Q&A: Can you have a lotion fail by heating and holding two phases?


Quite a few of you have been sending me a link to this post, One Minute Technical Support – Lotion Problems, from The Sage. In it, they state that if you’ve had a lotion fail, it might be because: “You use phases – heating ingredients separately rather than dumping all ingredients into one bowl/heating vessel. Phases are meant for big batches to be heated economically, phases are not for small batches!” To quote this blog again: “Almost each time I hear of someone having trouble with lotions I find they use the phases method for heating and mixing.”

Please note, I don’t want to go around slagging other bloggers. My goal is to provide the most accurate information I can and alter what I’ve written when I learn new information or find out I’m wrong. 

I went into this in great detail back in September when Allison asked about the “dump and heat method” advocated by this same blog, so I’ll refer you back to that post for a really long explanation, but the short answer is that I have never heard of anyone experiencing a lotion fail because they used phases.

We heat and hold separately because we’re trying to make it easier for the ingredients to come together. The best way I heard it described is like this: Oil and water don’t want to mix, and we’re forcing them to come together by heating and mixing and using an emulsifier. If we heat and hold all the ingredients together, our emulsifier is trying to create an emulsion at lower temperatures as everything heats up, which means it has to work pretty hard to create an emulsion that’s kinda weak and inefficient. You’re also asking the other things that we need for a lotion – the mixing and the chemistry – to do more far more work, and this can lead to fails.

What do I recommend? Always heat your lotions in phases regardless of how much you’re making. I often make 100 and 200 gram batches when I’m testing new ingredients, and I always always always have a heated oil phase and a heated water phase.