Very light emulsion. Frame formulation

Level: Beginner

Due to feedback from different sources and based on my own experience, I can tell you that a beginner should start formulating with a very basic combination of the ingredients for the following reasons:

  1. You will not be discouraged already at the beginning by the list of the raw materials that could be not only expensive but also have very different requirements in relation to temperature, pH, compatibility, shelf life, individual needs of your skin etc.
  2. You will not feel demotivated as your emulsion will go wrong. And it will go wrong in 99% of the cases if you choose a complex formulation as a beginner.

You should have fun by formulating, creating, and using your skincare products staring with the first one already and working on its complexity and variety at the same time as your experience grows. Please do not buy and use all your expensive ingredients at once. 

Here I would like to share with you a very simple formulation of a moisturizing emulsion to start with.

As you maybe know, every emulsion has four compulsory components:

  1. Oil
  2. Emulsifier
  3. Water
  4. Preservative

If required: a pH adjuster (for example, citric acid or lactic acid to increase the acidity, and sodium hydroxide to decrease the acidity).

The frame formulation will look as follows:

StageIngredient %
A Emulsifier 3

My choice of ingredients:

  1. Grape seed oil has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties and contains high amounts of omega chain fatty acids and vitamin E. The oil has a light consistency and is therefore particularly suitable for mixed or oily skin. You must use the refined grape seed oil as otherwise it will oxidize quickly in daylight.  In case you use non-refined grape seed oil to benefit from all its nice properties, then use the product as a night care only.
  2. Montanov TM 202 is a wonderful palm oil-free, easy to use emulsifier and is ideal for ultra-light emulsions.
  3. Rose hydrosol has mildly astringent, skin-softening, humectant, rejuvenating, and anti-aging properties and is suitable for all skin types.
  4. Rokonsal (international name Optiphen® BSB-N): broadband preservative that is accepted for natural cosmetics.  It works against bacteria, yeast and mould and is effective up to pH 5.4

Just start with these four ingredients and you will get a simple but gentle moisturizer and benefit from the nice properties of rose hydrosol and grape seed oil. Your formulation will look as follows:

StageIngredient   %
AGrape seed oil, refined 20
AMontanov TM 202 3
BRose hydrosol76

Formulation procedure:

Stage A               In a beaker, heat all components to around 80 C, stirring continuously to ensure that the emulsifier melts properly.

Stage B                 In another beaker, heat the water phase to around 70 C, slowly pour it into the beaker containing the oil phase and whisk/stir rhythmically until the emulsion has formed (One-Pot-Method is also possible). Ideally, an emulsification lasts approx. 2 to 4 minutes with preferably high shear rates followed by gentle cold stirring.

Stage C                 At the cool-down stage, add the preservative and measure the pH of the emulsion (adjust if required (must be lower than 5.4)). Transfer to a dispenser, leave to cool down and only then close the lid to avoid condensation.

As a result, you will get a very light and not greasy emulsion that can be used as it is or as a base for a face fluid, serum, light hand cream, body lotion or even a hair conditioner.


Oils can be replaced with other heat stable oils.

Hydrosol can be replaced with any other available hydrosols or distilled water.

How to improve and modify your formulation:

  1. You can add some active ingredients to your product. With an emulsion you can add both, water and/or oil soluble, ingredients. However, do not forget to adjust your formula. Let’s say that you would like to use 3% of a cucumber glycerol extract in order to increase the moisturizing properties of your product. This ingredient is water soluble. So, in the formulation above you have to adjust the water phase to 73% and add a cucumber glycerol extract at a cool-down phase to your product.
  2. If you would like to increase the viscosity of your emulsion, you can add some butters to the oil phase (Stage A above). One of my favourite butters is a cocoa seed butter which is soft, nourishing and smells nice. Let’s say that you would like to add 2% of the butter, so you need to decrease the percentage of the grape seed oil to 18%.
  3. You can also add essential oils to your formulation at the cool-down phase in order to increase beneficial properties of your final product and add some nice fragrance to it. In that case, you have to adjust the oil phase accordingly. Please also do not forget about the safety using essential oils as they are very concentrated.
  4. You can also increase the nourishing properties of your product by reducing the water phase and increasing the oil phase. In this case, you always have to check the capability of the emulsifier that you are using in your formulation. For example, the Montanov TM 202 allows quite a large spectrum to play with: the oil phase can be from 10 to 30% of the total formulation.

Now, I wish you a lot of fun by creating your range of products that can be done on the basis of this very simple formulation only!

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