Today’s rich and all-natural Almond Oat Balm to Milk Cleanser is a gorgeous way to gently wash your face, and it pairs wonderfully with my Gentle Oatmeal Almond Body Wash Bar! I’ve been using this softly oat-scented cleansing balm to remove eye makeup and wash the rest of my face, and I love it. It doesn’t leave my skin feeling stripped or tight—just clean and lovely. Let’s get making!
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A blend of three emollients comprises the bulk of this balm-to-milk cleanser. In keeping with our theme, sweet almond oil is our star ingredient, though you could very easily swap it out with a different inexpensive mid-weight carrier oil if you want to. Safflower oil, sunflower seed oil, or even fractionated coconut oil would all be great alternatives. The other oil in this formulation is castor oil; I started using castor oil in oil cleansers way back when I was trying the OCM, or oil cleansing method. I never got the magical results I read about that inspired me to try it in the first place, but I did end up liking the richness castor oil brings to oil cleansers, liquid and solid, and I’ve been including it in my formulations ever since.
Our last emollient is coco caprylate, a super-slippy lightweight ester. It’s similar in skin feel to C12-15 alkyl benzoate, Neossance® Hemisqualane, and isopropyl myristate (IPM)—definitely feel free to use any of those as an alternative! I’ve been having fun finally tapping into a bottle of coco caprylate I bought a while ago. I find it improves the spreadability and slip of the finished product.
The ingredient that makes this a balm to milk cleanser is Olivem 1000. Olivem 1000 is a natural emulsifying wax (you can also use it to make lotions and creams!). Because it’s an emulsifier, it allows the water we add while we use the product to emulsify into the oily base, creating a lovely, rich, creamy milk. Not only is this a very cool visual effect, but it also means the cleanser washes off beautifully and cleanly. I often call products like this “cleansing balms”, but I’ve noticed the transformative-type names like this tend to get more attention, so here we are with a magic-ish sounding name 😂
For added rich, creamy goodness I’ve also included two of my favourite cosmetic powers; white kaolin clay and colloidal oatmeal. Both are super fine powders with no noticeable grit, so you won’t get any noticeable scrubby exfoliation. When wet I find they are both really creamy and silky; the colloidal oatmeal is also great for soothing sensitive skin, while the clay boosts cleansing with a bit of a mask-ish effect. If you’re looking to make any substitutions please keep your swaps in the silky-fine powder category—no sandy bentonite or rhassoul clays, and I don’t recommend grinding up your own oats as that won’t be nearly as fine as colloidal oatmeal is.
Our last key ingredient is a bit of cetyl alcohol. Cetyl alcohol thickens/hardens this formulation so it’s thick enough to be solid and keep all the powders in suspension, but soft enough to melt relatively quickly when massaged into the skin. I chose cetyl alcohol over other fatty thickeners like stearic acid and cetearyl alcohol because cetyl alcohol thickens in a thin, silky way—we’ve already got lots of creamy richness from the inclusion of the powders, and I didn’t want the formulation tipping towards skiddy-ness from something like stearic acid, which thickens in a richer, creamier, but potentially more draggy way.
I haven’t included any preservative in this formulation as I know I will keep it dry as I use it. If you aren’t confident you’ll do that, or if you’re planning on gifting it to somebody who might not, I’ve included instructions on how to include a preservative at the end of the formulation.
I opted to leave this formulation unscented, but you will notice a soft oat-y scent when you incorporate a bit of water into the balm. I think it’s really lovely! To use this product I like to massage a pea-ish-sized amount into dry skin, and then wet my hands and continue massaging. As the water incorporates you’ll notice the balm transforming into a creamy milk! Finish up by wiping your skin with a damp cloth. I use this to remove waterproof eye makeup as well as clean the rest of my face. Make sure you watch the video to see it in action!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Sweet Almond Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Castor Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Olivem 1000 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cetyl Alcohol in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Colloidal Oatmeal in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Kaolin Clay in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Other cleansing balm formulations:
- Do I need to add a preservative to this recipe? How long will it last?
- Preservatives + Shelf Life
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life?
Almond Oat Balm to Milk Cleanser
9.45g | 31.5% sweet almond oil (USA / Canada)
3g | 10% coco-caprylate (USA / Canada / UK / EU / NZ)
3g | 10% castor oil
3g | 10% Olivem1000 (USA / Canada)
3.9g | 13% cetyl alcohol
3g | 10% colloidal oatmeal (USA / Canada)
4.5g | 15% white kaolin 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.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through. Stir occasionally as the mixture heats to ensure the powders are evenly distributed.
After about 20–30 minutes everything should be completely melted through. Remove the water bath from the heat, remove the measuring cup from the water bath, and dry it off with a dishtowel. Set the measuring cup on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything.
Quickly add the cool down phase, stir to incorporate, and pour the product into its container. Gently and quickly transfer the product to the fridge and chill to cool.
Once the product has set up, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. That’s it!
To use, massage a small amount of the product into dry skin. Wet your hands, and massage your face again; you’ll notice the balm transforming into a creamy milk! Wipe the product off with a damp cloth, and that’s it.
Shelf Life & Storage
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 0.5% liquid germall plus (USA / Canada). Though this preservative is water-soluble, this cleansing balm contains emulsifiers so it will emulsify, and because it is water-soluble it’ll be in the right phase if the balm gets contaminated with water.
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.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 30g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like safflower oil, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of sweet almond oil.
- You could use Neossance® Hemisqualane, isopropyl myristate (IPM), or more sweet almond oil instead of coco caprylate.
- I don’t recommend substituting the castor oil, but if you have to I’d just use more sweet almond oil.
- You could try a different complete thickening emulsifying wax like Polawax or Emulsifying Wax NF instead of Olivem 1000. I’d avoid Ritamulse SCG if you are planning on using this to remove eye makeup due to its anionic charge, which can make your eyes burn.
- I do not recommend substituting the cetyl alcohol. I suppose cetearyl alcohol would be the best alternative, but you will get a different end feel and may need to re-develop to get a workable melting point.
- You could try using all clay instead of a blend of clay and colloidal oatmeal.
- You can use a different clay, but please choose a soft/smooth clay like a French clay or zeolite—NOT bentonite or rhassoul.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.