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Healing Calendula DIY Lotion

Amber glass jar surrounded by calendula blooms. The jar is labeled as "Handmade All-Natural Calendula Moisturizer"
Recipe At-A-Glance
DIY Beauty6 hours
This non-greasy DIY lotion is deeply hydrating and made with soothing calendula. Free printable labels included!

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Getting into home herbalism can be intimidating. There is a treasure trove of information about herbs, thousands of plants that you could use, and almost endless ways you can use them. Add this to the very common worry that you’ll cause more harm than good by using plants to treat ailments, and it’s easy to see how some people can be gun-shy when it comes to herbalism.

I hope we’ll eventually make you feel empowered and comfortable enough to dip your toes in the herbal waters to make medicinal teas, syrups, or salves, but for now I think a great entry level project into home herbalism is to try your hand at homemade beauty products such as DIY lotion.

Overhead shot of an open jar of Healing Calendula DIY Lotion

Why DIY Lotion is a Great Place to Start with Herbalism

Since most people don’t see beauty products as true medicines—although they definitely can be—the mental barrier seems to be lower. Plus, it’s a fun science experiment, and the end result makes for great gifts (for you or someone you love).

Along the way, you’ll also get to know certain plants (here, we’re going to dive into the sunny yellow goodness of calendula), learn herbalism processes, and hopefully get more comfortable with your home herbalism practice.

Yellow calendula blooms on a white background.

The one caveat here is that making herbal beauty products is a decidedly more complicated process than your standard herbal medicine. While it’s not hard, it is definitely not as easy as plopping some dried herbs in some boiling water to make a medicinal tea.

Once you’ve got the process down for this Healing Calendula Moisturizer, you’ll be able to make tons of organic, healing, all-natural, nourishing lotion with ease in your own kitchen—and for pennies on the dollar compared to store-bought stuff.

Yellow calendula blooms around 3 amber jars of DIY lotion.

Why Calendula is THE key to this moisturizer

Browse the beauty product section of your local health food store, and you’ll see tons of creams, salves, ointments, balms, and soaks that include calendula—it’s so popular for good reason! Calendula is the herb if you want to treat and nourish the skin. Calendula is a vulnerary—meaning it heals wounds and promotes cell repair. While powerful, calendula is also incredibly gentle, meaning it’s been used for centuries to treat all kinds of skin conditions in children and babies—diaper rash and cradle cap included.

If you’re a gardener, calendula is also one of the easiest medicinal herbs to grow. Just sprinkle some seeds in a sunny spot in the spring—calendula isn’t really picky—and soon you’ll have mountains of beautiful yellow and orange blooms. If you’re low on green space, calendula is also quite potent in dried form, although like most medicinal herbs, not quite as much as the fresh form.

Patch of orange calendula flowers.

This is a NON-GREASY Homemade Moisturizer

When I tested this recipe, it was really important to me to land on a combination that was both deeply hydrating and non-greasy—not an easy balance to strike with natural products! I did a lot of research about the absorption time of different oils and tweaked and tweaked until I ended up with something I was really happy with.

You’ll see many DIY lotion and moisturizer recipes out there calling for lots of unrefined coconut oil, and while coconut oil is amazing (and super moisturizing), it also has one of the slowest absorption times of all cosmetic oils available. This works fine if you’re going to slather your feet in it during a pedicure, but for everyday use? I’d prefer not to have greasy elbows all morning, thank you very much. So out goes the unrefined coconut oil, and in comes grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil—both of which have medium to fast absorption rates. In the printable recipe below, I outline a few tweaks you can make to make this more or less moisturizing depending on your own skin type.

Amber glass jar surrounded by calendula blooms.

How to Make DIY Calendula-Infused Oil for Cosmetics Using Solar Infusion

The first step to making most herbal cosmetics is to infuse oil with the herbs you want to use. There are a handful of different ways to do this, but my favorite is the solar method. While this method is far-and-away the easiest and most potent, it is also the most time consuming. Fill a mason jar 2/3 full with dried or fresh calendula flowers, and then cover the herbs by 1-2” with a mixture of half grapeseed oil and half sweet almond oil. Cap and then place in a sunny spot.

Glass mason jar of calendula infusing into oil.

Depending on the temperature of your sunny spot, the oil will be finished in 2-6 weeks—you’ll know it’s ready when the oil has turned very yellow and smells slightly floral. It’s hard (impossible, even) to over-infuse oils, so the longer it goes, the stronger the result will be. You can even add a fresh batch of calendula flowers halfway through the process to double the strength. Once the oil is finished, strain it through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Then discard the spent herbs, and you have a beautiful bottle of calendula oil to use in all your favorite cosmetic preparations.

How to Make DIY Calendula-Infused Oil for Cosmetics Using a Double Boiler

If you’re short on time, you can also infuse herbal oils using the double boiler method—place a glass bowl with the calendula and oils over a pot of gently simmering water and “cook” the herbs until the oil is bright yellow and smells floral, about two hours. You have to be very careful with this process to not overheat the oil—which would turn your herbal oil into deep-fried calendula and destroy the medicinal properties. Keep the temperature between 90-110°F for best results.

Depending on how hot it is outside, you might even be able to hit this temperature in the sunshine without the stovetop. We were having a heat wave while I was taking these pictures, and I was able to infuse my oil in the sunshine in just a couple hours—it was hovering right around 100°F in the oil all day.

Glass mason jar of calendula infusing in oil.

Healing Calendula DIY Lotion Ingredients

Now that you’ve made your calendula herbal oil, let’s dig into the actual how-to for making the moisturizer. Here’s what you’ll need:

Calendula-infused oil using above methods :: We recommend half grapeseed oil and half sweet almond oil for a nice balance of moisturizing and non-greasiness, but you can refer to this chart to see the properties of other cosmetic oils and make your own combination if you wish to experiment.

Cocoa butter OR refined coconut oil :: This adds a hefty dose of silky moisturizing to the lotion. Cocoa butter is moisturizing, but still relatively light (and smells amazing). Refined coconut oil will be more greasy but also much more moisturizing—make sure it’s refined coconut oil, because unrefined will leave you greasy for hours. If you want a very light moisturizer, you can leave out this altogether and just add more of the infused calendula oil instead.

Beeswax pellets :: This is what helps to thicken up the moisturizer and keep it thick at room temperature.

Lavender essential oil :: Not only does lavender smell amazing, but it’s also supremely healing for the skin. It’s also a natural anti-microbial and pain-relieving, making this a great addition if you are using this lotion to help heal irritated skin.

Vitamin E oil :: This works as an all-natural preservative, and is also moisturizing and nourishing all on it’s own. Vitamin E oil is frequently used to reduce the appearance of scars and other skin blemishes.

Distilled water, rose water, or other hydrosols :: We’re going to make an emulsion here (similar to what happens when you make homemade mayo), which means we need equal parts of a water ingredient to balance out our oil ingredients. Distilled water works fine, but you can also use rose water or other hydrosols—water infused with flower essences. For extra credit (and extra healing), you can even use a calendula hydrosol.

Commercially prepared organic aloe vera gel :: Aloe is another excellent skin-soothing herb, and while you might be tempted to use fresh aloe gel from your own plant here, I recommend going with a commercially-prepared gel. Fresh aloe gel just doesn’t have the shelf life needed to make your DIY lotion last long enough to use it up. When purchasing aloe, just make sure to buy organic aloe gel that does not have any oil or artificial colors listed in the ingredients. You’ll probably have to hit up your local health food store for it—I couldn’t find any at our local pharmacies or big box stores. Or you can grab the brand I use on Amazon.

Bottle of aloe vera gel on a counter.

Healing Calendula DIY Lotion Tutorial

Let’s dig into the actual how to for making this moisturizer. We have a step-by-step photo tutorial ready for you to make it a little easier. Below this is a full printable recipe that you can refer to as you create. Let’s have some fun!

Step One: Melt oils and beeswax together

Woman in a striped apron stirring something in a tin can double boiler.

Combine the infused oil, cocoa butter or refined coconut oil, and beeswax in a double boiler. You can use a double boiler, a bowl fitted over a pot of simmering water, or my prefered method, a cleaned-out tin can sitting in a pot of simmering water. Why do I do this? Because, friends, beeswax is HARD to clean up—it’s impossible to get every last bit off. Long ago I decided that anytime I used beeswax in a preparation, I’d put it in a recycled tin can to make my life easier. I use a large popsicle stick to stir. You can also just designate a glass bowl as your “beeswax bowl,” and use it every time you make salves or creams.

Torso of a woman stirring something in a tin can double boiler.

Stir frequently until the beeswax and cocoa butter or refined coconut oil are completely melted. Remove from heat, add in both the lavender essential oil and Vitamin E oil, and then stash in the fridge to solidify.

Step Two: Mix water ingredients

While the oil combination is cooling, mix together your water ingredients. In a small mixing bowl, combine the distilled water or hydrosols and aloe vera gel. Set aside.

Hands stirring aloe vera gel with other water-based ingredients in a glass bowl.

Step Three: Test Oil Texture

You want to cool the oil mixture until it’s the texture of a soft salve. Let it cool too long in the fridge, and it’ll have a hard time emulsifying. You can fix this by just setting it out at room temperature to warm up. Don’t let it cool enough, and you will have a runny (but still usable) lotion at the end. The right thickness is about the texture of a medium-soft lip balm. It takes my fridge 2-3 hours to get to this point.

Woman using a popsicle stick to check the solidity of the oil-based ingredients for DIY lotion.

Step Four: Combine the Oil Mixture and Water Mixture Together

I know, oil and water don’t mix—except when they do, thanks to a blender! Scoop the oil mixture into the basin of a blender. Make sure to really scrape out as much of the mixture as you can.

Woman in a striped apron using a popsicle stick to use oil-based lotion ingredients from a tin can to a blender.

Place the lid on the blender and then turn it on medium-high. Slowly stream in the water mixture a little at a time as the blender runs.

Woman in a striped apron using a glass measuring cup to stream water-based ingredients into a blender.

The mixture will continue to thicken with the more water you add (I know, it’s counterintuitive). Once all the water is added, the mixture should be thick enough that the blender struggles to blend it.

Woman's hands holding the lid of a blender on while it runs.

That’s when you know it’s ready. Turn off the blender and voila, you have lotion! Depending on the power of your blender, the mixture may have heated up during the emulsion process—which is no big deal, it just means that the mixture will thicken even more as it cools back down to room temperature.

A spoon scooping DIY lotion out of a blender to check the consistency.

Step Five: Store, Label, and Use

Scoop your DIY lotion out of the blender and keep in airtight small jars. I like these straight-sided four-ounce amber glass jars. They’re a great size for gifting!

Woman using a spoon to scoop DIY lotion into an amber-colored jar.

Make sure to label your containers. I created free labels you can use—they are designed to go onto Avery 22846 2” Square Kraft Paper Labels, which is a good size to use on any number of different containers. Once on the container, I always cover my labels with packing tape to “laminate” them and keep them from getting dirty. Download your labels here.

Spoon scooping DIY lotion out of an amber-colored jar.

The Vitamin E oil does provide preservative qualities, so if you keep the mixture out of sunlight, the lotion will last up to six months at room temperature. For the longest shelf life (and an invigorating moisturizing session!) keep your DIY lotion in the fridge. You’ll get a year or more out of it in there. Enjoy!

 
Healing Calendula DIY Lotion

Healing Calendula DIY Lotion

Yield: 3 4-ounce containers
Prep Time: 6 hours
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 25 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

This non-greasy DIY lotion is deeply hydrating and made with soothing calendula. Free printable labels included!

Tools

Instructions

To Infuse the Calendula Oil Using the Solar Infusion Method

  1. Place the calendula flowers in a wide mouth jar, and cover with the grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil. Close and place in a sunny spot for 2-6 weeks, shaking vigorously daily (if you remember).
  2. Oil is ready when it’s bright yellow and smells slightly floral. Strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth, discarding the herbs. Store oil in a jar or bottle in a cool, dark place.

To Infuse the Calendula Oil Using the Double Boiler Method

  1. Fill a small pot with 1” of water. Fit with a small glass bowl over top so it hovers over the water. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Add the calendula flowers, grapeseed oil, and sweet almond oil into the glass bowl. Infuse over very low heat (do not let the oil get above 110°F) for 2-3 hours.
  3. Oil is ready when it’s bright yellow and smells slightly floral. Strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth, discarding the herbs. Store oil in a jar or bottle in a cool, dark place.

To Make the Moisturizer

  1. In a clean discarded tin can, add 1 cup of the infused oil, the cocoa butter or refined coconut oil, and beeswax. Place the can in a pot filled with 1” of water. Bring water to a simmer over low heat and melt the mixture. Stir the mixture frequently with a wooden popsicle stick. When beeswax and cocoa butter or refined coconut oil is melted, remove from heat, and transfer the can to the fridge to solidify.
  2. While the oil mixture cools, whisk together the water, rose water, or hydrosols and the aloe vera gel in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. When the oil mixture is the texture of a medium-soft lip balm, remove from the fridge and scoop into a blender.
  4. Turn the blender on medium-high, and then stream in the water mixture very slowly while the blender runs. The mixture will continue to thicken the more water you add. Once all the water is added, the mixture should be thick enough that the blender struggles to blend it. 
  5. Scoop the finished moisturizer into small glass jars and store in a cool dark space for up to six months, or in the fridge for up to a year. The mixture will thicken more as it cools.

Notes

  • You may use fresh aloe vera gel harvested from the plant. However, the final resulting lotion will have a much shorter shelf life—almost too short to use it all up in time. If you want to use fresh aloe vera gel, I recommend making a half batch and storing the lotion in the fridge. 
  • For longer shelf life, I recommend going with a store-bought aloe vera gel which contains ascorbic acid to preserve it. Steer clear of the green-dyed brands (they barely contain any aloe anyway), and instead look for organic options that contain aloe vera as one of the first ingredients. Aloe vera gel that lists any kind of oil in the ingredients will not work in this recipe.
  • You can customize the hydration level of this lotion by choosing between cocoa butter or refined coconut oil. Cocoa butter is moisturizing but absorbs quickly, making for a non-greasy, but still moisturizing lotion. Refined coconut oil will be more greasy, but will also be much more moisturizing. For a very light lotion (say, one you’d use as a facial day cream), replace the cocoa butter or refined coconut oil with more sweet almond oil. You can read more about the absorption and moisturizing traits of various carrier oils here. Feel free to mix and match until you get the oil combination right for your skin, just as long as you keep the total oil amount to 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons. 
  • This recipe makes for a thick lotion, but if you’d like a thinner lotion that can work in a pump-style bottle, reduce the beeswax slightly—a level tablespoon instead of a heaping one should do the trick.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

3 Responses
  1. Concerned Consumer

    Your recipe needs to contain a preservative for any water based formulas to have any sort of shelf life beyond stored in the fridge for a week or two.Vitamin E is not a preservative but does protect oils from going rancid.

    1. Cassie Johnston

      I’ve had good luck with it lasting quite a while without adding additional preservatives, the antioxidant-prowess of the Vitamin E oil seems to do the trick for me. It also helps that commercially prepared aloe vera gel contains preservatives, which is one of the reasons we suggest using that instead of fresh. But if you’d like to add another preservative, feel free!

  2. Robin

    I have never made this stuff but I have used it (store bought kind) and it’s wonderful! I had breast cancer and while going thru radiation my Dr. Recommended using this after each treatment to help lessen the burns on your skin that the radiation causes.

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