Creating your own lotions at home allows you to control the ingredients and fragrance. But if your lotion comes out too runny, it will be difficult to apply. Basic lotion recipes include oil, water and an emulsifier, which helps blend the other two ingredients. You'll find common emulsifiers at many health food stores. If you use too little or no emulsifier in your lotion, the oil and water will sit separately in the lotion, much like oil and vinegar in a balsamic vinaigrette.
Many people think of sodium borate, or Borax, as a harsh, man-made chemical; however, it's a natural mineral which is used in cosmetics, cleaning products and other products. Although sodium borate is considered safe, take care when handling it and use it sparingly. Wear rubber gloves and add a pinch of sodium borate to your lotion to thicken it.
Made by bees in a hive, beeswax is widely used in cosmetics and skin care products as an thickening agent and a moisturizer. Beeswax also has soothing properties and it can help the skin retain moisture. Try adding a small amount of beeswax to your lotion to thicken it. If it's still runny, add a small amount of beeswax along with a pinch of sodium borate.
Xanthan gum is made by fermenting corn starch or corn sugar. Its name comes from the strain of bacteria created during the fermentation process -- Xanthomonas campestris -- which is destroyed through heating. This thickening agent is often used in food recipes and homemade skin care products. If your lotion recipe calls for xanthan gum but the lotion is still too runny after you've made it, add an additional pinch of xanthan gum. You need only a small amount to thicken lotion, so be careful not to overdo it.
Lanolin, also known as "wool wax," is an emulsifier made from the greasy coating on sheep's wool. It has been valued for its moisturizing properties since it was discovered by shepherds centuries ago. Add 1/2 tsp. of liquid lanolin to your lotion, reheat the lotion, allow it to cool, then test its consistency. If you have an allergy to wool, do not use lanolin in your lotion because it may cause an allergic reaction.