Today we’re squishing up a creamy off-white Gentle Clay Facial Cleansing Bar, starring velvety white kaolin clay and a gentle surfactant blend that kicks off dense, rich lather. You don’t need any heat or even a mould to make these—just a bowl, a dust mask, and a pair of gloves! We’ll smoosh and squish seven ingredients together, shape that dough as desired, and leave it to age. And that’s it! Gentle Clay Facial Cleansing Bar, here we come.
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The inspiration for this bar came from two places. The first was a sample formulation from Colonial Chemical that I came across while doing some research with a patron. I can’t share the formulation as it’s behind a log-in wall, but the general gist is that it contained nearly 25% corn starch, which wasn’t something I’d ever seen in a syndet bar before. The inclusion of that much cornstarch allowed the finished bar to have a far lower total active surfactant matter than solid syndet bars usually have. In order to be solid, they’re usually comprised of upwards of 80% solid surfactants, which makes for quite a concentrated end product. The corn starch functions a bit like water in a liquid syndet formulation: it dilutes the surfactant, making for a milder end product.
The inclusion of a large amount of corn starch led me to inspiration part 2: A request I’ve had quite a few times in the last year or two. That request was for a solid syndet bar that uses Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) as the sole solid surfactant. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) has a maximum allowable usage rate of 49.87% in rinse-off products, so if we’re making a product that needs 80% or more solid surfactant in order to be solid, you can’t use just Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) as you need another surfactant to bridge the gap between 49.87% and the 80%-ish mark. But in this bar, corn starch does that job, so we only need the one solid surfactant!
We’re using very finely powdered Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) for this bar; if yours is chunky or in the little noodley-sticks, you can grind it up in your coffee grinder—just make sure you’re wearing a tight-fitting dust mask so you don’t inhale any surfactant powder as that is incredibly unpleasant (imagine that soap-in-your-eyes sensation, but in your airways 😬). Our powdered phase is rounded off with some white kaolin clay, which helps give this dough a really mouldable consistency and is just generally creamy and lovely in cleansers.
Once we’ve got our powdery base, we need to transform it into a mouldable dough with some wet things! Our wet phase is mostly two different liquid surfactants; non-ionic Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, and amphoteric Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Not only do they help make our powdery base a dough, but they also make the overall product milder. If you don’t have either of them you could use a different surfactant with the same charge, like Decyl Glucoside instead of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, or Sodium Cocoamphoacetate instead of Cocamidopropyl Betaine.
Lastly, a small amount of jojoba oil adds some richness, and Liquid Germall™ Plus keeps things safe and stable. If you wanted to include an essential oil or fragrance oil you definitely could; I’d just knock ~0.3% off the Cocamidopropyl Betaine to make room for 0.3% essential oil or fragrance oil, adjusting as required for preference and safety.
Once you’ve mixed everything together and mashed it into submission you’ll have a stiff, workable dough. I’ve chosen to press mine, but if you don’t have a press you could absolutely hand shape or hand mould it—whatever works for you! You’ll want to leave the bar to age and dry out for at least three days before using. Enjoy!
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Gentle Clay Facial Cleansing Bar
34.3g | 49% finely powdered Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
10.5g | 15% corn starch
6.58g | 9.4% white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)
3.57g | 5.1% jojoba oil (USA / Canada)
7g | 10% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
7.7g | 11% Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (USA / Canada)
0.35g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
Put on your dust mask and weigh the dry phase into a bowl. Stir until uniform.
Add the wet phase to the dry phase. Put on a pair of nitrile gloves and blend thoroughly with your hands. Once the mixture is uniform, you’ll be left with a stiff, easily-mouldable paste.
If your dough is too sticky, you’ll need to add more clay. This is likely to happen if you used a larger grain Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than I did, as it has less surface area to absorb moisture.
If your dough is too dry, you’ll need to add more Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This is likely to happen if you used a finer grain Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than I did, as it has more surface area and will absorb more moisture.
Now it’s time to press the bar! I used the cube mould, pressing the entire 70g batch at once. I highly recommend lining the top and bottom of the mould with cut-to-size pieces of parchment paper. I set the regulated pressure on my compressor to 55psi. Please watch the video to see this in action. If you don’t have a press you can use your hands to roll and smoosh it into the shape of your choosing.
Carefully un-mould the bar and leave it to dry for at least 3–4 days before using it.
Use this bar as you’d use any bar soap. Enjoy!
When made as written, the pH of this facial cleansing bar comes out to around 5.6, which is great.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this facial cleansing bar will regularly come into contact with water, I recommend including a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth.
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 70g.
- 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.
- If you’d like to learn more about the surfactants used and compare them to ones you might already have so you can make substitutions, check out this page.
- You can use a different starch, like arrowroot, instead of corn starch.
- You can use a different light, fine clay instead of kaolin—French green or zeolite would be good choices. I do not recommend bentonite or rhassoul, or heavily pigmented clays like Australian pink.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of jojoba oil.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The bath bomb press and cube mould were gifted by The Bath Bomb Press.
Ok, I read it all, but still have questions. 🙂
Is it ok to use only Cocamidopropyl Betaine, and no other liquid surfactant, even though that would make it have little bit less active matter.
Of can I use something like coco glucoside and just try to adjust the pH with some citric acid in the dry part? It’s about the same active matter, but double the pH than Caprylil/Capryl Glucoside.
Yes to everything 🙂 I’d start with ~0.1% citric acid for pH adjusting. Happy making!
You say above “Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) has a maximum allowable usage rate of 49.87% in rinse-off products”
I use just over 80% SCI in my shampoo bars and they work really well. Why do you say 49.87 is the max?
Many thanks and best regards,
Hi Karen! That maximum allowable usage rate comes from the CIR for safety reasons—you can learn more here and here. It’s not a performance thing (I’m sure the bars work beautifully!), it’s a safety thing 🙂
Thanks Marie xx
hi thank you for creating this gentle facial cleansing bar.
Is there any way you can make it into the deep cleansing bar. by changing some of the ingredients? please advise
For deeper cleansing, I would recommend a double cleanse with an oil cleanser rather than just making this stronger 🙂
Thanks for sharing this formulation. I made it but made two modifications; using arrowroot starch in lieu of the cornstarch; reducing the amount to 10.0% and made up the difference with Jojoba exfoliating beads. Turned out beautifully (well except for the part of not being able to easily remove it from my Mooncake Mold). At 70 I’m always on the look out for gentle facial cleansers. Awesome formulation!
I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
Marine, can I melt the sci? I found that it mix better… but should I do it before mixing with the starch? Thank you!
I don’t recommend melting the Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI); it makes for a messier, harder to work with dough and a softer finished bar. I promise all of this mixes up just fine!
Just wanted to know, why are you using here a preservative?
Cause i saw on some solid shampoo recipe that they did not use it.
I never put preservative in my shampoo bar and it lasts forever without getting any mold. You can do with this one too I guess, but since it’s for face I suggest you to just put preservative for safety reason.
As per the blog post, “Because this facial cleansing bar will regularly come into contact with water, I recommend including a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth.” 🙂
I have been searching for facial soap bars and I have found this one and the “Lavender Facial Cleansing Bar”, that is almost the same, except for the clay and oil… My question is: what is the difference between these regarding to effect on the skin? One is for dry skin and the other not or they are just different soaps?
Hey Ale! For starters, neither are soaps, which is important 🙂 You can read more here. This question is a bit like finding two sandwich recipes and asking what the differences are/which one is better. In the end, they’re both sandwiches and both will fill you up, but personal preference will factor in a lot as to what you prefer. Many of the “distinctions” skincare companies market their products with are just marketing. I think this one is easier to make and I find it holds together better 🙂
Thanks for this lovely bar! I am loving it so far except the scent is a bit on the meh side.
I added a touch of essential oils (blend of less than 2% total) and it still is a bit on the smelly side. I typically wouldn’t want to add fragrance to facial products. Do you have any suggestions?
I’d suggest just waiting a few days—the surfactant smell usually fades on its own 🙂 If you already have, I’d probably just live with it, honestly. It’s a rinse-off product (as opposed to a perfume or something where the scent will linger on you for hours), and I’d agree that adding lots of fragrance or essential oil is not a great idea. Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
Hi Marie, I just wanted to tell you how much I love this bar. I’ve made both this and the gentle lavender facial cleansing bars and love them both, but I think I like this one a bit more. This produces a wonderful creamy lather. I love the feel of my skin after I’ve used this bar. Thanks so much for all your recipes !
I am SO thrilled to hear it, Deb! Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
Could this be used as a Shampoo syndet bar? Is there any reason it wouldn’t be suitable for your scalp? Is it safe for babies? Thanks in advance! I love how much information you have available on your site 🙂
You can definitely use this as a shampoo bar 🙂 The preservative I have used is not approved for use on people under 3. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s formulation, I think it will suit you nicely 🙂
can i use coco glucoside instead of capryl glucoside? I can´t find the capryl glucoside here where I live
Yes, but you will want to test and subsequently downwards adjust the pH of the finished bar as the pH of coco glucoside is much higher than that of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside 🙂
Hi Marie! Thank you for this recipe. Been looking forward to create my own facial cleanser. One question: can I add tocopherol/Vitamin E?
Can you explain why you wouldn’t reccommend using bentonite clay as a substitution?
Because they’re SUPER different ingredients; watch this to learn more. Happy making!
If I will be using decyl glucoside to replace capryl glucoside do I need to adjust the pH? If I don’t will there be a significant difference it terms of gentleness on skin?
Maybe? You will have to test it + see. If it’s too high, you’ll need to make another batch and incorporate some acid to reduce the pH. That’s part of the work I do when I develop these formulations 🙂 Happy making!
Thank you for sharing this formulation! I made this with antiflammatory twist (with active decalact sebum). I love the ingredients you’ve selected here in foaming cleansers! I’ve often used cosgard (benzyl alcohol & DHA) in clay shampoos so I combined it with walnut oil here (mine has yummy nutty scent and golden color). I also used another glucoside (adjusting ph and adding sodium citrate to stabilize ph – it’s often recommended with this active). It came together quickly and seems very lovely! I hand formed it. I like the fact that I didn’t add any fragance so it has faint nutty scent. xx
Love this cleanser! You’ve done amazing work again! It has become my favorite second cleanser and ‘antiacne type’ body wash. It pairs well with simple cleansing oil.
It foams well, feels gentle, is easy to use and doesn’t leave my skin dry or tight. I used to use clay cleansing powders but this is much more effortless and there was some room for oil soluble goodies too. I definitevly need to try new things more often! I’m glad that it is stable even though I used the natural preservative.
Can I add Hydrolyzed Rice Protein in this bar – to pair it with your rice shampoo bar?
Yes, definitely! Reduce one of the liquid surfactants to make room for it. Happy making!
Can we use it for eye makeup removal ? And what add to it for less drying effect? More oil up with %.
Hope my questions are clear my English is not good
I don’t recommend it; you’ll want something like a cleansing balm for that as the fat breaks down the film formers in eye makeup. I’ve shared several easy cleansing balms this year, I’m sure you can find something to suit ❤️ Happy making!
I read everything, looked for reference and substitution for non-ionic Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, since naturally thinking is the only company I found that sells it and shipping from UK, well. You suggested “Decyl Glucoside instead of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, or Sodium Cocoamphoacetate instead of Cocamidopropyl Betaine.” But can I use Cocamidopropyl betaine ph of 6.5 only with SCI and adjust Ph with citric? By the way I love your videos and plan on supporting you once i recovery some funds from this new found love of making cosmetics.
I lied, I only have coco glucoside, can I rid of these two ingredients if I only use this? Would you adjust with lactic acid, citric acid?
In leu of :
7g | 10% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
7.7g | 11% Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (USA / Canada)
I am so sorry, I found the chart you created on surfactants and the PH and where to BUY! You are amazing. Since the CCG is very low as far as PH I am purchasing. Seems like a no brainer. I love that the company is Canada/USA.
Would you recommend that I give the lactic/citric a try in the meantime. I’m inpatient.