One of my favourite things about Humblebee & Me is hosting meet-ups; I usually have them when I travel, but I’ve also had a few here in Calgary, where I live. Renée came to my most recent one and we ended up chatting about foaming hand washes quite a lot—her kids love them, and she loves how it’s a lot harder for them to make a mess with a foaming hand wash! I feel like I gushed far too much about how easy foaming hand washes are to make, and how much fun you can have with them. Anyhow, that conversation got me thinking about foaming hand washes, so I decided to whip up a simple one with a bright, sweet essential oil blend. There’s no heating or solid surfactant melting required, so it comes together really quickly—perfect for busy moms! This Aloe Rosemary Spruce Foaming Hand Wash is for you, Renée!
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The surfactant blend is Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside and Cocamidopropyl Betaine—a non ionic + amphoteric blend. Both are gentle surfactants, and once combined they are even moreso. The recipe is 25% surfactants, but once we take into account the active matter of the surfactants (60% and 30%, respectively) we find we’ve got 10.5% active surfactant matter, which is fairly low.
Aloe vera juice and distilled water make up the bulk of the wash—I included some aloe vera for its skin-soothing goodness, but you certainly don’t have to include it (more water will work perfectly fine in its place). Some vegetable glycerine helps keep the wash from being too drying.
Our essential oil blend is a nice medley of sweet, herbal, and bright notes. Rosemary is assertively, refreshingly herbal. Spruce is bright and clean, and palmarosa is warm and sweet. I really like how they come together to create something that dances lightly at first whiff, and then settles down into something soft and warm. I used black spruce (Picea mariana) and Spanish rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis), but if your spruce is white or your rosemary hails from a different country feel free to use those instead; you aren’t likely to notice much of a difference.
I used two different beakers and two different scales to pull this together, weighing the ingredients used in larger amounts into a larger beaker on a less accurate, but more weight tolerant scale. The ingredients used in smaller amounts were weighed into a smaller beaker on a more precise, but lower weight limit scale. Once the weighing was done all that remained was some combining! I used my MicroMini™ Mixer from Lotion Crafter (which is a Badger Airbrush Co. paint mixer, for anyone outside the USA), taking care to keep the whizzy head well below the surface to avoid whipping up a bunch of lather. A milk frother would be a decent alternative, but they are obviously designed to froth, which isn’t really what we want, so be careful.
Et voila! Seriously. Measure, mix, done. You will need a foamer bottle—you’ll notice the end product has a viscosity comparable to water, which makes it very well suited to a foamer bottle and very not suited to any other sort of packaging. The foamer bottle pump is what does the magic of transforming this thin, unassuming liquid into cascades of delicious, silky foam! And, just a reminder—no matter how tempted you may be, please don’t re-use foamer bottle tops. They are so intricate that they’re impossible to properly clean and you’ll end up with a foamer bottle with all kinds of gross things camping in it, contaminating your next batch. Erk!
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Aloe Rosemary Spruce Foaming Hand Wash
Weigh the surfactants, aloe juice, glycerine, and distilled water into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. I used a scale accurate to 0.1g with a maximum weight of 2kg for this part. Using a small mixer, blend to combine, taking care to keep the mixing head below the surface of the mixture so you don’t work up a bunch of lather.
Weigh the essential oils and preservative into a small dish or beaker. You’ll want to use a more accurate scale for this part (I used one accurate to 0.01g), and scales that accurate tend to have a lower maximum weight (mine tops out at 200g, many top out at 100g). Because of this limitation you need to make sure your container isn’t so heavy that it’ll max out your scale. I used a wee 50mL beaker.
Once you’ve got both parts, pour some of the water/surfactant blend into the essential oil mixture and blend to combine before pouring that mixture back into the rest of the water/surfactant mixture. Blend again to combine and you’re done! Decant the mixture into a foamer bottle—both YellowBee and Windy Point have some really nice ones!
As I made it, the pH of this hand wash is ~5.5, which is right where we want it. I’d recommend checking the pH of your cleanser and adjusting it if necessary before bottling, especially if you make any substitutions.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this hand wash 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.
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 100g; you’ll likely want to scale it up to fill whatever size of foamer bottle you have.
- You can coco glucoside in place of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, however please ensure you test the pH and adjust as required as the pH of coco glucoside is much higher than that of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside. I’d also recommend adding ~2% polysorbate 20 (removing that amount from the distilled water) to ensure the essential oils solubilize as I’ve found coco glucoside is not as effective of a solubilizer as Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside.
- You can make your own aloe juice from aloe vera 200x concentrate powder by combining 0.5g aloe vera 200x concentrate powder, 0.5g liquid germall plus, and 99g distilled water
- You can replace the aloe juice with more water
- You can use a different essential oil or scent blend, but I’d recommend keeping the total amount around 0.5%