As I was making this I was definitely thinking “it’s far too early for anything pumpkin spiced, isn’t it?”, but a quick glance at the calendar (and the weather forecast) set me right. Canadian Thanksgiving is next weekend (!), Starbucks has had their infamous latte back on the menu for weeks, and we’ve got a winter storm warning for today. So… welcome, pumpkin spice season! This year I thought I’d continue to build my collection of pumpkin spiced recipes (check out my recipes for PSL lotion, whipped body butter, soap, lip gloss, and lip balm!) with a decadent Pumpkin Spice Foaming Hand Wash. Yum!
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This hand wash was borne out of some experiments I started back in July, when I first bought some SCS (Sodium Coco Sulfate) from Windy Point. The first thing I tried it in was jelly soap, and I loved the lather it created so much that I had to play with it in other things. I began by blending it with different liquid surfactants to create a variety of surfactant pastes, and then created a series of different body/hand washes from those pastes. This body wash is based off of one of those summer experiments; I love the lather it creates, and the feel on the skin. The bubbles are rich, fluffy, and decadent, and my hands were left feeling lovely and clean, but not all dried out, even after multiple washes.
To create the surfactant paste that is diluted into our hand wash we’re using a blend of SCS and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. SCS is anionic, or negatively charged, while Cocamidopropyl Betaine is amphoteric, and helps reduce irritation potential as well as acting as our secondary surfactant. I’ve found this blend to be really quite decadent, and the paste comes together really quickly, especially when compared to making an SCI/Cocamidopropyl Betaine paste—mine only took fifteen to twenty minutes to become completely uniform.
Interestingly enough, SCS is made the same way it’s rather maligned cousin SLS is (“by treating fatty acids with sulphuric acid and then neutralising with an alkali“), but while SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) is made from isolated lauric acid, SCS is made from whole coconut oil. This means SCS does contain some SLS, but it also contains many other compounds due to the variety of fatty acids present in coconut oil. “The result of using these different starting materials is that SLS is a relatively simple molecule and has a small molecular mass enabling it to easily penetrate the outer layers of the skin and cause irritation to underlying living skin cells. On the other hand SCS has a more complex molecular structure which has a much greater molecular mass. This prevents it from penetrating the epidermis, and means that it has far less irritancy as it cannot reach the living cells under the skin surface.” (source) So, SCS is less irritating than SLS, especially when we take care to use it at or below recommended amounts and blend it with secondary surfactants like Cocamidopropyl Betaine. That said, if you have very sensitive skin, or know SLS is really problematic for you, you may want to use Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) instead. This will result in a lower lather, but the end product will have lower irritation potential.
SCS (which we’re using at 5%) has an active surfactant matter of about 95%, while Cocamidopropyl Betaine (which we’re using at 7.5%) is 30% active. That means the entire recipe has 4.75% active SCS, and 2.25% Cocamidopropyl Betaine, for a total active matter of 7%. This is a fairly low ASM, but I find it to be very effective, and there’s no reason to increase it if it works as is!
Our essential oil blend is delightfully warm and spicy—vanilla with spiced notes from cinnamon bark, ginger, and cloves. If you want to use a pumpkin spice fragrance oil, this would be a great place to use one instead of essential oils. If you think about it, this project gets thrown out/washed down the drain after about thirty seconds of use (maybe more if you’re a very thorough hand-washer), and given the large amount of plant material and energy required to produce essential oils, it can be argued that a fragrance oil would be a more responsible choice here. Just food for thought—it’s something quite a few readers and viewers have mentioned to me over the last few months, and I think it’s a really good point worth considering! You are obviously free to use whatever you want 🙂
Alright—let’s get pumpkin-spicy!
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Pumpkin Spice Foaming Hand Wash
1:2 citric acid solution, as needed
2020 update: Given the irritation potential for this essential oil blend, I’d recommend using a pumpkin spice fragrance oil rather than the essential oil blend. Please refer to supplier documentation for maximum usage rates for the particular fragrance oil you’re using when used in rinse-off products; 0.1–0.2% should be more than enough to adequately scent the product.
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Weigh the small heat-resistant glass measuring cup you’ll be using and note that weight.
Weigh the surfactants into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through; this will take 15–20 minutes, and stirring it will definitely speed things along.
Once you have a uniform, smooth surfactant paste, add the water and vegetable glycerin, gently mashing the paste with a flexible silicone spatula or fork to help break it down a bit. Leave that in the water bath to dissolve, checking occasionally to ensure the water bath does not simmer dry. You can help this part along by gently mashing the paste to help it break down, or you can leave it to do its thing while you do other things; either way, it’ll take at least 40 minutes. I’ve tried it both ways, and I think I prefer just leaving it alone and getting some chores done rather than hovering and mashing.
While the paste is dissolving, do a quick bit of addition to figure out how much your concoction should weigh when you remove it from the heat. In grams, that’ll be the weight of your measuring cup (as noted earlier), plus 198. Note that number, we’ll be using it in the next step.
When the mixture is uniform and there are no surfactant blobs left, remove the measuring cup from the water bath. Weigh the entire thing; thanks to evaporation there will be a discrepancy between the number from the previous step and the number on the scale—add some more distilled water to make up the difference, and then leave the mixture to cool.
While it’s cooling, we’re going to get set up to adjust the pH. Be sure to read this great article on the importance of diluting solutions when pH testing them—we’re doing that here! Prepare at least two small bowls by weighing 4.5g of distilled water into them (you’re going to want a scale that’s accurate to 0.01g for this). To make your citric acid solution, weigh 5g of citric acid into a small beaker and add 10g of distilled water. Stir to combine (I also incorporated a couple quick microwave bursts to speed things along).
To test the pH, add 0.5g of the hand wash to one of the bowls containing 4.5g of water to create a 10% dilution, and pH check that. It should be around 7/8. To that I added 0.6g of the citric acid solution, stirred, and re-tested; that was about 5, which is about what we want!
Finish up by adding your preservative and essential oils, stirring to combine. The mixture will become a bit cloudy as the essential oils solubilize. Decant into a bottle with a foamer top (I used this great one from YellowBee; Ivan gifted it to me, and it’s great! Lovely foaming action and well designed—I can use it with one hand!) and enjoy!
Notes & Substitutions
- You can use Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) instead of SCS, though this will result in a slightly different end product
- You don’t have to adjust the pH if you can’t be fussed; read this for information on why I pH adjust
- You can use 0.5–1g of a pumpkin spice fragrance oil instead of the essential oils if you want to