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
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.
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.