I’m so excited about this formulation, and even more so by the possibilities it represents. I’ve had lots of questions about how to make products like L’Occitane’s Almond Shower Oil and Glossier’s Body Hero Daily Oil Wash, and the answer has always been a really disappointing “we can’t get the key ingredient 😞”… until now! 🎉

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What is a foaming shower oil?

Honestly, it’s exactly what it sounds like! It is a product that looks and feels like an oil, but when you work it up with water it turns all milky and generates gorgeous, fluffy bubbles. It has great rinse off and can be used as a body wash or a foaming bath oil.

A quick perusal of the ingredient lists for such products shows that they look and feel like oil because they are almost entirely oil—usually something inexpensive, like grapeseed oil or soybean oil.

From a formulation point of view, this is really neat because oil inhibits lather; we typically avoid putting lots of fat in a formulation if we want it to be really bubbly. So, to have a product that is almost entirely oil lather up beautifully is quite special and a bit counter-intuitive.

Why does foaming shower oil foam?

Foaming shower oil formulations foam because they use a special type of surfactant that is very happy to lather away even when there’s lots of oil around. Up until very recently this type of surfactant has not been widely available unless you were a company and wanted to buy a drum of the stuff.

The special surfactant is a MIPA or TIPA sulfate; L’Occitane uses TIPA-Laureth Sulfate and Glossier uses MIPA-Laureth Sulfate. This ingredient is then paired with the emulsifier Laureth-3 or Laureth-4 to enable it to mix clearly into all sorts of oils. We can now purchase these ingredients in the form of LUMOROL K 5229: an ingredient that blends Laureth-4 (and) MIPA-Laureth Sulfate (and) Propylene Glycol. Hooray!

I’ve had a couple bottles of LUMOROL K 5229 since early 2021 courtesy of Aromantic in the UK, and made a lovely foaming bath oil with it, but I was hesitant to use it in any published formulations until it was available in North America. And now it is! The bottle I’ve used for this formulation is from Yellow Bee, here in Canada, and in the US you can purchase it from Dauphine Organics. I’ve linked to some other suppliers in the free Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia entry on LUMOROL K 5229.

What’s the basic gist of a foaming shower oil formulation?

It’s very basic indeed! Start without enough LUMOROL K 5229 to give the level of lather you want, and then the rest of the formulation is mostly liquid oil, with some room for fun things like fragrance, essential oils, vitamin E, and perhaps some oil-soluble extracts.

Whatever you do, I recommend keeping the ingredients that make up the bulk of the formulation cheap. You won’t notice much (if any) difference between $50/L golden jojoba oil and $16/L rice bran oil in this wash-off product. (That said… if you’ve got an oil that’s nearing the end of its shelf life, this is a great formulation for motoring through large quantities of oil!).

I’ve used a blend of apricot kernel oil and Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride), but please feel free to switch this up (edit: see update below!)—just keep the bulk of it inexpensive.

So, how much is “enough”? I did some experiments with 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60% LUMOROL K 5229 in oil to find out (and shared the full results as a patron exclusive video!). The formula I made from Aromantic back in 2021 used 58%, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that substantially lower amounts worked beautifully. I’ve used 40% in my formulation, and I find that lathers more than L’Occitane’s Almond Shower Oil!


Update (2023-09-29)

I’ve since learned that the MCT is essential for keeping this formulation together with this level (40%) of LUMOROL K 5229. Thank you to Shannon in the comments, who tried a version without any MCT and shared her experience.

I started experiments for this formulation by trying different concentrations of LUMOROL K 5229 and I used MCT as half of my oil blend. Mixtures containing 20–60% LUMOROL K 5229 remain stable—but it turns out the MCT is key to that stability. If you swap it out for another plant oil, the mixture will split (mine split within the hour!). So, if you want to stick to 40% LUMOROL K 5229, keep Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride) as part of your oil blend. I haven’t tested for the lowest possible effective concentration, but I know 30% works. I’ve also tried mineral oil instead of MCT and that is promising, but it’s too early to say.

Thanks again, Shannon—you can read more about her experience in the comments at the bottom of this post.

I still have the hand-stirred bottle of shower oil I made using Aromantic’s 58% LUMOROL K 5229 formulation back in 2021 (without any MCT), and it has remained stable for 2.5 years. So, from my experience, if you use ~58% LUMOROL K 5229 you should have more leeway with the oil blend—but this will make for a less gentle finished product due to nearly 50% more surfactant.

Click for higher resolution + details/annotations!

 


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How long will this shower oil last?

The shelf life of your foaming shower oil is mostly dependent on two factors.

The first is the natural stability of the oils you’ve used. If you use something that is pretty prone to spoilage, like flax seed oil, it’ll spoil faster than more stable oils like apricot kernel oil. You can also extend the shelf life of the shower oil by including an antioxidant like vitamin E (which I’ve done in this formulation).

Factor #2 is the packaging: be sure to package your foaming shower oil in a way that won’t allow water to get into the bottle. L’Occitane uses a disc top (that’s what I used, too); Glossier uses a pump top. If water gets into the product it can mould; keeping the water out keeps the mould out!

Where can I get the ingredients?

If you’re a brand new maker, Yellow Bee has put together a kit of everything you’ll need! The kit contains the two carrier oils, the LUMOROL K 5229, and the vitamin E, leaving the packaging and fragrance (or essential oil) up to you.

If you’ve made a few things before, you probably have everything you need except the LUMOROL K 5229. You can find links to places to buy LUMOROL K 5229 by scrolling down to the written formulation on this page (I always link ingredients in the written formulation), or by looking it up in the free Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia. I’ll update the entry as I find more sources, but for now you can find it in Canada, the USA, and the UK.

Relevant links & further reading

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Foaming Shower Oil

148.5g | 45% apricot kernel oil (USA / Canada)
42.9g | 13% medium chain triglycerides (USA / Canada / UK / Aus / NZ)
132g | 40% LUMOROL K 5229 (USA / Canada / UK)
3.3g | 1% fragrance
3.3g | 1% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)

Combine all the ingredients in a beaker or glass measuring cup and stir to combine. That’s it!

Package the formulation in a bottle with a lid that won’t allow any water to get into the bottle throughout use. I’ve used a disc cap; a pump-top or turret cap would work as well.

This 330g batch will fill three 120mL (4 fl oz) bottles nicely. I used clear bullet bottles from Voyageur Soap and Candle Co..

Shelf Life & Storage

Because this product 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!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.

Substitutions

As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the formulation, you will get a different final product than I did.

Gifting Disclosure

All ingredients were gifted by YellowBee.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.