I first developed this cream last autumn under the title “ultra gel cream”. When you look at the ingredients you’ll know why—it’s pretty darn “ultra”. It is positively packed with things that are bomb-diggity awesome for the skin, helping to brighten, hydrate, soothe, and heal. I was a bit on the fence about sharing it as it does contain a lot of somewhat fancy to straight-up fancy ingredients that not everyone will have… but it’s also awesome, and I think people who do have (or purchase) the ingredients will love it. I’ve also had a lot of requests for anti-ageing products & products for more mature skin, and I think this lovely serum more than qualifies!
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For awesome moisturizing, hydrating goodness we have some low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, propanediol 1,3, and panthenol. They’re all great, non-sticky humectants, and the panthenol is also anti-inflammatory and boosts healing.
Brightening goodness comes from a combination of niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) and N-Acetyl Glucosamine. Both of these lovely ingredients help boost barrier function so our skin can be its most resilient, healthy self, and when paired they are wonderful skin brighteners. I highly recommend reading the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia posts on each ingredient as there is so much to say about how wonderful they both are!
Some ceramide complex further helps boost barrier function. Ceramides are really quite cool and a downright wonderful skincare ingredient, helping support and strengthen the skin. We naturally produce our own ceramides, which are the “mortar” in the brick and mortar structure of skin cells and ceramides that make up our stratum corneum (the top-most layer of our epidermis). The ceramide complex we’re using in this formulation helps supplement our skin’s natural ceramides, as well as encouraging our skin to produce more of its own ceramides. All of this awesomeness helps our skin be more resilient, reducing irritation and reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). All good things!
Coenzyme Q10 is a fabulous antioxidant, and gives this serum its lovely yellow colour. It can help prevent collagen breakdown, prevent/repair UV damage, and increase cell turnover. Allantoin also helps stimulates healthy tissue production as well as being soothing and anti-irritating. It isn’t terribly water-soluble, so I’ve kept the usage rate low to ensure it stays in solution and doesn’t go all shardy (not pleasant!).
Everything is brought together with Aristoflex AVC, which both thickens this to a creamy gel consistency and pseudo-emulsifies in the oil soluble ingredients, of which there are just three. There’s the Coenzyme Q10, and then some dimethicone 350 and cyclomethicone. Both are silicones; the dimethicone is non-volatile and functions as an emollient, while the cyclomethicone is volatile and contributes really gorgeous, lightweight slip. Both of them help reduce tackiness as well—something I find can really come out to play in watery things that are rich in actives like this serum is.
The finished serum has a wonderful, silky skin feel that brings to mind very expensive serums and creams—with an ingredient list to back up that “expensive” sensation! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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Brightening Gel Serum
1g | 2% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)
10g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution
2.5g | 5% ceramide complex (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 5% N-Acetyl Glucosamine (USA / Canada)
0.25g | 0.5% allantoin (USA / Canada)
2g | 4% niacinamide
1g | 2% panthenol powder (vitamin B5)
0.25g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
27g | 54% distilled water
Weigh the primary phase ingredients into a 100mL (3.3fl oz) beaker (or similarly sized measuring cup/bowl) and whisk to combine.
Add the secondary phase ingredients and whisk to combine. Once the mixture is relatively uniform, add the distilled water. Stir to combine, and then cover with some cling film, and leave for at least an hour so the Aristoflex AVC can hydrate.
After an hour (overnight works, too) whisk the mixture thoroughly until it is completely uniform with a thick, creamy consistency. That’s it! If you don’t want to wait you can use a mini mixer to bring it all together faster… just be sure to keep a good hold on things. That really cool splatter in my photos is from my mini mixer getting away from me and rapidly decorating my tabletop with about 1/3 of the serum! It looks very artsy in the photos, but I don’t recommend splattering your working space in serum, ha.
My top choice for packaging this formulation would be an airless pump bottle; for this 50g (1.76oz) batch you’d want something around 50mL (1.69fl oz)–60mL (2fl oz). This is thin enough to pump out, so a pump bottle will work, as will a tottle or squeeze tube.
To use, smooth a pea-sized amount over the skin after cleansing and follow up with an oil serum or cream/lotion. Enjoy!
When made as written, the pH of this gel cream comes out to 5–6, which is where we want it for the niacinamide. That said, it’s a good idea to test the pH of products where pH is imporant—you can learn how to test & adjust pH here.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this gel serum contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative, this project may 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 50g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, 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 (Aristoflex AVC, dimethicone 350, Coenzyme Q10, propanediol, hyaluronic acid, N-Acetyl Glucosamine, allantoin, niacinamide, panthenol) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the dimethicone as it really helps prevent this cream from being tacky.
- You could try a natural silicone alternative, like LuxGlide 350. Look for one that is marketed as a dimethicone alternative rather than a cyclomethicone alternative.
- You could try a slippy liquid oil, though no liquid oil will do the same job as dimethicone.
- Both of those alternatives will result in a stickier end product.
- For the cyclomethicone:
- Other volatile silicones like Cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone 1.5 will work. Viscous dimethicones like 500 & 1000 are not a good choice.
- You could try a natural silicone alternative that is marketed as a cyclomethicone alternative.
- You could try a very lightweight oil or ester like Neossance® Hemisqualane or C12-15 alkyl benzoate.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the ceramide complex. If you have to, choose something your skin loves, or just use more distilled water to keep the formulation balanced.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- If you’d like to add some scent:
- You could swap 20–30% of the water for a hydrosol of choice
- You could reduce the water by 0.5–1% to make room for an essential oil or fragrance of choice (or blend)
- Aristoflex AVC is sensitive to electrolytes so do not incorporate any ingredients that contain electrolytes like aloe vera, sodium lactate, or urea.