Oil Change: A DIY Alternative to Body Lotion

When Jessica Simpson's edible glitter collides with DIY body oil, our beauty columnist's moisturizing woes evaporate.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning some forgotten junk out of a handbag I hadn’t used in a long time and came across a bottle of Jessica Simpson edible body glitter. It doesn’t matter how or why I came to possess it—the relevant detail here is that it was a roll-on, a technology that, once repurposed, was about to lay my moisturizing woes to rest.

Let me explain. For a long time, I’ve used a homemade body oil in place of lotion. It’s simple to make and incredibly potent. Ounce for ounce, it’s more expensive, but because it takes so little to cover your whole body, it winds up saving you money in the long run. Plus, it out-moisturizes lotion so thoroughly that I only need to use it once or twice a week.

If there’s one drawback to body oil, it’s the trickiness of its application. Achieving thin, uniform coverage is a task that has never come easy to me. With a deft hand or a clean piece of cotton, it can be done, but I tend to wind up with a series of over-oiled spots and dry splotches. For a long time I used a Misto, a spray bottle for olive oil. This worked great until I walked barefoot over a sticky patch of bedroom floor and realized I’d drastically underestimated its reach.

That’s when Jessica Simpson saved me. Once I dumped her “chocolicious” goop in the trash and ran the bottle through the dishwasher, it became the perfect body oil applicator. The roll-on lays down just enough oil to be rubbed in evenly with your palms. For best results, put it on immediately after a shower while your skin is still warm and damp.

The great thing about carrier oils is that they are completely interchangeable. For this purpose, I like sweet almond oil. It’s a mid-range oil in terms of pricing—this recipe uses about $5 worth, which feels like a lot when you’re looking at the 3/4 cup it yields. Keep in mind, though, that 3/4 cup will last you for months. Something cheaper will work great too, but I prefer the sweet almond because it feels incredibly light on your skin, which is just the quality you need when you’re looking to temper some heavy-hitters.

Castor oil is sort of a super-emollient, and really cheap to boot. It’s pretty special because it is mostly comprised of ricinoleic acid—an 18-carbon fatty acid with a double bond in the 9-10 position and a hydroxyl in the 12th (fun!). That’s not found many places, and it means we’ve got some serious humectant power and next-level viscosity on our hands. On its own, castor is unpleasantly sticky, so a little goes a long way.

Jojoba is the ultimate body oil. Chemically it’s very similar to the sebum your body produces naturally, which makes it incredibly mild. Plus it’s got some legit anti-inflammatory properties and just feels like a dream. I use it sparingly because it’s expensive—twice the price of sweet almond oil—but you can absolutely double (or triple) the amount if you’re worth it.

Almond Joy

1/2 cup sweet almond oil
2 tablespoons jojoba oil
2 tablespoons castor oil
1 capsule Vitamin E

Combine everything in a clean jar and give it a shake. You can stop here or add you favorite fragrance blend, totaling about 20 drops of essential oils. Since this is going all over your skin, be wary of phototoxic essential oils—mainly citruses and bergamot—that can cause irritation or extra sensitivity when exposed to UV rays. Truth be told, I used bergamot in mine for months before I even heard of phototoxicity and never had any problems, but proceed with caution in case it’s a real thing.

Photo by Lesley Clayton