Today we’re blending up a gentle Lavender Aloe Cream Facial Cleanser, featuring fragrant lavender hydrosol, soothing aloe vera, and gentle Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This lotion-like cleanser is brilliant for dry skin, offering great cleansing without being harsh. You can easily customize the scent and adjust it to work with the carrier oils you have on hand. I’m loving it as a stand-alone cleanser morning and night, and I hope you will as well!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
This Lavender Aloe Cream Facial Cleanser formulation was inspired by the cleansing conditioner formulations I’ve shared over the last few years—basically a lotion, but with an added amphoteric surfactant. Cocamidopropyl Betaine is our amphoteric surfactant and primary cleansing ingredient in this cleanser, though the Polawax will also contribute some cleansing power/improved rinse-off. I find Cocamidopropyl Betaine plays much more nicely with simple emulsions than non-ionic and anionic surfactants, which can sometimes cause emulsified cream cleansers to split. It’s also a very gentle surfactant with quite low lather—a great choice for a gentle cream cleanser!
Cocamidopropyl Betaine doesn’t contribute a lot of foam, and you won’t really notice any lather with this cleanser. The finished product definitely has a very cleanser-like slip to it, and it does cleanse the skin, but you won’t notice a bunch of bubbles. That’s ok! Combine the low concentration of a low-lather surfactant with the relatively high oil content (oil suppresses lather) and you’ve got a recipe for a very gentle, low-lather end product.
Our water phase is mostly watery things; distilled water, calming and fragrant lavender hydrosol, and soothing aloe vera juice. There’s also quite a lot of moisturizing vegetable glycerin, which I’m loving in high doses in all kinds of things these days. A titch of xanthan gum adds extra body and emulsion stabilizing goodness.
The heated oil phase for this Lavender Aloe Cream Facial Cleanser is pretty simple; Polawax to emulsify, cetearyl alcohol to thicken, and fractionated coconut oil as an inexpensive, lightweight carrier oil. The oil phase is pretty small at just 10%, which is a big part of why I included 4% cetearyl alcohol. An oil-in-water emulsion with a smaller oil phase will be less viscous than one with a larger oil phase, so some potent thickening goodness helps boost viscosity. I choose fractionated coconut oil as the carrier oil in this formulation purely because it is inexpensive and readily available; you could easily replace it with a different lightweight, inexpensive liquid carrier oil. Just use what you have!
The finished cleanser is really lovely—softly fragrant, effective, and gentle. I’ve been using it as a stand-alone cleanser for removing everything from sunscreen to makeup to just day-to-day sweat and sebum (though I am still using a bit of cleansing oil on a cotton pad to take off waterproof eye makeup). I’ve made this in a 50g (1.76oz) batch, but if you don’t have a small electric mixer with a good amount of kick I would recommend scaling the batch up to 100g (3.5oz) so you can use an immersion blender. The consistency of this cleanser makes it suitable for a squeeze bottle, squeeze tube, or pump top bottle. Enjoy!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
Lavender Aloe Cream Facial Cleanser
Heated water phase
10.1g | 20.2% distilled water
15g | 30% lavender hydrosol
10g | 20% aloe vera juice
2g | 4% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
7.5g | 15% vegetable glycerine
0.15g | 0.3% xanthan gum
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 (for 100g [3.5oz]+ batches) or a mini mixed type tool (for smaller batches) and begin blending the cream cleanser, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid cream cleanser 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 cleanser is thick and creamy.
When the cleanser 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 cleanser on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of cream cleanser, 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 cleanser. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
And that’s it! Transfer to a container of choice; this will work nicely in a pump-top bottle or a squeeze tube/tottle. My 50g (1.76oz) batch fit into a 60mL (2 fl oz) bottle perfectly. Use as you would any facial cleanser.
Because this cream 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 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 50g.
- 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 please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You could use a different hydrosol for a different scent, or more distilled water for an unscented cleanser.
- You could replace the aloe vera juice with more water, or even witch hazel might be nice.
- 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. I recommend sticking to amphoteric surfactants for this cleanser.
- You could try propanediol instead of glycerin.
- You could try a different gum or gelling agent, like guar gum or hydroxyethylcellulose, instead of xanthan gum. You could also likely eliminate the gum and replace it with more water.
- A different complete emulsifying wax, like Emulsifying Wax NF or Olivem 1000 will work instead of Polawax.
- You could try cetyl alcohol instead of cetearyl alcohol.
- Any inexpensive liquid oil will work instead of fractionated coconut oil.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- If you want to include an essential oil or fragrance oil you could remove 0.1–0.5% water and add a corresponding amount of fragrance oil or essential oil in the cool down phase. Make sure you watch maximum allowable usage rates.