I’m happy to report that Danny has been loving the Forest Facial Cleanser I made him (I’m loving it, too!), so I thought I’d extend the collection. And guys—this is the best cleansing balm I’ve ever made. It has the most amazing creamy consistency, beautiful rinse off, and is all kinds of silky and smooth and downright decadent. I think I’m hopping back to cleansing balms from cleansing oils with this Forest Cleansing Balm recipe! For now, at least… I never can leave well enough alone!
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This cleansing balm ticks a thing I’ve been meaning to try off my to-do list—a cleansing balm thickened with stearic acid and cetyl alcohol instead of a wax, and incorporating a liquid emulsifier along with the emulsifying wax, like I do with my cleansing oils. I chose stearic acid and cetyl alcohol instead of wax for the wonderful kind of thickening they offering—plain ol’ “just like a butter” thickening, without any of the waxy coating that often comes with wax. Adding an additional liquid emulsifier allowed me to use less emulsifying wax for a softer final texture without reducing the cleansing power or rinse-off.
I found the stearic acid was a bit stubborn about melting; I would think everything was all melted through and then on closer examination there would still be tiny particles of stearic acid still dancing around. Once the clay has been incorporated it is pretty much impossible to see if there are any teensy bits of stearic acid, so for this reason I recommend melting everything through before adding the clay, and then adding it and heating that as well (clay is always a potential source of contamination, so heating and holding it is a good idea to help reduce that).
Once everything has melted, leave it to cool before incorporating the essential oils. I tried to speed this along by putting the container in the freezer, but I didn’t love how that turned out—a cold water bath, or simply waiting and letting it cool at room temperature would’ve been a better option. Because the freezer chilled the glass measuring cup, I ended up with solid chunks that had touched the glass in an otherwise liquid base, leaving me to do lots of semi-frantic stirring and mashing to try to keep the final consistency creamy instead of lumpy (especially so the essential oils would be thoroughly distributed). That’s definitely not the way to do it!
When the Forest Cleansing Balm is all set up and ready to use, prepare to swoon. The final texture is decadently thick and creamy, but unlike a wax-thickened balm, it quickly softens up in your palm, easily blending with a splash of water. As you massage the water and balm together you’ll end up with a palmful of a low, rich, white lather that smells like the forest. Massage that into your face, and rise it off with a damp microfibre cloth for a clean, happy face. Aaah.
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Forest Cleansing Balm
5g | 0.18oz complete emulsifying wax (not beeswax!)
4g | 0.14oz Polysorbate 80
21.75g | 0.77oz fractionated coconut oil
5g | 0.18oz castor oil
9.5g | 0.34oz stearic acid
2.5g | 0.088oz cetyl alcohol
0.25g | 0.0088oz vitamin E oil
1.5g | 0.053oz French green clay
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Once you’re certain everything has melted through (watch out for teensy specks of stearic acid!), add the French green clay, stir to combine, and heat for another twenty minutes, taking care not to let your water bath simmer dry.
Once twenty minutes has passed, remove the measuring cup from the water bath, dry it off, and leave it to cool, stirring it occasionally. Once it has the consistency of thin pudding and the outside of the measuring cup doesn’t feel hot anymore, add the essential oils and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouthed jar; I used this 50mL screw-top plastic jar from YellowBee. Enjoy!
Because this cleansing balm does not contain any water, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Be sure to keep it dry to ensure it lasts as long as possible—don’t let any water get into the container and it should easily last a year (use a dry finger or popsicle stick to dip into the container). If you plan on giving this cleansing balm away or taking it into the shower/bath with you, please include 1% phenonip (USA | Canada)—phenonip is an oil-soluble broad spectrum preservative, so it will work to protect this 100% oil-based concoction.
- You can use Olivem300 (not 1000—it’s solid, not liquid!) instead of Polysorbate 80
- You can use a different inexpensive, relatively light oil instead of the fractionated coconut oil. This is also a good place to use up liquid oils that are nearing the end of their shelf lives.
- You can reduce the amount of castor oil and make it up with more fractionated coconut oil to slightly reduce the cleansing power.
- You can use a different lightweight clay like kaolin or a different French clay instead of French Green—do not use bentonite or rhassoul
- You can use a different blend of essential oils or leave the balm unscented
- Use a different recipe if you want to use wax instead of stearic acid and cetyl alcohol
- You can likely replace the cetyl alcohol with more stearic acid, but I wouldn’t try the reverse