This decadent Intense Hand Rescue Cream became an instant favourite of mine while it was still warm in the beaker. It’s thick and rich, with a very luxurious skin feel and stunning slip. It’s also loaded with all kinds of great-for-skin goodies like colloidal oatmeal, ceramides, allantoin, shea butter, and glycerin. I’ve been applying it to my hands and body constantly as crap-tons of handwashing and dry weather continue to do a number on my skin. I hope you love it as much as I do!
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The inspiration was a popular cream I’ve tried before at Sephora and read a lot of good things about, so I took a look at the ingredient list and decided to riff on it. Having tried the cream I had a decent idea of how thick and rich it was, so with that and an ingredient list I had a decent place to start formulating!
The water phase is pretty simple; lots of water with some protective & soothing colloidal oatmeal, a hefty dose of moisturizing vegetable glycerine, and a titch of xanthan gum to stabilize the emulsion and add some really lovely slip. I’m having a bit of a love affair with 0.3% xanthan gum in emulsions at the moment—I can’t get enough of the luxurious body and slip it adds at such a low concentration. I find higher doses of xanthan gum to be a bit snotty/slimy, but at tiny concentrations—MUAH *kisses fingers like a chef*.
And then the oil phase… it’s less simple, though we can break it down to its component parts pretty easily. You’ll find 7% fatty thickeners (stearic acid + cetearyl alcohol) that give the end product some rich body and emolliency. There’s 9% lightweight liquid emollients—C12-15 alkyl benzoate, fractionated coconut oil, and olive squalane. If you’re going to change those up I would try to keep the C12-15 alkyl benzoate as I love the skin feel it brings to the cream, but there’s plenty of room to play with other lightweight oils to replace the fractionated coconut oil and/or olive squalane. Make sure you’re reading the substitutions list at the end of the formulation!
Some dimethicone 350 helps give this cream the most amazing slip and skin-protecting goodness, and shea butter rounds out our emollient goodies. The whole lot is emulsified with glyceryl stearate SE, an anionic emulsifier made from vegetable glycerin and stearic acid with a small amount of sodium stearate or potassium stearate present as the emulsifying element. I also used glyceryl stearate SE in my Moisturizing Repair Cream, and there I learned it needed a gum or carbomer to stabilize it. You can also use something like Polawax instead.
The finished cream is divine. Rich, creamy, and glossy, with amazing skin feel and really luxurious application. It hydrates and softens the skin, leaving it moisturized for several washes, which is downright necessary these days. I’ve left it unscented but you could easily swap out some of the water for a hydrosol or incorporate a bit of essential oil or fragrance in the cool-down phase if you prefer your creams to have a bit of scent. Enjoy!
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Intense Hand Rescue Cream
Heated oil phase
5.25g | 5.25% glyceryl stearate SE (USA / Canada)
4g | 4% stearic acid
4g | 4% C12-15 alkyl benzoate
3g | 3% fractionated coconut oil
3g | 3% cetearyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
3g | 3% refined shea butter
2g | 2% dimethicone 350 (USA / Canada)
2g | 2% olive squalane
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.
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 the water phase. Add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating, 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 cream, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid mixture 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 cream is thick and creamy.
When the cream 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 cream on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of cream, 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 cream. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
That’s it! For packaging I recommend a wide-mouthed jar or tub. This cream is far too thick for a pump-top bottle, and I have doubts about it working in a squeeze tube. To use, smooth a small amount over any skin that requires some extra TLC. Enjoy!
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 may 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 100g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, 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 (colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, allantoin) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You could try propanediol or a homemade glycerite as an alternative to glycerin.
- You could try a different gum or carbomer (be sure to neutralize it if needed!) instead of xanthan gum.
- You could try a different emulsifying wax instead of glyceryl stearate SE.
- If you don’t have both stearic acid and cetearyl alcohol you could try using all of one or the other.
- There are three liquid emollients in this formulation: C12-15 alkyl benzoate, fractionated coconut oil, and olive squalane.
- You could group them all together to 9% and try using all of any one of them
- Medium chain triglycerides will work instead of fractionated coconut oil
- Neossance® Hemisqualane would work well in place of any of them
- You could also try incorporating some isopropyl myristate (IPM), possibly as an alternative to the C12-15 alkyl benzoate and leaving the fractionated coconut oil and squalane as-is.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the dimethicone as it really helps prevent this cream from being tacky.
- You could try a natural silicone alternative, like LuxGlide 350. Look for one that is marketed as a dimethicone alternative rather than a cyclomethicone alternative.
- You could try a slippy liquid oil, though no liquid oil will do the same job as dimethicone.
- Both of those alternatives will result in a stickier end product.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the ceramide complex. If you have to, choose something your skin loves, or just use more distilled water to keep the formulation balanced.
- You could try a different skin-loving botanical extract instead of calendula.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- If you’d like to add some scent:
- You could swap 20–30% of the water for a hydrosol of choice
- You could reduce the water by 0.5–1% to make room for a essential oil or fragrance of choice (or blend) in the cool down phase