The two stars of this formulation are niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and hyaluronic acid; two of my favourite skin care ingredients. They team up with fragrant sweetgrass hydrosol and a few other functional ingredients to create a simple, hydrating, brightening facial serum that’s a lovely addition to your skincare routine.
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I first tried niacinamide (Vitamin B3) in The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum back in 2018, and it was practically magic for my skin. Within a week of starting to use it I noticed I was getting fewer pimples and lingering red marks left behind by old ones were fading. Niacinamide has been an absolute staple in my skin care routine ever since.
Hyaluronic acid also played a large role in the improvement of my skin as I learned about and fully embraced the importance of topical hydration. I learned that my skin needed lots of added water to thrive; simply using anhydrous moisturizers wasn’t enough. Hyaluronic acid is one of my favourite humectants—especially in facial products—because it’s effective and it feels beautiful on the skin.
I’ve included a hefty glug of sweetgrass hydrosol (a 40% glug, to be precise) to scent the serum. I adore sweetgrass hydrosol; it smells like sunshine on long, dry prairie grass in the summer. It smells like home, sunshine-y dog walks, and fresh air. If you don’t have sweetgrass hydrosol you could easily use a different hydrosol instead. You could also use aloe vera juice instead, witch hazel, more distilled water, or a blend. Have fun with it!
The rest of the ingredients in this formulation are functional ones. Liquid Germall™ Plus to preserve, a drop of 90% lactic acid solution to drop the pH to about 5.75, soft xanthan gum to add a wee bit of body, propanediol 1,3 to disperse that xanthan gum into (+ boost moisturizing properties & preservative efficacy), and distilled water to bring the whole thing up to 100%. All in all, it’s a pretty simple formulation.
I packaged mine in a dropper top bottle, though earlier versions went into some wee bottles with treatment pump caps and those worked well, too. Enjoy!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Propanediol 1,3 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Liquid Germall Plus in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Xanthan Gum in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Hyaluronic Acid in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- What’s up with hydrosols, distillates, and floral waters?
- Ten Projects to Make with Hyaluronic Acid + HA Q&A
- Let’s Talk About Hyaluronic Acid
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life?
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used?
- pH meter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- pH measurement in cosmetic lab: why we dilute samples? from Skin Chakra
- How to adjust the pH of your cosmetic products from Skin Chakra
- Similar skincare formulations:
Brightening Hyaluronic Acid & Niacinamide Facial Serum
1.5g | 3% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)
0.25g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
0.05g | 0.1% xanthan gum (soft) (USA)
15.665g | 31.33% distilled water
0.035g | 0.07% 90% lactic acid solution (USA / Canada)
20g | 40% sweetgrass hydrosol
10g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution (USA / Canada / New Zealand)
2.5g | 5% niacinamide (vitamin B3) (USA / Canada)
Weigh the propanediol, Liquid Germall™ Plus, and xanthan gum into a small beaker. Stir to combine.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and leave the solution to fully dissolve and become uniform.
Once the solution is clear, it’s time to test the pH.
To test and adjust the pH: create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why?). Check the pH with your pH meter (I have this one [USA / Canada]). Depending on the shape of your bowl/beaker you may need to tilt it in order to fully submerge the sensor on your pH meter. The pH should come out to 5.5–6, which is great! I’d say anything in the 5–6 range is fine. If yours is outside that range, please read this article to learn more about pH adjusting.
Once you know your formulation is a-ok in the pH department, it’s time to package it up! I used a 60mL (2 fl oz) glass bottle with a dropper top from YellowBee for mine (gifted). It looks like they don’t sell that size anymore, but they do have a 50mL bottle (and top) that would work even better for this 50g (1.76oz) batch.
To use; I like to spread a few drops over my skin after cleansing and then follow up with a cream or oil serum. Enjoy!
SHELF LIFE & STORAGE
Because this formulation 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 formulation 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 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 could try glycerine instead of propanediol 1,3.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- You can use regular xanthan gum instead of soft xanthan gum. You could also use a different gum; there’s so little of it that the precise one isn’t vitally important. You could also leave the gum out (replacing it with more water); this will result in a slightly thinner finished formulation.
- You could use a different acid to adjust the pH, but you will have to do your own testing and adjusting to determine the amount required.
- You can use a different hydrosol for a different scent.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
- I do not recommend swapping out the hyaluronic acid or niacinamide (Vitamin B3) as both are essential/integral to the formulation.
The glass dropper bottle was gifted by YellowBee.
The sweetgrass hydrosol was gifted by Plant’s Power.
The xanthan gum (soft) was gifted by Formulator Sample Shop.
The hyaluronic acid was gifted by Pure Nature.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.
Thank you! I have been looking for a way to make a serum with Niacinamide and Hyaluronic acid and here you come!
I have read that Niacinamide should not be used in acidic formulations. But after seeing your formulation. I will give it a shot.
Love your site!!! I have learned so much!
Can I use the hyaluronic acid 4d in this formula? It’s what I have on hand :).
Hi! You could, but I believe the usage rate is less, so adjust as required (using more water/less HA) 🙂 Happy making!
I am going to whip myself a batch of this up as soon as I get some playtime this week! Looks amazing . I was wondering what your thoughts are on this formulation doubling up for a sheet mask use? Or my son‘s girlfriend is find a facial masks, and as a switch from clay wondered if this might be a nice alternative….
I think it would be great for sheet masking! ❤️
I made a riff on this with plain xanthan gum and I’m loving it! I used slightly similar approach than in hyaluronic acid and B5 serum (latest batch). I used slightly more xanthan gum together with rose hydrosol, aloevera extract and phenoxyethanol & ethylhexylglycerine. I like to pair this serum with urea essence/ serum and antioxidant oil serum or cream. After many experiments I learnt that I like pH range 5,6 – 5,9 (pretty close to what you suggested) with B3. I have used B3 in more acidic toners too but they were not effective enough for my taste. IMO this works wonders, contains a bunch of easy to source ingredients and doesn’t leave my skin tight or sticky. My skin has missed serum like this! My own toners and serums are often way more sticky and complicated but they don’t necessarily work any better. Oh boy. Many thanks for this formulation!
If the hyaluronic acid I have is high molecular weight, do I just cut it down to 1-2%? Will this still be ok to mix with niacinamide, which I have read shouldn’t be mixed?
Thanks for any help!
You mentioned that you received the hydrosol from Plant’s Power. I too been purchasing tons of hydrosols from this above company and thought they were the real thing as well as cheaper. I have also purchased hydrosols from other well-renowned companies, but the costs were higher.
Until I heard this from Robert Tisserand, I am presently enrolled in his AromaDermatology training.
On the forum, the question was asked: “What is the difference between Hydrosol and Flower water? There is lots of confusion out there, with these labels: Hydrosol, hydrolat, hydrolate, aqueous distillate, aromatic water, distillate water, floral water, and flower water. Some say: Hydrosols, also known as “flower waters,” are produced by distilling fresh leaves, fruits, flowers, and other plant materials.
EX: Rosewater is water infused with the essential oil of roses. In contrast, rose hydrosol is the aromatic water that remains after the steam-distilling of roses.
How to tell the difference between real hydrosol, floral water, hydrolat, or flower water? ”
Robert Tisserand replied:
“They are all referring to the same thing – the watery part of the distillation, though of course “floral water” would only refer to one from flowers, which is why we don’t use that term.”
“There are lots of fake hydrosols, made with water, fragrance, and emulsifier. If lots of fine bubbles form when you shake the bottle, it may be a sign that there’s an emulsifier present.”
So I did the test and the hydrosol that I purchased from Plant Power had indeed bubbles after being shaken. Quite a lot of bubbles. I was really disappointed, but then again, comparing their prices with the others hydrosol vendors out there, it just made total sense now. So they are not truly hydrosols. Just thought I would share.
Thank you so much for all the videos and information you provide. I am a true blue fan and appreciate learning from your amazing videos and data you’ve supplied. I’ve looked all over for an answer to this question and hope you can me. Can I mix a high and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid into one serum. It is my understanding there are benefits to both deeper level and surface skin. If so, I’d love to see a serum recipe with those ingredients along with vitamin c or b. Thank you for your time! Kindest Regards, Diane
I went to go repurchase The Ordinary’s Niacinamide+Zinc serum which has also been magic on my skin, but they’re out of stock…. Guess I’ll just have to make my own niacinamide serum. Oh nOoOOooo now I have to buy more DIY ingredients and make more cool stuff for myself! 😛
Hi Marie, I just wanted to let you know my son has been using this for several months now and the difference in his skin is so amazing. I wished I’d done before and after photos! He’s 12 and had acne pretty severely. Now his skin is acne free, with the occasional breakout on his forehead – but nothing to what it was. He is more confident and extremely happy to do his skin care routine (without me harping) due to the results. My skin loves it too!! Thank you ♥
I am SO THRILLED to hear this, Sandie!!
Hi! Unfortunately looks like the Canadian supplier link is currently broken, I did find that The Ordinary (the well-known skincare brand) is selling niacinamide (also vitamin C) powder for home-formulating on their Canadian website though! Pls delete if this breaks commenting rules.
Thanks Hana! I’ve updated the link to another DIY supplier, but TO is a great source as well 🙂
Please help me here, I got a question.
In Sodium Hyaluronate 1% Serum Base – 100ml, how much niacinamide powder should I put in mg if I want 10% niacinamide serum? Please guide me here. Also, using this two, as in sodium hyaluronate serum base and niacinamide powder will be okay together for a niacinamide serum?
Just for side information about the serum, I am buying, I am getting of sodium hyaluronate serum base that will come in a glass bottle where the company mentioned Ingredients as: Aqua, Sodium Hyaluronate 1% (1150 kDA), are they okay for making serums?
Again, I am on zero level of understanding anything so want to cross-check with you on what should I do. Sorry it is a lot of questions but I am counting on your answers ;-;
(in 100ml Sodium Hyaluronate serum base, 5g niacinamide powder will work for 10% niacinamide serum?) no idea just guessing..
I was wondering if you could clear up a confusion I’ve been having:
In formulations like this: The Hyaluronic Acid is a ph range of 6.5 to 7, and the Niacinamide has a ph of 5 – 6. How can these ingredients co-exist together if they’re 0.5 ph apart PLUS the finished product is recommended at a PH of 5.5 – 6, which is lower than what the Hyaluronic Acid needs? Will this negatively impact the actives?
Is this something that I should be careful of in the recipes I formulate in the future
Lol any clarification would be awesome! Thanks
The pH of the ingredients doesn’t really matter in the way you’re positing. Ingredients do not need identical pH values in order to work together, and an ingredient does not need to stay at its own pH in order to work or be stable. Ingredients definitely have pH ranges they are stable within, but that range is typically far broader than the pH of the ingredient.
Perhaps think of it this way: potatoes are generally stored around cool room temperature, while chicken is stored in the fridge at an even cooler temperature. You can still cook them together into a stew, though—yet another temperature! What you’re worried about is *sort of* like saying you can never have potatoes and chicken together because they need to be stored at different temperatures.
Hope that eased your worries, and happy making!
Can this be added to the water phase of a body butter?
If you wanted to include these ingredients in a body butter it would make a lot more sense to formulate the entire body butter around including them, and include them in the water phase, rather than try to make this and then put it into a body butter. Including this completed formulation in the heated water phase of a body butter would damage the preservative, so it’s not recommended. In general, I don’t recommend trying to combine finished formulations with unfinished ones 🙂