Today’s Creamy Clay Balm-to-Milk Cleanser is a Bee Better update to 2016’s Creamy Clay Cleansing Balm. It’s a rich, slippy, gentle facial cleanser that rinses off the skin beautifully. True to the name, it’s creamy and contains a hefty dose of soft white kaolin clay for a wee bit of physical exfoliation and a cleansing experience a bit reminiscent of a clay face mask. This updated version is gentler, fully percentage-ified, and has better rinse-off than its 2016 predecessor.
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The bulk of this formulation is inexpensive liquid carrier oils; it doesn’t make sense to use anything fancy since it’ll only be in contact with your skin for a few moments before getting washed down the drain. I chose fractionated coconut oil as it’s light and shelf stable, but you could easily use a different inexpensive carrier oil like safflower oil instead. You could also use a blend of a liquid oil and a liquid ester, like isopropyl myristate (IPM) or C12-15 alkyl benzoate for an ever lighter feel. Just keep the total weight the same!
I’ve used cetearyl alcohol to thicken this updated formulation, rather than the candelilla wax that thickened the 2016 version. I prefer cetearyl alcohol for formulations like this one as it has better rinse-off than true waxes and has a creamier, more slippy skin feel.
Emulsifying Wax NF gives this balm-to-milk cleanser its transformational powers. This emulsifier is what allows the anhydrous formulation to self-emulsify with water and go all milky when wet. It’s also responsible for the clean, easy rinse-off of the cleanser. If you’re looking for an even gentler cleanser, use less emulsifier; for a stronger cleanser, use more. Emulsifying Wax NF does contain some cetearyl alcohol, too, so it also contributes to the final viscosity of the formulation. If you wanted to try a liquid solubilizer (like Polysorbate 80) instead of the emulsifying wax you’ll want to use less (perhaps 4%?) and then bump up the cetearyl alcohol percentage to make up for the reduction.
A solid 20% of white kaolin clay makes this balm-to-milk cleanser extra creamy and lovely. I recommend sticking to white clay (or mostly white clay) to keep the mess factor down. If you want a wee bit of colour you could swap 3–5% of the kaolin for a soft, smooth, coloured clay like French green clay or French pink clay , but a full swap is likely to leave your sink looking pretty icky after you use the cleanser (and can be hard on paler towels, too).
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Relevant links & further reading
- Fractionated coconut oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Castor Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Emulsifying Wax NF in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cetearyl Alcohol in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Kaolin Clay in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Other cleansing balm formulations:
- Do I need to add a preservative to this recipe? How long will it last?
- A Guide to Carrier Oil Substitutions
- Preservatives + Shelf Life
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life?
Creamy Clay Balm-to-Milk Cleanser
23.2g | 46.4% fractionated coconut oil
7.5g | 15% castor oil (USA / Canada)
5g | 10% cetearyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
4g | 8% Emulsifying Wax NF (USA / Canada / AU)
10g | 20% white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)
Cool down phase
0.25g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.05g | 0.1% Pure Honey fragrance oil
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
While the heated phase melts, prepare an ice bath. Take a bowl that is large enough to accommodate the container the heated phase is melting in, and fill it about halfway with ice cubes and cold water.
After about 20–30 minutes everything should be completely melted through. Remove the water bath from the heat, remove the measuring cup from the water bath, and dry it off with a dishtowel. Set the measuring cup on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything.
Place the measuring cup containing the heated phase into the ice bath and cool, stirring constantly, until you notice some soft solid bits coming up on the spatula when you stir across the bottom of the measuring cup. Remove the measuring cup from the water bath and add the cool down phase. Stir to incorporate.
At this point the mixture should have reached a fairly thick “trace”—the mixture should have enough viscosity that a small amount drizzled over the surface of the mixture leaves a 3D “trace” for a moment. The mixture should appear opaque. Refer to the video to see it in action! This part can be a bit tricky as too much viscosity will mean the batter won’t pour into the container nicely, so be careful and make sure your packing is standing by.
Once you reach trace you can now pour the product into its container and transfer it to the fridge to fully to set up. Once the formulation has chilled through, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
To use, massage a small amount of the product into dry skin. Wet your hands, and massage your face again; you’ll notice the balm transforming into a creamy milk! Wipe the product off with a damp cloth, and that’s it.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this cleansing balm 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 (use a dry finger or popsicle stick to dip into the container). If you plan on giving this cleansing balm away or taking it into the shower/bath with you, please include 0.5% liquid germall plus (USA / Canada). Though this preservative is water-soluble, this cleansing balm contains emulsifiers so it will emulsify, and because it is water-soluble it’ll be in the right phase if the balm gets contaminated with water.
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, which will work well in a 60mL (2 fl oz) jar.
- 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 can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of fractionated coconut oil. You could also replace the castor oil with more fractionated coconut oil or a different lightweight liquid oil. I recommend sticking to liquid oils so the melting point of the product stays roughly the same.
- You can try a blend of Cetyl Alcohol and Stearic Acid to replace the Cetearyl Alcohol, but you will likely have to do a bit of re-development work to get the melting point just right. I do not recommend using just Cetyl Alcohol or Stearic Acid as their consistencies are very different from a cetearyl alcohol.
- You can try a different complete thickening emulsifying wax, like Polawax or Olivem 1000, instead of Emulsifying Wax NF.
- You could use a different soft, silky clay (French clays, Zeolite) instead of kaolin. I don’t recommend rhassoul or bentonite as the consistency is very different.
- If you’d like to use an essential oil instead of the fragrance oil, please read this.
- If you’d like to use a different fragrance oil, please read this.
The emulsifying wax NF and jar were gifted by YellowBee.
The Pure Honey fragrance oil was gifted by Brambleberry.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.
I definitevly need that emulsifier (either e wax nf or polawax)! Beautiful formulation! I remember loving the original formulation when I found it. I used to follow OCM before it and this cleanser changed everything. In the meantime I will give this ago with another emulsifier.
Thank you so much, Johanna! And yes, gosh, emulsifiers TOTALLY changed my relationship with the OCM as well ❤️ Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
E-wax nf / polawax (cetearyl alcohol & polysorbate 60) is definitevly my favourite here! I love how well this rinses off. I noticed that it removes stubborn eye makeup pretty well too without any irritation (again rather personal thing). I am seriously impressed! I have separate micellar water for water-proof makeup but otherwise I’ve used this + winter solstice type cream cleanser lately to remove makeup. Highly recommend giving it ago!
Great Marie, thanks, I really liked the original and I have all the ingredients to make this updated version, yay 🙂 I will definitely make this later in the week. Wishing you all the best for this year.
❤️ I look forward to hearing what you think!
The fragrance oil you use is not eye safe , which I don’t think any EO or fragrance is. Do you know what the scent of this is like without any fragrance or EO?
Hi Susan! I think by eye safe they mean products like eye drops. The fragrance oil I used is allowed up to 0.12% in IFRA category 8 products (Make-up Removers of all types) + up to 0.67% for eye products like eyeliners (category 3c), so I don’t have any concerns about using it for this formulation 🙂
That said, this formulation doesn’t smell like much if left unscented. A bit fatty/clay-like, but none of the component ingredients have strong scents.
Can you suggest how to sub the Cetearyl alcohol with cetyl alcohol and stearic acid? I’m not sure of proportions, since I’m rather new at this.
I’d start with a 60/40 split, using more cetyl alcohol than stearic acid 🙂 So, 6% cetyl/4% stearic. Happy making!
Did you remove the ability to pin your posts? The last couple of weeks or so there have been a couple of things I wanted to pin and I can’t seem to find the pinterest button? Or maybe it’s an issue on my end?
I removed the plug-in that provided that functionality because I think it was causing the site to crash, and I haven’t had a chance to find something to replace it with yet. If you are a frequent pinner you may appreciate having a pin button for your browser, though! You can get one straight from Pinterest here. Happy making!
Hi Marie, can’t wait to try this recipe! I don’t have the emulsifying waxes you list in the recipe and substitutions to my disposal but am looking to buy either BTMS-25 or 50 for another recipe. In your encyclopedia i’m reading something about a different skin feel because of the different charge of BTMS-25/50. Could you be more specific about that? What would be your advice on experimenting with BTMS in this recipe instead of the emusifying waxes you list?
I made this cleanser in its original form, and I was already very happy with it. But I really feel the difference with this Bee Better version. It is very soft, but does cleanse.
Coincidentally, I just made a ‘cleaning stone’ for household use. White clay is also a component there. The main ingredient actually. You would say, such an extremely fine, soft clay can have no impact, can it? Oh yes. This clay very gently scrubs away all dirt, leaving no trace on porous surfaces. Not the slightest scratch. I suddenly understood how special the ingredient clay is, and what it can do for your skin.
I’m so thrilled to hear you are enjoying this updated version! And your cleansing stone sounds lovely ❤️
I absolutely loved this formulation. I used Olivem 1000 instead of the Emulsifying Wax NF and used a bit of Jasmine Sambac oil for fragrance. The texture and scent felt so luxurious and indulgent. The cleanser has lovely slip and left my skin feeling so silky, even after I used my foaming cleanser as the second step of my double cleanse.
Marie, this is just divine on the skin, I am so impressed!! I love it so much, thank you!
Can I use 30g of Kaolin to make the cleanser more thicker? And why does the oil separates after some time?
Please watch/read this 🙂
This is too greasy for me and does not wash off very well as I would like. Can I add some Polysorbate 80 to the formulation?
Yup! You could also use more Emulsifying Wax NF. Happy making!
I love this formulation but when I tested it the oil began to separate. Any suggestion to troubleshoot.
Greetings from Bulgaria! I will make the recipe for the first time and I am very excited, but due to carelessness on my part, I bought Unrefined and cold-pressed shea butter instead of fractionated coconut oil… can I use it?