I have fallen hard and fast for this Gentle Aloe Facial Cleanser. So much so that I made a video of it because I was using it up so rapidly that I needed more, so I figured I might as well film the making of batch #2. If you make anywhere close to as many things as I do, you’ll understand how great of an honour a second batch of anything is, let alone a second batch within weeks of creating the first! This cleanser is quite simple to make, and has the loveliest, luxxy, silky lather. A small amount leaves my skin feeling clean, but not stripped dry, and it smells so awesome that I find I can’t wait to use it. Lurvely.
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
The surfactants I’ve chosen for this cleanser are both very gentle—Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. SCI is has a beautiful, fine lather than I’ve read described as “lace glove lather”, and is often referred to as “baby foam” since it’s so gentle.
Since this cleanser is almost entirely water based, we can include all kinds of awesome water soluble goodies. I included conditioning honeyquat PF; panthenol, glycerin, and silk for their humectant properties; and allantoin and aloe vera for their soothing goodness. Because this cleanser is almost entirely water it’s also prone to being quite thin, so I’ve included some xanthan gum to give the cleanser some body.
A subtle, bright blend of soothing chamomile and uplifting spruce rounds this cleanser off, and the surfactants are good enough emulsifiers that we don’t need to add another to get those 10 drops of oil-soluble essential oils to incorporate.
The tricky bit of this cleanser isn’t even that tricky—it’s just a bit time consuming. Once the SCI has dissolved in the Cocamidopropyl Betaine, all you’ve got to do is whisk the water and xanthan gum together, and then stir the rest of it together. The surfactant blob will take a while to dissolve, but it will (and with fairly little effort on your part), and you’ll be left with a downright lovely pumpable Gentle Aloe Facial Cleanser that is perfect for sensitive skin. Try it!
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
Gentle Aloe Facial Cleanser
6g | 0.21oz Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
14g | 0.49oz Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
77g | 2.72oz distilled water
3g | 0.1oz vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz honeyquat PF (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
1.5g | 0.05oz silk peptides (wondering about substitutions?)
1g | 0.03oz allantoin (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.017oz aloe vera 200x concentrate powder
3/8 tsp xanthan gum (I use these tiny measuring spoons for tiny measurements like this)
2 drops roman chamomile essential oil
8 drops spruce essential oil
0.5g | 0.017oz Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada) (or other broad spectrum preservative of choice at recommended usage rate [why?])
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.
Put on your dust mask and weigh the SCI and Cocamidopropyl Betaine into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to let the SCI dissolve into the Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This will take a while! It took about an hour for me—keep an eye on your water bath so it doesn’t simmer dry.
While the surfactants do their thing, weigh the water into another small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. Stir in the honeyquat, panthenol, silk, allantoin, and aloe vera powder. When the surfactant mixture looks mostly uniform (perhaps just one or two white blobs left), pop the water mixture beaker into the water bath as well to heat that through so we can be certain the allantoin dissolves (it’s very unpleasant if it doesn’t!).
When the water part has heated through and appears uniform (no powder sitting at the bottom), sprinkle the xanthan gum over the surface of the water and whisk it in—be sure to only sprinkle in a wee bit at a time so you can whisk it in without it forming clumps. Sprinkle and whisk away until you have a substantially thicker gel, and there aren’t any blobs yet.
Scrape the surfactant paste into the water part—I found it helpful to pour a bit of the water mixture into the surfactant mixture and give it a light stir before scraping that surfactant mixture into the water beaker. The surfactant mixture will be quite thick and paste-y. Leave the remaining measuring cup/beaker that contains everything in the water bath to allow the lumps of surfactant paste to dissolve, gently stirring occasionally to break up any surfactant blobs.
Once the mixture is completely uniform and there are no more surfactant blobs, remove the beaker from the heat and leave it to cool for about half an hour. When it has cooled so it’s just slightly warm to the touch, stir in the essential oils and preservative, and decant the cleanser into a 100mL pump-top bottle (I used this bottle paired with this pump-top).
If you like a thinner final product you can use 1/4 tsp xanthan gum instead.
I know there’s some weird stuff in here. You can make it without the honeyquat PF, panthenol, allantoin, silk, and aloe vera, but that will give you a much less conditioning, more drying final product. It’ll still clean, though! Replace the missing weight of any dropped ingredients with more distilled water.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this cleanser 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.
Hi Claire ~ I would love to make this cleanser but I don’t have xanthan gum in my DIY “pantry.” However I do have carageenan. Will that sub as a thickening agent? Thanks for all you do to keep us beautiful!
~ Lisa D
Hey Lisa! I’m not Claire, but I’m assuming you were writing to me since I wrote the post and there’s no Claire anywhere around haha. I have found carageenan to be a pretty rubbish thickener when compared to xanthan gum—sort of like using carrots instead of sugar. Sure, they’re kind of sweet… but not sugar sweet! Happy making 🙂
My apologies! Claire is the name of a character from one of my favorite books who also is an herbologist and healer, hence the confusion :). And thanks so much for your reply. I used the carageenan in the brown rice cleansing grains recipe and it worked perfectly. But of course that product is designed to be scrubby and grainy. I will add the xanthum gum to my “pantry” and am looking forward to this new facial cleanser. Everything I have made from scrubs to butters to moisturizers has been fabulous and I’m sure this will be too!
Ha! I’ll take that as a compliment, then 🙂 If you haven’t got the xanthan yet you might also consider crothix; I’ve found it to be lovelier for surfactant concoction thickening as xanthan can be a touch boogery, haha. Xanthan is still great for lots of other things, though!
Excellent formula Marie. I’ve been experimenting with something similar to this for a couple of weeks now, SCI as the only surfactant I use because I don’t really care about lather. The biggest discovery I’ve made is with the Xanthan gum. It never clumps if dissolved in glycerin and I do add some jojoba esters for exfolliation and a little argan oil for skin softening. It makes a beautiful creamy gel. I like adding a little oat protein, aloe juice and rose hydrosol
Oooh, excellent tip! Thank you! 😀 Your cleanser sounds beautiful
Hi Marie! I am still smitten with your lemon chiffon lotion / hand wash (I added coco sulfate as I can’t source SCI) and it is wondseful. Last weekend I have also been busy with other hand wash recipes but yours is the only ones that worked for me so far, thanks to your videos! Basically in Germany there is something they sell as “Tego natural betaine” which is a totally different animal, and it scarred my stab at surfactant products. So I am very much looking forward to doing aloe and chamomile cleanser in a couple of week’s time. Oh yes the use of xanthan gum is interesting. I have finally located some Crothix in the UK and will be experimenting with both.
Always grateful for your work (and think you absolutely the utmost authority on EO blends.L’Occitane blend is stunning!)
Hi Natasha,I am also in the UK, and I found SCI at Gracefruit. Hope that’s of some help
Hi Pauline! Thanks for the tip! Off shopping to Gracefruit 🙂
I finally got some Crothix, too! I can’t wait to play with it 😀 I’m so glad you’re still loving the lemon chiffon—me, too! I took the entire bottle out to dinner last night as my hands have been so dry I didn’t want to be without it 😛 Happy making and thank you for your kind words! 🙂
Sounds like a great recipe and I can’t wait to make it just as it is! However, I was wondering if you or any of your readers had experience with adding fruit extracts to a face wash like this. Curious to know if it the benefits of the extracts would make an impact if the product is just washed off, and not left on like with a lotion or mask. Specifically, I was thinking about green tea, pineapple and papaya extracts. Thank you.
Hi Sarah! I made this
Crap. iPad issues. Keyboard popped up then ran away then came back and hit send.
Sarah, I used extracts in mine yesterday (sea buckthorn) at 1% of Marie’s recipe reducing the honeyquat and didn’t notice a difference in the finished product, but I also reduced the xantham gum by half as I found the original recipe was very thick. But that could also be my ingredients too.
I really don’t know if having the extracts or any other goodies in there will make a difference or not, but, extracts are wicked cheap so meh. I’m tossing them in just in case! Next batch will have moringa mango extracts!
I’m sure you can add ’em, but I would have the same curiosity about whether or not they’d make much of a difference due to the quick-on-quick-off nature of a face wash. It can’t hurt! Start around 1% 🙂
I’ve been researching SCI since you first mentioned it as I have chronic psoriasis and need to be very careful with what I put on my skin. anywho, I’ve found it’s a great replacement for slsa and…. it’s highly used on high-end products as well as shampoos for psoriasis! thank you for teaching us about all these great products. it’s nice to go to a site where I can trust the ingredients and the recipes.
I’m so glad! What a good research find, I’ll have to remember that when other readers with psoriasis have questions 🙂 Do you find soap aggravates your psoriasis, so you use SCI instead of soap in all applications? Happy making!
I make my own soap and mostly use one with black tar, that’s the one I find helps. For SCI I use it on bath bombs when I want bubbles.
I just found it interesting that most psoriasis prescription shampoos use SCI
How interesting! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Is it ok to use castile soap instead of these surfictants??
Another thing is capryl glucicide as a surfuctant considered an organic ingredient?
Please don’t use soap instead—give this a read.
Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside is considered natural, yes.
I just want to say, thank you! I receive quite a bit of e-mails (like all of us), but thoroughly enjoy reading and making your wonderful products. I wish you much success!!!
Thank you so much, Claudia!
Do you sell on Etsy? I’m a big fan of DIY and I love reading (drooling over) all your recipes! But at the moment I don’t have the time or energy to do it myself. If you ever decide to sell your wares please let me know!
I don’t sell on Etsy, but I do have my own store now 🙂 The inventory is a bit thin and limited right now as it’s still quite new and I’m still figuring out how to keep on top of re-stocking and all that, but I’m having fun and I currently have a bunch of new stuff planned 😀
What?? When did you start selling?
Well cool and congratulations!
I launched back in December, but it’s all been very quiet as I don’t have the inventory to support telling too many people about it. I’m working on it! I have several loaves of soap waiting to be sliced and aged right now, plus labels and packaging ready to be filled with some colourful goodies 🙂
Oh a while! I noticed it when we heard of the Awesome Place. And drooled over the rose waves.
It took many months, four different translators today, and nine people today just so I could finally order some SCI-85. But! Finally got it! From the only seller who has it. Pink crap my grand toe!
I woke up with making my own shampoo on the brain then got caught up tryin to find it I missed your post till it was mentioned having SCI in it. Mind readers. The lot of us!
That’s awesome! I want one of everything you’ve ever made please But yeah I’m sure it’d be a full time job and then some to keep a store stocked. One thing you could do is just post on each item that orders take x number of weeks to fill. Whatever pace seems realistic to you. And if you happen to get an order out early you’ll just have an even more loyal and appreciative customer! Good luck with everything – I look forward to seeing what you come up with next!
It’s not just that; think about ordering specialized packaging, designing and having labels professionally printed, registering the formulas with Health Canada (and keeping those registrations current), and doing stability testing for hundreds of products. It simply won’t happen. Sorry to be a buzzkill, but I would need an army of employees who are happy being paid in soap to make that work :/ I’d rather focus on products I’m excited (and confident) about and do a good job with those than try to sell hundreds of things that may end up being sub-par. I need clones!
Oh wow I had no idea how much went into all that! That’s intense. I mean I knew it’d be a lot of work, but man! BTW my one of everything comment was supposed to have an emoji that conveyed humor 😉
Well until clones are a viable option lol I look forward to continuing to read your blog! Thanks so much for sharing all these amazing recipes with us! Take care 🙂
I assumed… to some degree lol. I assumed you didn’t mean all 800+ projects, but probably more than 7 😛 Darn paperwork!
Hey Marie! i was just going to basically say the same exact thing as Lynne, although i’m sure you already knew this and probably had some very specific reason for doing it just as you did, b/c i know your formulae are thoroughly perfected by the time they reach this blog (b/c you’ve worked out all the kinks we could possibly encounter before we are in the thick of it, screeching hysterically that we need this, that, or the other thing, and its in the other room (or in some shopcart online), and we don’t dare walk away from what we’re doing or it will all explode!)
..however, for other readers, to reiterate what Lynne so awesomely mentioned, pre-dispersing the xanthan gum in a little glycerine, (and i noticed you did have 3gms in your ingredients list, which is an ideal amount for that quantity of x.gum), for a water-based formula, and in a scosh of liquid oil for an emulsion that requires the reinforcement of a little thickener to bolster your emulsifier, is a very effective means of incorporating that ingredient (also works well w/other plant-based gums w/a tendency towards snot-wads)..sodium lactate seems to also work well as a medium, as honey might also. Just thought i’d take the whole screen to share this tidbit in a little more detail..for our newbies, hope it was clear.
Have i mentioned i’m floored by your genius? You have a true gift for making accessible a butt-load of tediously difficult data and protocol that usually intimidates novices so that they never begin this journey (even though that stuff is a joy to some of us hardcore geeks!), and would miss out on how empowering and fun and satisfying it can be. You are a Maker of the highest order and an Open-Source Legend in your own time! And, Thank JAH!, you actually share the truth! As opposed to the myriad fear-mongering ass-clowns all over the web, passing on their b.s. to all comers. So, thank you, you’re the epitome of radical practice, one who truly walks her talk.
Honestly, I did it that way so I could easily work up to the required amount and stop when I was happy with the final thickness and know exactly how much I used, which is hard to do when pre-disperesed. I think I must devise a way to do that with pre-dispersion, though, ’cause those clumps are a massive pain in the patooty haha 😛
And thank you so much for all your kind words! Truly! 😀
Just how thin/watery is it without adding the xanthan gum? I like my cleansers in a foamy bottle …had wondered about whether SCI would clog it up, but checking out Susan’s blog it would seem not. Might have to play, as it sounds like a lovely formulation!
It’s water. Not just watery, but the consistency of water lol. Is that what you want for a foamer bottle? I’ve never played with those before but now I want to LOL.
Hello, I don’t have any Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Can I use more SCI and carraggenan instead of xatham gum?
I wouldn’t use more SCI as you will just have an even harder time getting it to dissolve without the Cocamidopropyl Betaine. You will probably find this face wash is a bit scrubby for the first week or so depending on how long it takes the SCI to dissolve—I have some that’s been in a jar of water for over a year and still hasn’t dissolved!
I find carraggenan to be a very rubbish thickener in comparison to xanthan gum—sort of like sugar vs. carrot juice as sweeteners! You can try it, but I think you will need a lot more and that will throw off the proportions of the rest of the recipe.
Perfect for a foamy bottle then 😀 They’re such fun to play with – something about instant, bubbly lather that brings out my inner two year old, lol. If I’ve got some empty foamies left, I’ll try over the weekend and see how it comes out…can put a photo of the results on Humblebee’s FB page if you like?
I want to see too! I was just thinking about that type of container.
Ooooh, fun! Please do share! 😀
This recipe sounds amazing. I have all the ingredients to make it but honeyquat pf. Do you think I can sub with sodium lactate?
Also, is there a reason that you did not grind the SCI in this recipe as you usually do with the others?
It’s not required when you have the Cocamidopropyl Betaine to dissolve it 🙂
Yup! They won’t do the same thing, but they will both work in the recipe 🙂
Marie, I ordered a bar of soap from your online store with my husband’s PayPal account. I can’t wait to get it. I tried to subscribe to the new forum but must have hosed something up, not being too computer savvy. I will keep trying, I need all the help I can get. I’ve made the mineral makeup and lip gloss so far from the book and love it. Thanks so much for all you do for us. Enjoy the Lottie puppy, she will grow up way too fast
Thank you so much for your order! I assume it has arrived by now, I hope you love it 🙂
Your account should be approved by now—you would’ve received an email to re-set your password. I have to manually approve everything as I get sooooo many spam sign ups from the likes of firstname.lastname@example.org 😛
Do you know the pH of the finished cleanser? I’m interested in making it but I would like to know the pH before I buy all the ingredients. Thank you!
It looks to be right around 5 according to my pH strips, which go from 1–14, so they aren’t pinpoint accurate. Hope that helps!
I ordered sodium cocoyl isethionate but received sodium cocoyl sarcosinate instead, in liquid form. Do you have any knowledge of this product and whether I can use it instead of SCI in your cleanser recipes?
Honestly, I’d get your supplier to fix their mistake. Liquids and solids are rarely good alternatives for one another. In the world of surfactants liquid surfactants are also significantly more dilute than solid ones—liquid sodium cocoyl sarcosinate is about 29% active, while solid SCI is 84% active, so you’d have to use close to 3x as much sodium cocoyl sarcosinate to get the same ASM, which is definitely going to throw off all the recipes you’re looking at.
I’ve been making this with a couple small modifications – I only have a few EOs so I use chamomile hydrosol, I thicken it with Siligel because that’s what I’ve had around (just got some xanthan gum soft to try out though!), and I use honey instead of glycerin because it feels on-theme. Tonight I added 1% bisabolol. I’m giving this batch to a friend with psoriasis, so it seemed like a nice extra-soothing touch. Actually I’m making her a whole skincare regimen tonight – this cleanser, a toner (will probably pick a relatively simple one), a moisturizer with 5% tamanu oil and chamomile hydrosol and urea, and the creamy oat and shea mask. It’ll be a lot of new stuff for her, so I’ll tell her to add one new item at a time so that if anything bothers her skin she’ll know which product it was.