Last year, the first thing I ever made with Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) was a Gentle Foaming Clay Scrub that I really, really liked—I polished it off in a matter of weeks! For some reason or another I got to thinking about it again, and then I got to missing it, but I’m not one to re-make something if I think I can re-vamp it, so here we are! This Coconut Clay Facial Cleanser adds SCI to a base of clay, with added fragrant coconut milk powder for a rich, creamy feel and some marshmallow root for slip and some emolliency. Add a touch of water to work this creamy powder up to a rich, velvety lather. Oooooh, bubbles.
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The bulk of the clay is simply white kaolin clay. While you could definitely use a different light, silky clay, like French green, French red, or zeolite (not bentonite!), I find I’m partial to white clay for one simple reason: I am not a fan of cleaning my sink directly after cleaning my face. Red clay is especially bad for making your bathroom sink and counter look like a murder scene, and while I love the look of a red clay scrub, I do not love how it stains everything the same colour as the Australian outback. If you have a darker sink you may be able to get away with it, but my bathrooms are all shiny white porcelain. Paler clays like beige or zeolite would be my next choice after white kaolin, but this is all based on my general dislike of wiping down my bathroom sink multiple times a day. If that’s not a thing that bothers you, feel free to embrace the clay rainbow!
The foamy fun for this cleanser comes from the inclusion of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI)—sometimes sold as BabyFoam. I chose this surfactant for a couple reasons, the first being that it is powdered. This whole concoction is powdery, so using a liquid surfactant obviously won’t work! Made from fatty acids derived from coconut, it’s gentle and utterly lovely, with a low velvety lather (that’s reason #2). Reason #3 is the pH, which is around 5.5. Other powdered/solid surfactants I’ve got like Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) and Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) have much higher pH’s (~6 and 8, respectively). While you can adjust the pH, it’s a trickier thing to do with a powdered concoction, meaning it’s easier to use a surfactant that already has our desired pH than faff around with adjusting another one.
Thanks to the powdery nature of this cleanser it’s really easy to make—just put it all in a coffee grinder and whizz until uniform. Do make sure you’re wearing your dust mask while working with the loose SCI and whirring things around; inhaling powdered surfactants is a downright awful experience, and inhaling large amounts of aerosolized fine powders isn’t good for you in the long term. A decent dust mask is pretty inexpensive, and very worth the investment!
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Coconut Clay Facial Cleanser
Put on your dust mask.
Weigh the marshmallow root, SCI, and coconut powder into your DIY-only coffee grinder. Weigh the kaolin clay into a medium sized bowl, and add as much of the clay as you can to the grinder while still having room for everything to grind up nicely, and reserve the rest.
Blend the mixture together thoroughly, until you can’t hear large bits of marshmallow root rattling around anymore—about one minute, but it may be more depending on your grinder. Leave the grinder to allow the dust to settle for at least ten minutes to settle before popping the lid off. Tap the mixture into the bowl with the remaining kaolin clay and gently stir to combine. Once you’re done stirring, you can remove your dust mask—at this point you’re done any vigorous mixing and the fat from the coconut milk powder is weighing the entire mixture down.
Lightly spoon the mixture into a jar or wide-mouthed bottle; I used a 100mL (3.3 fl oz) jar from Voyageur, so I’d recommend choosing something around that size.
To use, sprinkle a small amount of the powder into a damp palm (taking care not to get any water into the scrub! No damp finger dipping!), and work it up into a light lather with a bit of water before massaging it into your skin and rinsing clean. Enjoy! I recommend using this cleanser as a few-times-a-week thing, rather than a daily cleanser, as most faces don’t need daily physical exfoliation.
Because this scrub 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.
- You can replace the marshmallow root with a different dried herb that your face loves, or simply replace it with more clay
- I don’t recommend replacing the SCI with ground soap or a different surfactant for pH reasons
- You can use a different powdered milk if you don’t have powdered coconut milk
- You can use a different lightweight, smooth clay if you don’t have white kaolin, but keep in mind that pigmented clays make for much bigger messes in your bathroom