This lightweight, hydration-packed facial lotion is one of my formulas from my Formula Botanica coursework, and it also happens to be the first recipe I’m sharing using hyaluronic acid! I tested this lotion through some of Calgary’s driest winter months and found it to be a wonderfully hydrating, yet lightweight final step to my skin care routine. It smells divine, is full of good things, and is definitely a rather decadent DIY skin treat!
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When I got to the facial emulsions module in my Formula Botanica course I knew whatever I made needed to have rose hydrosol in it, and I knew it needed to be hella hydrating. To that end I decided to break out my (at the time) shiny new hyaluronic acid from Pure Nature, along with a few of my favourite humectants. I decided to use my 1% HA stock at 20% in this recipe. In a 100g batch that’s 0.2g HA, or 0.2%. Studies have shown HA to be effective at this level, which is awesome ’cause that’s still about $2 of HA (ow).
Renee had a great question when I posted about how to make a 1% HA stock earlier this month—is HA heat sensitive? Surprisingly few suppliers provide advice on which phase HA should be added to (typically “water or cool down”), and I didn’t find any mentions from them on heat sensitivity. I did dig up a really interesting study, though: Thermal stability of sodium hyaluronate in aqueous solution. In it, the researchers expose 0.03% HA solutions to heat, 25–90°C, and observe what happens. It’s very stable at 25°C (no decline after 50 hours), but once we pass 50°C the solutions show an increase in viscosity before then decreasing in viscosity. The higher the temperature, the faster the jump and following drop in viscosity (the drop in viscosity being the result of “thermal degradation”).
So, we can say from these findings that HA is heat sensitive… but how heat sensitive? The 70°C chart shows that it takes approximately five hours for the initial viscosity increase to settle back to original levels, and longer than that to show 10% thermal degradation. So—in a lotion making situation, where we’re looking at approximately 20–30 minutes of heating at 70°C, is this level of sensitivity relevant? Almost all the ingredients we use are subject to some degree of thermal degradation; this is why we keep oils in cool, dark places even though we readily heat them when we work with them. One study I found looked at canola oil and found that it took on a rancid taste after 24 hours incubation at 100°C—that’s a similar timeline to the HA tests (the HA tests were over 50 hours), though at a higher temperature. The results aren’t terribly comparable, but we can say that an ingredient we regularly heat also degrades over a similar time frame (hours instead of days or months) with heat exposure.
From what I know at this point I’m inclined to add HA to the cool down phase, but I also don’t think heating it for less than an hour below 80°C is going to do a whole lot of damage—the graphs in the paper show the viscosity is still rising around the 1 hour mark, and if loss of viscosity is due to breakdown of the HA (“… the decline in viscosity associated with polymer chain degradation…” [source]), then less than one hour of heat should be ok. In any event I added the HA to the heated phase for the video for this recipe simply because it ended up getting grouped in with my water phase when I was writing out the recipe, and I didn’t realize it until it was too late. Not wanting to throw it out, and knowing the degradation rate at 70°C is fairly slow, I decided to carry on rather than bin it and start over. The written instructions here have it in the cool-down phase, but that’s the reason for the inconsistency with the video!
Well, now that we’ve talked about the heat + HA thing ad nauseam, let’s move on to the rest of the things in the recipe! In addition the the HA we’ve got vegetable glycerin and sodium lactate—two other good humectants that are far less expensive than HA. Panthenol (vitamin B5) is moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and helps reduce transepidermal water loss. Hydrolyzed silk holds moisture very well, further contributing to the hydrating power of this lotion.
Our oil phase is simple; Olivem1000 is our emulsifier, and argan oil is our sole oil. I love argan oil on my face, and I thought it would do well here. You could also use a different, pricier oil that your face loves—this lotion is a great place to use some of your posher oils as the emulsion really extends their use!
Our lotion is rounded out with some soothing calendula extract, and a bright essential oil blend that compliments the sweet rose hydrosol. Lemon essential oil is not photosensitizing if used at 2% or less (yay!), so at 0.26% we’re a-ok. I love how bright, tart lemon balances with rose, and a touch of exotic spice from cardamom is utterly beguiling. Yum!
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Lemon Rose Facial Lotion
14.43g | 28.87% distilled water
10g | 20% rose hydrosol
10g | 20% 1% hyaluronic acid solution
1g | 2% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 1% sodium lactate (USA / Canada)
1g | 2% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 1% hydrolyzed silk (USA / Canada)
Cool down phase
0.06g | 0.12% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 1% calendula extract
0.13g | 0.26% lemon essential oil
0.13g | 0.26% cardamom essential oil
0.25g | 0.50% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
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 oil phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup, and pour some distilled water into a third measuring cup. Place all three 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. Weigh the water part and top it up to the original weight with the heated distilled water before pouring the water part into the oil part. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.
Grab your immersion blender and begin blending the lotion, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid lotion 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 lotion is thick and creamy. (I used my MiniPro Mixer from Lotion Crafter for this 50g batch; if you don’t have a smaller high speed mixer I’d recommend making a 100g batch instead of 50g so you’ve got enough product for your immersion blender to work with).
Once the lotion is cool you can add your cool down ingredients, stir to combine, and transfer it to a container. I used a 50mL frosted glass bottle from New Directions with a pump-top that appears to have been discontinued, though this looks like a good alternative. 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 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 a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 50g.
- You can use a different hydrosol if you don’t want a rose scent, or just more distilled water
- If you don’t have panthenol you can replace it with distilled water
- If you don’t have hydrolyzed silk you can use hydrolyzed oat protein or sea kelp bioferment instead, or just replace it with more distilled water
- You can try a humectant like Sodium PCA in place of the sodium lactate if you don’t have it. I wouldn’t use more glycerin as you’re starting to tip-toe towards sticky territory.
- You can use a different oil your face loves in place of argan
- Polawax or Emulsifying Wax NF should work well as an alternative to Olivem1000
- If you don’t have HA that’s a bummer, but just replace it with more distilled water (in the heated water phase)
- You can use a different liquid botanical extract in place of the calendula extract
- You can use a different essential oil blend if you wish