This fun, softly purple Lavender Gel Facial Cleanser is another thing I’ve devised as part of my Formula Botanica coursework. It’s a wobbly, silky semi-solid facial cleansing experience that I probably find entirely too amusing 😝It’s simple to make (no heat required!), cleanses gently, and wobbles when you poke it so you may find the desire to watch Flubber crop up unexpectedly sometime in the next week or two (though this cleanser has yet to sling-shot through my home, sparking laughter and shenanigans, but hey… there’s only so much a cleanser can do!).
My initial experiments with carrageenan date back to last summer, when I got some from Windy Point along with some SCS to make jelly soap (side note: that is a super fun project!). I made myself many wonderful wobbly, blobbly, colourful, fun-smelling sudsy jiggle-things with it, and was blown away by how effective it was at just 2%! It was also much much gelatin-like than guar gum or xanthan gum, both of which are a bit more on the slimy/boogery side of things than the wee-jello-fun-time side of things.
I returned to carrageenan and other gums in early February with the Formula Botanica gels & gums unit and started playing around. I’d worked with all my gums (guar, xanthan, and carrageenan) before, but I hadn’t actually done any dedicated experiments to see how X% of each gum did in solutions like I have for many oils and waxes. I spent a couple days making goopy, gloppy, gelatinous messes, spreading them around, poking them, and learning about how different percentages of gums impacted my solutions—it was an excellent learning experience! One learning that stuck out is that I don’t like gum-powered gels in mostly hydrous leave-on applications (they feel all filmy and tight and sticky to me), but they are quite delightful in wash-off things.
As with all the Formula Botanica units, when we got to gel cleansers they provided a very loose formulation guide for a gel cleanser, along some suggestions for customization, and set you free to play to your heart’s content. My earlier experiments from earlier, more basic modules, came in very useful—I knew straight away that I didn’t want to bother with guar gum, and already had a good idea of what percentage of gum would give me the consistency I wanted in the end product.
This course doesn’t include a lot of information on surfactants, so I pulled from what I’ve learned from It’s All In My Hands and The Acid Queen when choosing my surfactant blend. I was reading The Acid Queen’s article on surfactants some time ago and remembered that non-ionic surfactants were the least likely to irritate skin. The study she quotes notes this is just a generalization, but Voyageur describes Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (which, spoiler alert, we are using) as “ultra-gentle”. And, from that same study, It’s All In My Hands and Point of Interest, the addition of an amphoteric surfactant helps make surfactant blends milder. So, I selected Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (non-ionic, 60% active) and Cocamidopropyl Betaine (amphoteric, 30% active) for the surfactant blend. At 1% and 2% respectively, we have an equal amount of both (as Cocamidopropyl Betaine is half as active as Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside), giving us 1.2% active surfactant matter for the entire facial cleanser. This is quite low, but I find it to be effective. Low ASM + gentle surfactant blend = a pretty darn gentle facial cleanser. Add to that the calming properties of lavender and we’ve got a pretty lovely, low-irritation-potential end product.
The making part of this is easy: some weighing, some whisking, and some marvelling at how thick and blobby and wobbly it gets towards the end. I made the entire cleanser without any sort of colourant and then decided it looked a bit blah for the photos, so I incorporated a touch of mica (I used Silken Lilac from YellowBee). This is completely optional and has no benefit other than making my photos prettier, so it’s not included in the percentages of the formula 😝
Alright, let’s go get lavender-wobbly-bubbly and make this awesome Lavender Gel Facial Cleanser!
Lavender Gel Facial Cleanser
5g | 10% vegetable glycerine
1.25g | 2.5% carrageenan
0.5g | 1% Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (USA / Canada)
1g | 2% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Amphosol CG) (USA / Canada)
7.5g | 15% lavender hydrosol
34.5g | 69% distilled water
0.25g | 0.5% liquid germall plus (USA / Canada)
Purple/lavender mica (optional)
Weigh the glycerine into a glass bowl or beaker, and sprinkle the carrageenan overtop (we add the gum to the glycerine first to prevent clumping). Whisk to combine and leave it to sit for at least ten minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients; I found this soaking time led to better incorporation.
Weigh the surfactants, hydrosol, water, and preservative into another small container and whisk to combine. If you’re certain you want to add a bit of mica you can add it now—1/64 tsp or less is plenty.
Once the gum mixture has been sitting for at least ten minutes gradually add the water mixture to it about 1/4 at a time, whisking between additions. I’ve tried adding the gum mixture to the water mixture and found that resulted in a lumpier end product than adding the water to the gum.
At this point you can whisk in the mica if you were on the fence about it and have decided you’d like to include it.
As I made it, the pH of this cleanser is ~5.5. I’d recommend checking the pH of your cleanser and adjusting it if necessary.
That’s it! Transfer the gel to a container—something in the 50–60mL (~2fl oz) range is a good size.
To use, swipe up a small amount of gel into your palm and work it into a lather with some more water. Use to wash your face and wipe off with a damp microfibre cloth.
Because this facial 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.
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 this batch calculator from Making Skincare. As written in grams this recipe will make 50g.
- You can coco glucoside in place of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, however please ensure you test the pH and adjust as required as the pH of coco glucoside is much higher than that of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside
- You can use a different hydrosol in place of the lavender hydrosol
- If you don’t have any hydrosols you can use more distilled water in place of the hydrosol; you will need to check and adjust the pH if you make this change
- You could use xanthan gum in place of the carrageenan, but I don’t really recommend it. It’s a noticeably inferior experience.