion a few years ago and just made more using the preservative. It is so nice and you have a sweet place here. I posted about making the lotion and included link backs to your blog.

    Sending Merry Christmas wishes!
    Kindly, Lorraine

  22. cupcakesandplanecrashes

    I’ve made a few of batches of this lotion and initially was having some difficulty with the water separating and the lotion setting up. I learned that right after I initially mix all ingredients if I dump it into the kitchenaid bowl and leave it whisking until it cools, it’ll come out the perfect consistency. Hope this helps anyone who was having the same issue!

  23. Avery

    I use organic Coconut oil and I also add approx. 1 tbsp. of cosmetic grade urea (as a humectant) also purchased from the web-site. A local pharmacy makes their own Urea lotion and sells it for $20 for 2 oz which is why I started making my own!! I usually let mine cool overnight and then whip it up with a mixer.

  24. Elizabeth

    The wax/oil separated from the water mixture and formed a large plug on the top. I haven’t had this problem with the original formulation, so I’m thinking it’s due to the potassium sorbate. Tips? I don’t really want to stand in the kitchen for an hour whisking the mixture while it cools.

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