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How to Make Hard Lotion Bars: A Photo Tutorial

01/24/2011

My first ever post on this blog (a month ago now) was a recipe I came up with for hard lotion bars. I hadn’t been planning on starting this blog then, but after I got many requests for the recipe, I figured I should probably post it somewhere so I didn’t have to keep emailing it to people. Since I hadn’t been planning on starting a blog, I didn’t take any pictures of how I made the lotion bars.  So finally, here is my picture tutorial about how to make a hard lotion bar.

I mentioned in my very first post about how this is supposed to be a knock off of the Graham Gardens Butter Bar. I bought one of their bars when it was on sale over Labor Day and it made my skin feel so great. I had planned on it lasting me all winter, but I liked it so much that I used it all up after a couple months. Sad. Their bars are $13.25 each and I was pretty sure I couldn’t convince my husband that we needed to buy one per month during the winter. Since they made their ingredient list available, I looked it up and discovered that most of the ingredients in the bar were readily available from Mountain Rose Herbs. After a little bit of snooping around online trying to find a recipe similar to Graham Gardens bar, I couldn’t find anything. However, I did find out all sorts of useful stuff about the ratios of oils to butters to beeswax needed. (Like I mentioned, I went over all of this in my first post about this, so you should definitely read that first and then come back over here.)

Why Use Hard Lotion?

I had never heard of hard lotion before I saw Graham Garden’s site (and I have seen a few others now too.) The simple reason to use hard lotion is to avoid putting harmful chemicals onto your skin that will be absorbed by your body. For example, I looked up on the Skin Deep website a common lotion that you should be able to buy in any grocery store and it says it even has cocoa butter in it. The ingredients are very concerning. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I do want to encourage people to think about what you are putting on your skin and in your body, even if it says it is “natural”. I just saw a “natural” kids lotion at the store that looked great. When I looked at the ingredients, however, there was triclosan in it. What?!  Constant vigilance!!

Finally, I would like to clarify real quick before we get started with the tutorial that this is not soap. This is lotion. You don’t need to use water with this. You simply hold it in your hand for a few seconds and then start rubbing it on your skin. The heat of your skin and the friction from rubbing it on will cause it to soften enough to go on your skin. This is a bit more labor intensive to apply than normal lotion, but there are no crazy chemicals in it. I’m willing to make the trade. :)

How To Make Hard Lotion Bars

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Here is everything you will need. Beeswax, Cocoa butter, Shea butter, olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, essential oil (if desired), muffin tins to use as a mold, scale, double boiler (or just a glass bowl and a pan like I have), turkey baster, and some popsicle sticks to use for stirring.

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Here is the recipe as originally posted here. (Also, you can find links to where to buy all of the items in the Cost Analysis section below.)

6 oz beeswax

4 oz cocoa butter

2 oz shea butter

2 oz jojoba oil

2 oz coconut oil

2 oz olive oil

The ingredients need to be melted in the order listed: beeswax, butters, and then oils.

If you’ll notice in the picture, I have a huge chunk of beeswax. I was able to buy my beeswax from the gentleman who sells me my raw local honey. Since this has not been filtered or anything, you can see that there is some dirt in it. These next few steps are only if you have beeswax like what I am using. If you are buying yours from Mountain Rose Herbs or somewhere, it is already going to be filtered and clean. You can just measure out your 6 ounces on a kitchen scale and then put it straight into the double boiler. Now skip on down in this blog post to where you see a *.

How to Filter Unfiltered Beeswax

For those of us blessed with inexpensive but unfiltered beeswax, here is what you do.

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You will need a cutting board, a huge honking knife, some panty hose, and some boiling water.

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Pour the boiling water over the knife and make it nice and hot. Be careful! This is so the knife will go through the beeswax easier. You may wonder, do I really need to do this? Yes. You do. I was getting no where cutting this stuff until I got my knife hot.

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Now, hack away cut a piece of the beeswax off and then weigh it.

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Once you have 6 ounces, then cut off the foot of one leg of the panty hose (about 9 inches or so) and put the beeswax into the panty hose.

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Now you are going to want to put this in your double boiler. I use a clothes pin to clip the panty hose to the side of the bowl and then have the part with the beeswax sitting on the bottom of the bowl.

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I do want to mention that this takes a fairly long time to melt since it is one huge chunk o’ beeswax. If I was strong, then I would have cut up the beeswax into a whole bunch of pieces so it would melt faster. As it is, I’m not strong and I had some baking to do anyway, so I just did other things while it melted. It won’t burn. Just make sure the water doesn’t completely boil off and dry up in the bottom pan. I had to add more water at some point.

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Once it looks like it is mostly melted, I like to take my popsicle stick and break up any remaining beeswax in the hose and also check to see how much is left in there. Once you can’t feel anymore in the hose (or I guess I could’ve used a lighter color and then I could’ve seen how much was in there…..) then remove the hose from the bowl. Hold it over the bowl to let some of the beeswax drip off until its mostly stopped, and then just get rid of it.

*Okay, back to the normal directions.

While your beeswax is melting, go ahead and measure out the other ingredients.

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4 ounces cocoa butter

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2 ounces shea butter

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2 ounces jojoba oil

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2 ounces olive oil – I just added the olive oil right in with the jojoba oil so I didn’t have to get another glass dish dirty. They get poured in at the same time anyway.

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2 ounces coconut oil

Once the beeswax is all melted, it’ll look like this.

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Now, add in the cocoa butter and the shea butter.

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It’ll look like this then.

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You can break it up a bit to help it melt faster if you’d like to.

Once all that is melted, add in the oils.

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You’ll notice when you add in the liquid oils that some of the stuff already in the bowl will re-solidify. It kind of surprised me, so I thought I’d mention it.

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Add in the coconut oil too. You can do this at the same time at the jojoba and olive oils. Now just wait until all of that melts.

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Here is what it looks once everything has been melted. If you want to add essential oils to scent the lotion bar, now is the time to do it.

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I read that you add 10 drops per ounce and that seems about right. (This recipe makes 18 ounces, by the way.)

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Now, take the turkey baster and start putting the melted solution into the muffin tin molds. You are an adult so I’m sure you already know this, but BE CAREFUL! This is hot wax, so if it gets on you, it will burn.

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Here’s what it it will look like after its in the molds. The lighter colored ones are already starting to cool and solidify.

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Because I am a frugal zealot, I usually scrape off all of the little drips on the muffin pan and then put them all into one of the muffin holes. You can see where I put all of the drips below. I am sure this says a lot about my personality, but that a whole other blog post. Smile You don’t have to do this step.

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Now you need to set it somewhere and wait for it to cool. If you house isn’t too warm, just leave it out on the counter. If its cool outside, you could set it out there too to speed up the process.

Here it is all cooled off and hardened now.

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You should just be able to turn the muffin tin upside down and press on the bottom a little and it will fall right out. If you are having trouble getting them to come out, put it in the freezer for a few minutes and try again.

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Here is what the recipe made. I put all of the drips I collected into a clean contact lens case so I can it in my purse and use it as lip balm.  Amy Dacyczyn would be proud. :)

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Cost Analysis

There is quite a bit of initial outlay in terms of cost associated with this. However, the savings add up quickly if you only want to use natural lotion (which our family does.) If you are unsure you whether you will like this or not, I would encourage you to buy one of the Graham Gardens Butter Bars and try it first before you buy all of the ingredients to make it yourself.

Let me break it down for all of us:

Beeswax– $5.00 for 3 lbs (I got this locally and got a GREAT deal. He didn’t have a knife to cut off a 1 pound block and I only had $5 with me because I only wanted a pound. So, he just gave me the whole 3 lb block for $5.)  Since this is an anomaly, we’ll say $5.00 for one pound. (Mountain Rose Herbs’ beeswax is $10.00 per pound, so it would be worth it to try to see if you can source it locally.)

Organic Cocoa butter — $12 for 1 pound

Orgainc Shea butter — $11 for 1 pound

Jojoba oil – $11.00 for 8 oz.

Organic Coconut oil — I keep this on hand all the time anyway, but I paid $11.51 for 30 ounce.

Organic Olive oil — $6.50 for 1 L (I also keep this on hand.) (I got this on sale a while ago.)

The yield for the recipe I made above was 12 large bars and 5 small bars. (I am guesstimating that the large bars were about 1 1/4 ounces and the small ones were perhaps 1/2 oz.)

However, just to make things simple, we’ll say 9 2oz bars. I could’ve made 9 2 oz bars if I had wanted to, so I think that is fair.

If I bought 9 2oz bars from Graham Gardens, I would pay $13.25 PER BAR. So, I would have spent $119.25.

I was curious about how much I spent on one batch, so I figured up what each item cost per ounce and then multiplied that by how many ounces were used in one batch.

Beeswax — $0.31/oz  –used 6 oz — $1.86

Cocoa butter — $0.75/oz — used 4 oz — $3.00

Shea butter — $0.69/oz — used 2 oz — $1.38

Jojoba oil — $1.38/oz — used 2 oz — $2.76  (By the way, if you are trying to keep costs down, just don’t use jojoba oil and double the amount of olive oil in the recipe.)

Coconut oil — $0.38/oz — used 2 oz — $0.76

Olive oil — $0.20/oz — used 2 oz — $0.40

So, for one batch of 9 2 oz bars I spent a total of $10.16 in materials. Less than one bar from Graham Gardens costs! YES!!

With the amounts of ingredients bought above, you could make at least two batches before you started running out of certain ingredients. (You’d run out of beeswax way before you ran out of anything else.)

So, two batches would make 18 of the 2 ounce bars. If you bought 18 lotion bars from Graham Gardens, you would pay $13.25 per bar, which would be $238.50. If you made your own following the above recipe, the total cost of ingredients would be $20.32, which is a savings of $218.18! If you wanted to go ahead and consider the entire cost of the ingredients, even though you would have a lot let over of some, you would pay $57.00, which is still a huge savings. Yay for saving money!

Okay! That is all! If you read this far, you should get some kind of award. However,  you’ll just have to be satisfied with all of the knowledge and skillz you have gained. :)

As always, if you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

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This post is linked up to Delighting in the Days Handmade Mother’s Day Link Up. Check it out for other great handmade gift ideas!

{Disclaimer: The links to Amazon are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission for purchases made through my links. Thanks for supporting the blog!}

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51 Comments
  1. Donna/Nonna permalink
    01/24/2011 9:12 am

    I just LOVE this lotion bar…although I was quite skeptical at first because it did not just smooth out easily and it felt too greasy. BUT…after it started melting it spread just fine and it quickly absorbed into my skin, leaving it feeling wonderfully moisturized! Thanks, Kate

  2. Nana Phyllis permalink
    01/24/2011 9:40 am

    Looks really interesting. Might try it during the summer when I have more time!!! Hi to you and the family.

  3. grace permalink
    01/24/2011 11:12 am

    thank you kate, for your wonderful instructions…i LOVE the ‘side notes’ of your recipes…they make me smile… love this idea!

    • Kate permalink*
      01/24/2011 1:18 pm

      Glad you liked the side notes. :) I was telling Brannan that I think those show how truly nerdy I am. (As if doing a tutorial about how to make lotion wasn’t enough proof in the first place!) :)

  4. 01/24/2011 12:34 pm

    Wow! This is awesome! Thanks! I might try this sometime. Any ideas on how to make a face lotion/oil that would be all natural? I would love to stop buying expensive products with tons of chemicals in them…

    • Kate permalink*
      01/24/2011 1:24 pm

      Hi Hannah!
      Jojoba oil is supposed to be very similar to the skin’s natural oil, so you could try a few drops of that.
      Also, the lady that does the MadeOn Hard Lotion has a little video about how to make a facial moisturizer. http://www.hardlotion.com/make-your-own-moisturizer/

      I just use the lotion bar on my face right now, although I suspect that will be too much this summer. I’ll probably just use a couple of drops of jojoba oil this summer.

      I’d also suggest not using soap on your face. Here is a video about the Oil Cleansing Method that I’ve been doing for a while. (Although the olive oil was too heavy for my skin, so I do half castor oil and half jojoba oil and that’s worked great.)

      http://simplemom.net/oil-cleansing-method/

      (I’m going to include this link in my links post tomorrow anyway. :) )
      Hope this helps!

  5. 01/24/2011 2:24 pm

    I made my second batch of these just a couple weeks ago. I love this recipe that much. In our dry winter climate, I go through lotion like crazy, but this year I’m using the lotion bars instead. I love how thick it is and it makes my skin soft and smooth. My hands are usually cracked and bleeding when it’s this cold and dry (-20’s lately), but not anymore. I made mine into bars. After cutting and trimming them down, I was left with lots of little chunks which I now keep in a little bowl on my bedside table to use on my hands and lips before bed. :) Thank you for sharing how you filter your beeswax. I’ve got a bunch of local, unfiltered beeswax and I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to filter it. You have saved what little brains I had left.

    • Kate permalink*
      01/24/2011 3:26 pm

      I was hoping someone would find the information about how to filter the beeswax useful. I looked all over online and couldn’t find anything conclusive. This was the easiest way that was mentioned, so I figured I would try it first and then go from there. Thankfully, it worked surprisingly well!

      • 08/06/2011 3:06 pm

        May be a stupid question, but why do you have to filter it?

        • Kate permalink*
          08/06/2011 3:52 pm

          You only have to filter the beeswax if you buy unfiltered beeswax from a beekeeper. My unfiltered wax had a few stray bee parts and some dirt or other particles in it and I figured people wouldn’t want that in their lotion. :) If you buy beeswax from Mountain Rose Herbs or some other place like that, it’ll already be filtered, so you won’t have to worry about that step.

  6. 01/29/2011 2:08 pm

    Thanks for this great post and step by step instructions! I’d love to make lotion bars like this myself soon! I linked to your post on my blog: http://www.liverenewed.com/2011/01/green-your-weekend.html with other links for making homemade beauty products.

    I really like your blog (it seems really similar to mine) and am looking forward to following along with you more! :)

    • Kate permalink*
      01/31/2011 10:57 am

      Thanks Emily!

  7. Lowbudget permalink
    01/30/2011 11:59 pm

    Excellent idea to make individual ones for gifts. I have made this before, but I used the small mason jars to put mine in. I used essential oil to scent as well.

    • Kate permalink*
      01/31/2011 10:57 am

      I think these are going to be part of our Christmas presents to everyone this year. :)

  8. Celeste permalink
    02/17/2011 4:41 pm

    I know this may sound lame, but how do you use these? Do they just “melt” on your skin? Would I just rub them around my body like I would a bar of soap on wet skin only the lotion bars being on dry skin? Does the warmth of my skin do the melting? I’m sure this should be intuitive, but I thought I’d ask before I try making this.

    • Kate permalink*
      02/17/2011 8:38 pm

      Celeste, Totally not a lame question. I’ve had a few people ask me this. You do just rub them around on your dry skin like you would soap on wet skin. The friction and the temperature of your body allows the outside of the bar to soften enough to be able to apply it to your skin. You can adjust the recipe to control how soft or hard your lotion bar is too, based on your preferences. If you thought it was too soft (melting too much and not holding its shape while you were putting it on), you could decrease the coconut oil the next time you made it and if it was too hard (wasn’t going on easily) you could increase the amount of coconut oil.
      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any more questions!

  9. 05/03/2011 12:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing your post. These look wonderful.

    I can completely relate to hacking away at the beeswax. That stuff is very hard to cut!

    I’ve never used pantyhose when melting! May have to try that out.

    • Kate permalink*
      05/12/2011 10:06 pm

      I’ve enjoyed all of the recipes for natural products that you have on your blog.
      Also, just so you aren’t doing a needless step, the pantyhose is only if you have unfiltered beeswax. I buy my beeswax from the gentleman who sells me my local raw honey and there is some dirt and random bee parts in the wax that I don’t want in my lotion bars! (“Is that a bee leg?!”) If you buy it from Mountain Rose Herbs or some place like that, it should already be filtered. Thanks Stacy!

  10. pei permalink
    07/24/2011 11:07 pm

    Love your idea of using muffin tin. I think I’ll have dedicated muffin tin mold just for making the lotion bars. It’s too hard to wash it off. Thank you!
    Is there a good website to purchase the ingredients at a reasonable cost?
    Cocoa butter
    Shea butter
    Coconut oil
    Jojoba oil
    Olive oil
    Bee Wax

    • Kate permalink*
      07/25/2011 2:14 pm

      HI! I purchased all of my ingredients at Mountain Rose Herbs. The coconut oil I purchased from Amazon. I bought beeswax from the gentleman who sells me my local raw honey and it was much cheaper than I could find anywhere else. And yes, a muffin tin dedicated to making these bars would be a good idea. It is a pain to clean up. :)

      Thanks for stopping by the blog! Hope you enjoy the hard lotion bars as much as I do!

  11. Tara permalink
    08/23/2011 10:23 am

    Hi Katie! I think I’m going to finally make these this week. My awesome Graham Garden ones are finally gone, and the really basic ones I made last winter are too. I have all the ingredients already. I’ve been saving little tins from old Burt’s Bees things (sometimes being a pack rat pays off!) that I plan to use for some of mine. Thanks again for being the fun experimenter! I love getting to learn from you.

  12. amanda permalink
    09/04/2011 11:51 am

    so when you filter the beeswax in the pot of water do you let it cool and remove the wax? how much of the wax do you loose with this method?

  13. 11/17/2011 10:03 am

    Wow! Great tutorial! I would really like it if you linked this post up to http://www.projectpossessed.com/spaahhh-sundaze-1113-healthy-eating-habits-questionnaire/ . Your newest fb fan. :)

  14. 11/17/2011 10:18 am

    What a complete article.. I was thinking wow I wonder if i could use this as lip balm…then there you are giving an awesome idea about contact cases for lip balm.
    This is a one stop shop article.
    Mailing it to myself and my sister.
    Thanks!
    T

  15. 12/02/2011 7:43 am

    Very interesting! I would love to try these. I have never heard of lotion bars. I have all of these ingredients at home almost all the time for other things. Have to admit that it sounds like it will take a long time. Does it?

    • Kate permalink*
      12/02/2011 8:07 am

      The part that takes the longest is filtering the beeswax. If you already have filtered beeswax, then it should be fairly quick. I always clean my kitchen while I’m making it, so it doesn’t seem like it takes that long. :)

  16. Liza permalink
    12/23/2011 11:09 pm

    Just made these for the 1st time to give as Christmas gifts and I love them! The cutting of the beeswax was definitely the hardest part :) Everything else was a breeze and it’s so smoothe and really makes my skin feel so much better. The lip balm idea was genious so I put some in a little tin I had and it’s amazing as a lip balm. I’m so excited to give these as gifts that I think I may need to make another batch soon for myself and my kids. My 3 year old son has really dry skin in the winter so I am looking forward to trying this on him this year. Thanks for a great tutorial!

    • Kate permalink*
      12/23/2011 11:22 pm

      So glad you like them as much as I do! :) Merry Christmas!

  17. 01/19/2012 4:03 pm

    I do believe I will try these! Thanks :-)

  18. Sneha permalink
    03/18/2012 2:07 am

    I love your recipe, and I am planning to make them today,but before that I have a few questions to ask.
    1.I stay in India,and its summer now,i am wondering if the bar wil hold its shape.
    2.would I need a preservative?
    3.I do not have access to cocoa butter and jojoba oil, how do you suggest I tweak the recipe?
    I am sorry for asking so many questions. Thanks in advance:):)

  19. Dottie permalink
    03/27/2012 5:14 pm

    Hi, Kate my name is Dottie, I made some lotion bars and added some vitamin c that i bought in bulk. It came to me in a grainy substance, and when i added it to my mixture,It would not melt. I put 5ounces of vitamin C to one pound of Bees Wax. I dont know what to do . Can you help me Please?

    • Kimi permalink
      05/02/2012 12:16 pm

      Vitamin C may melt if you dissolve it in water, that is how I have seen it done. Obviously, we don’t want to add water to this recipe. I have also read that Vitamin C oxidizes quickly and will actually become ineffective within days. I bought rosehip seeds (from mountain rose herbs) and have been infusing them into sunflower oil for 4 weeks. I am not applying heat. The Vitamin C content of rosehips is supposed to be very high, but from what I have read about how quickly it degenerates, im not sure how much good it will do. I am making this rosehip oil and kind of optimistically hoping that in some way it will have vitamin C, but I am not sure if it actually will. I would look for other oils like borage, argon, and tamanu oils that have similar age-rewinding and skin beneficial properties that you could add in adjunct to or in place of the jojoba oil and kind of let go of the idea of adding Vitamin C to this recipe. Also, if you google “gorgeously green vitamin C serum” she has a useful way to use vitamin C powder and I think you can find a way to get it into a product that you can use! Good luck!

  20. Helen permalink
    04/16/2012 6:29 pm

    Oh my stars….I love frugal and my skin cannot tollerat baby oil or vasaline type products…i need hydrating so much. I am a natural blonde and have age…wrinkles…and freckles on top of that. Thank you soooo much for your investigation time.i cant pay you enough for just that alone!
    Helen…frying in the hot hot georgia sun

  21. Kimi permalink
    05/02/2012 12:10 pm

    I love coconut oil but hate that it melts above 76 degrees farenheit. Have you seen a problem with this in the summer months? I made lip balm with coconut oil and have tried to be careful about it, but truthfully I want to be able to leave it in my car or house (which actually does get above 90 degrees at times) and not have to worry. I will probably just replace the coconut oil with mango butter, but I would like to be able to use the recipe as is!!

  22. Bobbi permalink
    05/09/2012 10:55 am

    I’ve made these putting all the ingredients in a crock pot to mix together as opposed to the double boiler, Instead of just pouring it into the cupcake pin I put the paper cupcake holders in them–which leaves cute ridges on them, they just peel off, and gives you a place to set the bar when your done using it.

  23. Alice permalink
    12/02/2012 5:51 pm

    Hi, I am going to try this recipe tomorrow …can’t wait! One question…can I use seasame oil in place of the olive oil do you think?

  24. Alice permalink
    12/02/2012 5:59 pm

    If I were to try and sell this lotion bar…what would you say a fair price would be?

  25. 02/27/2013 1:45 pm

    Can I use something in place of jojoba oil?

    • Kate permalink*
      02/27/2013 5:49 pm

      Yes. Any type of oil that you could use on your skin will work. You could increase the olive oil or use grapeseed oil (which is my new favorite oil–cheaper then jojoba and a very light oil so it absorbs nicely.) Avocado oil, almond oil, apricot kernel oil….. the possibilities are endless! :)

      ________________________________

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