In the last week I’ve been on some utterly stunning hikes, really soaking up how beautiful Canada is and squeezing the last drops of good weather out of our waning summer. I love a lot of things about the mountains—their beauty, the solitude, the babbling brooks and the pikas—but I think my favourite thing is the air. It’s crisp and fresh, and smells utterly divine. On a warm summer day you can smell the sun-warmed earth mingling with the pine needles and distant whiffs of wildflowers and flowing water. You’re likely to find me standing still, eyes shut, face to the sun, inhaling deeply, whenever I first get out of a car in the mountains, so I suppose it’s no surprise I chase that scent in essential oil blends and my skin care products. This Forest Facial Lotion features a forest-inspired scent blend to tie in with my Forest Cleansing Balm and Forest Facial Cleanser; warm, mysterious oak moss warms top notes of bright spruce and fir and sweet, spicy cardamom. Swoon.

How to Make Forest Facial Lotion

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Last Monday I headed out to Emerald Lake with Lottie and two of my favourite people for what looked like the last day of beautiful weather that week. Emerald Lake is in Yoho National Park, tucked around the corner from the Trans Canada Highway shortly after it crosses the Continental Divide heading westward. We began our hike by meandering around the lake (which is beyond stunning; the lodge perched on the edge of the peninsula is absurdly photogenic) before heading upwards to Yoho Lake—a stunning little alpine lake surrounded by evergreen trees. Lottie took a dip in the lake and we enjoyed some snacks we’d picked up at Canmore’s Summit Cafe earlier. It was brilliant.

 

Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park

How to Make Forest Facial Lotion

While I can’t promise this lotion is quite as breathtaking as an alpine lake, it is still pretty awesome. It’s lightweight and silky, with amazing slip thanks to the oil to water ratio and the inclusion of some oh-so-amazing Penstia™ powder. I’ve added some great humectants and soothing aloe vera to help keep skin plump and hydrated. In addition to being a humectant, hydrolyzed silk contributes a subtle glow and some film forming, helping maintain moisture and keep your complexion happy as the mercury drops (and the humidity with it).

How to Make Forest Facial Lotion

How to Make Forest Facial Lotion

This lotion uses a larger water part than many of my other lotions to create a lighter final product, with some concentrated cetyl alcohol contributing some lightweight, silky body without bloating the oil portion. For oils I paired heavy, gamma linoleic acid rich evening primrose oil with lightweight, dry-finish mango butter. The lightness of the mango butter isn’t necessary to counter the oiliness of the evening primrose oil in a lotion this light, but I happen to like the pairing regardless.

A handsome pairing—Forest Facial Lotion and Forest Cleansing Balm!

A handsome pairing—Forest Facial Lotion and Forest Cleansing Balm!

How to Make Forest Facial Lotion

For a touch of magic I simply had to include some Penstia™ powder. Pensita™ powder is a polymer that “imparts a silky, creamy, cushiony feel to cosmetic formulations“. It’s optional (see the substitutions list at the bottom of the recipe), but wonderful. It contributes the most amazing, luxurious slip to the lotion, creating something that feels beyond decadent—like the sort of thing that would sell for a small fortune at the beauty counter. The powder itself is very inexpensive and according to Lotion Crafter, it’s super versatile—I can’t wait to incorporate it into some cosmetics!

How to Make Forest Facial Lotion

How to Make Forest Facial Lotion

We’ll wrap the recipe up with the forest blend of essential oils; deep, mysterious, can’t-pin-it-down oak moss is our base note. There’s nothing quite like it, but benzoin has a similar warmth and depth that would make for an acceptable alternative. Fir and spruce pop out and then mellow down to create a wonderful foresty blend, with a dancing top note of sweet, spicy cardamom. It’s divine. And with that, let’s go make some Forest Facial Lotion!

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Forest Facial Lotion

79g | 2.76oz distilled water
1g | 0.04oz vegetable glycerin
1g | 0.04oz sodium lactate
2g | 0.07oz panthenol
0.5g | 0.017oz aloe vera 200x concentrate powder
1g | 0.04oz hydrolyzed silk (wondering about substitutions?)

4g | 0.14ozoz complete emulsifying wax (not beeswax!)
8g | 0.28oz evening primrose oil
4g | 0.14oz mango butter
3g | 0.11oz cetyl alcohol
3g | 0.11oz Penstia™ powder (optional)

10 drops spruce essential oil
20 drops fir essential oil
3 drops oak moss absolute
4 drops cardamom essential oil

0.5g | 0.017oz liquid germall plus (USA / Canada) (or other broad spectrum preservative of choice at recommended usage rate [why?])

Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.

Weigh the water, glycerin, sodium lactate, panthenol, aloe, and silk into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Weigh the emulsifying wax, evening primrose oil, mango butter, cetyl alcohol, and Penstia™ powder into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place both measuring cups in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.

After about 20–30 minutes the oil part should be completely melted and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved. Remove the water bath from the heat, and pour the water part into the oil part. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.

Grab your immersion blender and begin blending the lotion, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid lotion doesn’t whirl up and spray everywhere. Blend for about a minute, leave to cool for ten, blend for another minute or two, and repeat this blend-cool-blend cycle until the outside of the glass measuring cup is barely warm to the touch and the lotion is thick and creamy.

Once the lotion is cool, stir in the essential oils, and preservatives, and decant into your container. I used one of these great screw-top 100mL plastic tubs from YellowBee, but this cream is thin enough to be used in a pump bottle, too. Enjoy!

Because this cream contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative this project is likely to eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.

Substitutions

As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.

  • If you don’t have both vegetable glycerin and sodium lactate, just use 2g of whichever one you do have. If you drop the sodium lactate please add 0.01g vitamin E to the oil phase to replace the lost antioxidant capacity, dropping that weight from the evening primrose oil.
  • If you don’t have panthenol you can replace it with distilled water
  • For the 200x concentrated aloe:
    • If you have 100x concentrated powder instead, use 1g of that and 0.5g less distilled water
    • If you have the juice instead, use 40g of that and 39g distilled water
  • If you don’t have hydrolyzed silk you can use hydrolyzed oat protein or sea kelp bioferment instead, or just replace it with more distilled water
  • I used Polawax as my complete emulsifying wax, but BTMS-50 and Emulsifying Wax NF will also work
  • Feel free to use a different oil your face loves in place of the evening primrose oil. I’d recommend black currant seed oil or borage oil as good GLA-rich alternatives.
  • You can use shea butter instead of the mango butter
  • You can replace the cetyl alcohol with more mango butter
  • You can replace the Penstia™ powder with more water (in the water phase, not the oil phase)

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