Body Care

Beyond The Surface: The Deep Science of Body Lotions, Oils and Creams

Body lotions, oils and creams have been used for centuries - they’re some of the first and oldest cosmetic products that were ever made.

June 12, 2024


Now, the body care formulation process is considerably more sophisticated and is firmly rooted in science, with body care manufacturers blending chemistry and biology to get results.

Let’s take a closer look at the science behind body lotions, oils and creams.

What’s the difference between body lotions, oils and creams?

Body lotions are lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin. They provide hydration and moisture without feeling heavy or greasy and they’re easy to use every day. Lotions are generally better for normal to slightly dry skin, and they’re usually made from a water-based formula with added humectants (an ingredient that attracts and retains moisture from the air, helping to hydrate the skin) like glycerin or hyaluronic acid.

Body oils are concentrated oils designed to deeply nourish and hydrate the skin.

They usually have a thicker consistency than lotions and take longer to absorb, sometimes leaving a sheen on the skin and ‘locking in’ moisture. They’re great for dry or mature skin, providing intense hydration with natural oils like coconut, jojoba or argan oil. You’ll even benefit from antioxidants or vitamins in body oil, depending on the type of oil that’s used.

Creams have a thicker texture than lotions but are lighter than body butters. They're formulated with a balance of water and oil, offering both hydration and moisture. This makes them great for drier skin types or areas that need extra care, like elbows and needs. They provide longer-lasting hydration too, usually with emollients like shea butter or cocoa butter to soften and nourish the skin.

The science behind formulation

Formulating body care products is deeply rooted in science. It involves an understanding of ingredients, their properties and how they work together to create effective and safe skincare. It isn’t just a case of choosing a texture and scent and being done.

The process of formulating involves considering things like the intended purpose of the product, skin types it caters to, stability and shelf life - as well as texture and scent. Formulators select active ingredients, emulsifiers, preservatives, humectants and other compounds to deliver specific results while making sure that they’re safe for all skin types.

Emulsion science (making sure oil and water-based ingredients work together effectively) is important too.

Balancing pH levels, texture, and viscosity through precise measurements and experimentation leads to the creation of lotions, creams, oils and other body care products that deliver the benefits that you’re looking for in a body care product. It also means that as a formulator you need to be aware of trends and new innovations in the industry, and how these ingredients work with existing ones.

Formulating a lotion, oil, or cream involves a delicate balance of humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Humectants such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid draw moisture from the environment, hydrating the skin. Emollients like natural oils or silicones fill in the gaps between skin cells, smoothing and softening the skin. Occlusives, including waxes or petrolatum, form a protective barrier, preventing moisture loss.

Tailoring to skin types

Understanding all skin types, the ingredients they need and what they’re missing is an important part of the process too. Body care manufacturers invest time in research to cater to various skin needs, whether oily, dry, sensitive, or combination. 

Each formulation can be tailored to address specific concerns without causing irritation or reactions:

  • Sensitive skin - fragrance-free and gentle formulations suitable for sensitive or easily irritated skin.
  • Anti ageing - enriched with ingredients like retinol, peptides or antioxidants to target signs of ageing.
  • Soothing - often containing ingredients like aloe vera or oatmeal, designed to calm and soothe irritated or sensitive skin.

Firming or toning - infused with ingredients that promote skin elasticity and firmness, such as collagen or elastin.

Safety testing body care products

Safety testing is crucial in formulating body care products to make sure that they’re safe for consumers. Safety testing helps identify potential allergens, irritants or formulation issues that might cause reactions when your products are used. This is just as important from an ethical perspective as it is from a science or legal point of view.

Most countries have strict regulations and standards for body products. Safety testing ensures compliance with these regulations, preventing legal issues and ensuring that your products can be legally sold. It’s well worth finding this out before you go into production and on sale, building credibility and trust with your customers.

Testing ensures the quality and effectiveness of the product. It helps you to work out the stability, shelf life and performance of your products. In turn, this can support your marketing goals, packaging creation and making sure that your products are legally doing what they say they will.

Body care manufacturing

As well as formulation, when it comes to creating body care products like lotions, oils and creams, there needs to be process engineering and mixing to create uniform consistencies across batches and make sure that products work as expected. Sterilisation, filtration and preservation to remove microbes and make sure that products are safe are important too.

There’s also making sure that products can be manufactured at the scale you’re looking for with the ingredients that you’re using. Then the manufacturing and filling process can begin - whether that’s by hand, automated or a blend of both. It’s important that products are correct, consistent, safe and that your body care manufacturers can manufacture and deliver quickly.

Body care production is a mix of chemistry, engineering, quality control, and compliance. Body care manufacturers have to innovate continuously by integrating new technologies, sustainable practices, and scientific advancements to create safe, effective and consumer-friendly body care products.


Packaging is designed to protect the product from contamination, light, air and other external factors that could degrade its quality. This might involve choosing materials that prevent oxidation or microbial growth, or that keep your products as effective as possible for as long as possible.

Body care product packaging is also about usability and convenience. Pump dispensers, airless containers and tubes help maintain product integrity, ensure precise dispensing and prevent wastage. User experience and ease of application are important to think about when choosing packaging too.

There's also a growing emphasis on eco-friendly packaging and sustainability, which we’re committed to completely.

Our team works on developing sustainable materials for our products and we point our clients towards vetted and reliable packaging partners in Australia and overseas, minimising the environmental footprint of the body care products that we create.

Find out more about working with our team of experts to create your next body care product.

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