This silky, shimmery Candlelight Creamy Hand Wash is like a cozy hug for your hands every time you use it. As soon as I had decided on this year’s holiday themes, I knew I needed to include a Candlelight themed creamy, shimmery, gentle hand wash as I positively power through handwash and cooler days always send me towards creamier, richer formulations. I had a lot of fun developing this formulation, honing the method and getting the surfactant blend just right. The finished formulation is all kinds of silky, shimmery, and sudsy—and it makes a great body wash, too!
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Our surfactant blend is a combination of anionic Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI), non-ionic decyl glucoside, and amphoteric Cocamidopropyl Betaine. It’s been ages since I used Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) in a liquid formulation as it’s a bit of a pain to incorporate/dissolve, but I thought Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) was a perfect fit for this formulation (I did try some different anionic options and just kept coming back to it) so I have decided it’s worth the extra time and effort.
The creaminess in this hand wash comes from two places. Glycol distearate contributes aesthetic creaminess (it makes the hand wash opaque and milky) and a titch of re-fatting, while the re-fatting goodness of Lamesoft® PO 65 ensures this hand wash is quite gentle. If you don’t have either of these ingredients, please make sure you’re reading up about substitution suggestions in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia. There are definitely other ingredients you can use instead to opacify and re-fat the formulation, but you may have to do some re-development work to ensure you’re happy with the final product.
The candle-lighty goodness of this formulation is solidified with a dash of a warm fragrance oil (I used Brambleberry’s Kentucky Bourbon Fragrance Oil, but you can definitely use something else that makes you feel all cozy and glowy!) and a wee bit of warm gold mica. I considered using water-soluble dyes instead of mica but I didn’t have faith in my ability to dose a potent dye lightly enough to just get something vaguely warm. I figured I was much more likely to make something highlighter orange given how potent water-soluble dyes are and how small my batches tend to be 😂
As this formulation contains two solid ingredients that need heating to incorporate, this formulation definitely isn’t cold processed. I found melting the glycol distearate with the glycerin before adding the surfactants (and then heating all of that together) worked best. Once that glycerin-y, surfactanty mixture is clear you can add hot water and proceed with cooling and the cool down phase. It’s definitely fussier than a cold processed hand wash, but I think the extra effort is worth it!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Vegetable Glycerin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Glycol distearate in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Decyl Glucoside in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Lamesoft® PO 65 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Distilled water in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Crothix Liquid in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Coloured Mica in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Liquid Germall Plus in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Other hand wash formulations:
- Can I add a surfactant to this mostly fat-based formulation (or vice versa)?
- Can I use soap instead of foaming surfactants?
- How can I substitute one surfactant for another?
- Surfactants table
Candlelight Creamy Hand Wash
7.2g | 6% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
4.8g | 4% decyl glucoside (USA / Canada)
12g | 10% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
2.4g | 2% Coco Glucoside (and) Glyceryl Oleate (Lamesoft® PO 65) (Canada / USA / NZ / EU / UK)
63g | 52.5% just-boiled distilled water + extra
Weigh the glycerin and glycol distearate into a beaker and heat until the glycol distearate has melted. I opted to heat this formulation over direct low heat rather than use a water bath; I’ve got a glass-top stove and I can put my beakers right on it. You can use a water bath, but things will move more slowly.
Once the glycol distearate has melted, add the surfactants one at a time, stirring between additions. Make sure you wear your dust mask so you don’t inhale any powdered Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI)—that’s really unpleasant!
When the surfactants have been whisked into the glycerin mixture, weigh the entire lot (beaker + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Return the beaker to the heat and heat through until the mixture is uniform and clear (there may be some foam on the surface, that is ok).
Remove the beaker from the heat, weigh it, and add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating. Add the rest of the just-boiled distilled water now, too (the 52.5% called for in the formulation). Stir gently to combine and continue stirring as the mixture cools; I have done this with and without an ice bath. Both work, but using an ice bath is definitely faster!
Once the mixture has cooled, add the cool down phase, gently whisking/stirring. Don’t be tempted to add more Crothix until the mixture has well and truly settled—I find it’s a bit slow to thicken, but eventually gets to a really lovely, silky consistency.
And that’s it! Package up the formulation and you’re all done; I used pump-top bottles for all my iterations, but you could also use a squeeze tube/tottle if you’re planning on using it as a body wash. Use as you’d use any hand and/or body wash. Enjoy!
When made as written, the pH of this hand wash comes out to about 6, which is great. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) can hydrolyze (break down) in hydrous formulations with a pH below 6, so if you are making any changes it’s a good idea to test and adjust the pH if required.
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 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 120g, which will fill a 120mL (4 fl oz) pump-top bottle nicely.
- 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 (Glycol distearate, Lamesoft® PO 65, Crothix Liquid) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- If you’d like to learn more about the surfactants used and compare them to ones you might already have so you can make substitutions, check out this page and read this FAQ.
- I think Iselux Ultra Mild could be a good alternative for the entire surfactant blend.
- This formulation isn’t a great candidate for a foamer bottle as it’s got some viscosity to it even without incorporating the Crothix.
- You can use a different fragrance oil—just choose something that is warm and cozy, and make sure you are following IFRA guidelines on allowable usage.
- Remember that different fragrances can impact the viscosity of surfactant products—I find Crothix thickened products are typically pretty stable, but if you use a different fragrance than I did and get a dramatically different final viscosity, that’s probably why.
- You can use a different mica—I recommend choosing something warm and glowy. You can also leave the mica out for a creamy white hand wash; replace it with more distilled water to keep the formulation in balance.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil instead of the fragrance oil, please read this.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.