This delightful lotion comes from a recipe request from Ashlie, who loves the Frankincense Intense line from Neal’s Yard Remedies. I love Neal’s Yard; their formulations are solid and their corporate ethos is both environmentally and socially responsible. I’ve visited their flagship shop in Neal’s Yard in London’s Covent Garden and loved the blue door, the wee glass jars, and the botanical-infused creations. I’ve tried a few of their products and have always been impressed with their elegance.
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
The Frankincense Intense line is designed to be anti-aging. It features many beautiful ingredients and gets rave reviews, so I thought I’d do a bit of a tribute, or a riff. The original formulas contain many lovely ingredients (well over 30!) that make the idea of a dupe very inaccessible, including some key active anti-aging ingredients that I haven’t been able to find on sale for home crafters (a variety of specific peptides, mostly, though Lotion Crafter has others). So—this definitely isn’t a dupe, but it is still a lovely facial lotion containing some great (and relatively accessible) plant-sourced ingredients.
Our water part features both hyaluronic acid and vegetable glycerin for some wonderful hydrating goodness, with added aloe vera juice and panthenol (vitamin B5) for some wonderful skin-soothing goodness (plus more moisturizing power—yay for multitasking ingredients!).
As a new-to-me ingredient, I included 0.4% caffeine. I’ve had this little baggie of white powder for a while and finally got around to putting it in something! From Ingredients to Die For: caffeine is “well known for it’s ability to increase micro circulation, and reduce puffiness, it is recognized as one of the best actives for dark circles and puffiness. ” The recommend usage rate for skin care is 0.1–0.5%. The inclusion of caffeine should translate to the reduction of under-eye dark circles and puffiness, which is pretty cool!
The oil part is mostly ultra lightweight macadamia nut oil and vitamin rich argan oil, with some creamy shea butter to round things out. I’ve selected Olivem1000 as our emulsifying wax, and cetearyl alcohol to thicken up the product and offer some additional stability. I love the rich, fluffy thickening cetearyl alcohol brings to products and thought it would be perfect in a face cream!
Our cool down phase is a simple blend of frankincense, bergapatene-free bergamot, and mandarin essential oils—and our preservative and vitamin E, of course. The scent blend is rich and spicy, with some juicy brightness from the citrus and some dusty end notes. It’s utterly intoxicating and really lovely.
The final lotion is rich, but not heavy, with great slip. I find a little goes a long way—over application leads to some soaping and a very obvious “this is too much product” feel. It dries down to a soft, almost powdery finish. This lotion is quite thick, so I would not recommend it for a pump bottle or squeeze dispenser—I choose a pretty jar from YellowBee. I think you’ll really enjoy the rich, velvety feel and exotic scent—I know I do!
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
Frankincense Facial Lotion
Heated water phase
17.677g | 32.14% distilled water
10g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution
10g | 20% aloe vera juice
1.5g | 3% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
0.2g | 0.4% caffeine
1g | 2% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
Cool down phase
0.03g | 0.06% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.25g | 0.50% frankincense essential oil
0.1g | 0.20% bergapatene-free bergamot essential oil
0.1g | 0.20% red mandarin essential oil
0.25g | 0.50% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.
Weigh the heated water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Weigh the entire lot (measuring cup + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Weigh the heated oil phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place both measuring cups in your prepared water bath to melt everything through for about 30 minutes.
After about 20–30 minutes the oil part should be completely melted and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved. Remove the water bath from the heat and weigh it. Add enough hot distilled water to bring the weight back up to what it was before heat and hold, and then pour the water part into the oil part. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.
Grab your immersion blender and begin blending the lotion, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid lotion doesn’t whirl up and spray everywhere. Blend for about a minute, leave to cool for ten, blend for another minute or two, and repeat this blend-cool-blend cycle until the outside of the glass measuring cup is barely warm to the touch and the lotion is thick and creamy. I found this small 50g batch only required one blending session of ~3 minutes. Larger batches will require more blending.
When the lotion is cool it’s time to incorporate our cool down ingredients. Because cool down ingredients are typically present at very low amounts you’ll need to use an accurate scale—preferably one accurate to 0.01g. As these more accurate scales tend to have fairly low (100–200g) maximum weights you won’t be able to put the entire batch of lotion on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of lotion, and then weigh the cool down ingredients into that, using the more accurate scale. Stir to thoroughly incorporate, and then stir all of that back into the master batch of lotion. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
And that’s it! Transfer to a container—a jar that holds 50–60mL/~2 fl oz is a good choice (I don’t recommend a pump bottle as this lotion is too thick). I used this 50mL double-walled jar from YellowBee.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this cream contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative this project is likely to 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 recipe 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.
- You could replace the hyaluronic acid with more water or a hydrosol, but that is going to drastically impact the performance of the recipe
- You could replace the aloe vera juice with more water or a hydrosol
- You can replace the caffeine and/or panthenol with more water or sodium lactate (this will just offer more humectant properties; do not exceed 2% sodium lactate as it can make you photosensitive)
- You can try a different complete emulsifying wax, like Polawax or Emulsifying Wax NF in place of Olivem1000
- Different lightweight oils will work in place of the macadamia and/or argan oils
- Mango butter or cupuacu butter will work well as alternatives to shea butter
- Cetyl alcohol would be the best alternative for cetearyl alcohol in this recipe
- You can use a different essential oil blend if you want; just be sure to keep maximum recommended usage rates in mind