Why do you need to shake products well before use?

Hey ladies, do you have at least one item in your skin care stash with this instruction – shake well before use? Have you ever wondered why you need to follow the instruction and is it something that annoys you? Well, I have in my skin care stash, a number of products requiring me to “shake well before use” and these include sunscreens, skin lotions, and even eye creams. I have to admit that the instruction sort of annoys me slightly, especially if the product is housed in a smallish container that doesn’t exactly give much room for shaking…if you know what I’m talking about.

Lack of emulsifiers in the formulation
The reason why you need to give some of these products a good shake prior to use is really because the majority of skin care products contain both oil and water soluble ingredients, and the problem with such emulsions is that they separate easily. Products that need not be shaken before use typically use emulsifiers or binders that act to bond the water and oil together such as glyceryl stearate, polysorbates, stearic acid, butylene glycol, PEG, triethanolamine, palmitates, ceteareth 20, beewax, and cetyl achohol. As some of you may have noticed, some of these ingredients aren’t all that desirable and so products in the natural/organic category tend to avoid them. Because of this reason, many of the skin care products require us to shake well before use.

Some ingredients can’t stay suspended
Most sunscreens also require users to shake well before use so that all the particles within the sunscreen are distributed evenly in the container instead of getting settled in the bottom of the bottle. Other products include some liquid foundation, because the pigments can settle to the bottom of the bottle, which will result in an uneven finish. You can say that these skin care products behave like some food products – upon standing for any period of time, will separate because of some ingredients can’t stay suspended for longer periods of time due to them being dense or heavy.

Solutions to minimize shaking
My pet peeves when it comes to this instruction is that some formulations still don’t get mixed too well even with a good shaking and another is, I often forget to shake. As a result, the product sometimes do not perform as optimally as it should be. I’ve even tried to turn some bottles upside down just so to minimize the shaking but the outcome hasn’t been that ideal. I really think some of these products that are housed in airless pump bottle and require us to shake prior to use should come with a small stainless steel ball bearing inside the bottle, which will help to keep the lotion or serum consistent. Plus, the clacking noise in the bottle will remind us to remember to shake before use!


  1. Lanie says:

    hi sesame,
    I made my own DIY epsom salt lotion (as a way of supplementing with magnesium sulfate)…and also to relieve dry skin… the ingredients is made up of salt, oil and water… which I mixed using a blender (the same way you would make mayoinnase)… however, after a few days, the ingredients.. separated just like what you said.. shaking well cannot even get it back to its lotion constitency.. so I have to warm it up..a bit, then blenderize it again… this got me thinking… oil and water can only be mixed in the presence of emulsifiers like alcohol.. this is probably the reason why some commercial lotions makes our skin drier..

    next time, I am going to make my DIY epsom salt lotion in smaller batches..

    Lanie last post is: Transitioning to Natural Hair/ No Poo Method

  2. EcoBeauty says:

    From what I know, alcohols in products usually function more as thickeners than emulsifiers or to dissolve certain ingredients. They are quite tricky to use and I think using Polysorbates is easier. But I still prefer to stick to making smaller batches and just doing the shake. Better for toning the arms, too ?

    Anyway, regarding the post — I agree with you, Sesame! How I wish they include a tiny ball inside the bottle. I like the shakety-shake clunk it makes, haha. Probably, for formulations that are sensitive to metals, they could use a ceramic ball or a metal ball covered with plastic.
    EcoBeauty last post is: Review: Paul Penders AM & PM Moisturizers and Toner — Going back to basics!

  3. Sesame says:

    @Lanie: Oh interesting how you make your salt lotion but to give it a consistency, you definitely need an emulsifier. I guess this is why you see a lot of natural products containing cetyl alchohol for that purpose and it’s usually quite high end in the list too.

  4. Sesame says:

    @EcoBeauty: The sound can help us remember to shake too! I often forget!

  5. Jyoan says:

    I like to use Japanese sunscreens that always require shaking. But those tend to have ball bearings so I like to shake them. hahaha, I just like the sound of it all.

    Otherwise, yes, I do agree that it can get rather irritating to shake.
    Jyoan last post is: All-in-1 Holy Grail Guide to Acne-clear Skin

  6. Sesame says:

    It seems most sunscreens, especially the lotion type, need shaking. Some cream based sunscreen are too thick to shake and they do separate easily too. And I also like to shake those with the ball bearings!

  7. Lanie says:

    @ sesame, forgot to mention that I added glycerine into my epsom salt lotion.. I thought vegetable glycerin is an emulsifier as well as a preservative.. right now, my lotion has “several layers”…epsom salt at the bottom , distilled water in the middle and oil on top… am so lazy to warm it again and blenderize it.. so will just give it a might shake!! ? probably dance while doing so (just kidding!)

    I just give it a shake every night to apply to my legs and my daughter’s legs (on a side note… it seemed to prevent night grinding)…
    Lanie last post is: Transitioning to Natural Hair/ No Poo Method

  8. Sesame says:

    I don’t find glycerin a good emulsifier when it comes to oil or maybe the quantity needs to be high cos I’ve used it in some of my mixture and they still separate.

  9. EcoBeauty says:

    i read that you gotta shake the bottle ’til your arm breaks for the glycerin to actually blend oil and water together. But eventually, after a couple of days, they’ll still separate. :p

  10. jewelraz says:

    We need to shake some products before using it. It is clearly labeled on the product. So, I think we should follow it. Its because some elements remains at the bottom which might be good for our health, if an oil/sunscreen container is there for a long time without any touch or movement, then many elements remains at the bottom. So, simple shake can mix all things up.
    jewelraz last post is: Schwarzkopf – Osis+ Design Mix Rough Thickening Grunge Granules 100ml/3.3oz

  11. Sesame says:

    Huh? So this is an arm breaking, sweat inducing ingredient? ?

  12. Sesame says:

    I don’t mind if it’s a mere shaking but some products still separate despite the shaking.

  13. Lanie says:

    @ sesame and vivi… you are right.. no matter how you shake for hours or overnight (and find it as an excuse to exercise).. the ingredietns on my diy lotion still separates… the only way I can mix them up is to warm (using a double broiler) and then blenderize… very time consuming..

    I probably will try adding more glycerine.. (but in smaller batch).. next time around.. thanks for the conversation.. makes me feel so un-isolated ? ehehhe
    Lanie last post is: Transitioning to Natural Hair/ No Poo Method

  14. Swati says:

    I also often forget to shake!!!
    Swati last post is: Lemon for acne scars {Reader’s Tips}

  15. Sesame says:

    Haha…glad we can laugh about this! ? Yeah, making smaller batches is probably easier…less shaking in that sense too. ?

  16. Sesame says:

    Kind of annoying isn’t it. Makes me feel like if I should wipe off whatever I’ve applied and re-apply again after shaking.

  17. Mee says:

    Ahh I know that, too ? I have one suncreen which has a very fluid consistency and if you don’t shake it, you only get the oil part of the product. But I don’t mind shaking at all, esxpecially when that means that there are possibly less undesirable emulsifiers in the ingredient lists then.

  18. Sesame says:

    If the product gets mixed well while shaking, I don’t mind as long as I can remember. But not those that requires shaking but still don’t mix well.

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