Today we’re creating a Rich Lavender Shower Cleansing Cream—a luxuriously creamy body wash that still kicks off some lovely bubbles. It’s part lotion, part body wash, and all-around lovely. I’ve scented it with lavender essential oil, but you could easily customize the scent to something you love. Let’s dive in!
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The inspiration for this formulation came from a question I often get on other body wash formulations—namely, how to add large amounts of oil to the formulation. Now, you can’t just take a formulation like this one and reduce the water to make room for 15% oil; it’ll split. To varying degrees, surfactants can solubilize a small amount of fragrance or essential oil (though this depends on many factors, including which surfactant[s], which essential oil, and how much of each), but if you add a serious glug of almond oil to a shower gel, that’s not going to work out well. In order to incorporate a high percentage of carrier oil, you need to use an emulsifier in the same way you would if you were formulating a lotion.
The other challenge with adding oil to surfactant formulations is that oil inhibits lather, and people really like lather. Lather makes products like body washes feel like they’re “working”, so even when a commercially sold body wash has an oil or butter in the name, there’s unlikely to be much of that oil in the formulation. Take a look at St. Ives’ Oatmeal and Shea Butter Body Wash, which is very excited to tell you about all the lovely shea butter in it. The ingredients are: “Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamide MEA, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Avena Sativa (Oat) Meal Extract, Fragrance, Glycol Stearate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Citric Acid, PPG-9, Propylene Glycol, Stearamide AMP, Methylisothiazolinone, Blue 1 (CI 42090), Red 33 (CI 17200), Yellow 5 (CI 19140).”
Shea butter is the 6th ingredient, but it falls well after salt (sodium chloride), the third ingredient. It’s unlikely that this formulation contains more than 2% salt, which means there might be 1% shea butter in that body wash. This negates the need for a lotion-style emulsion and ensures the body wash is ultra-lathery while sounding all kinds of soothing and lovely thanks to what is almost certainly less than 3% total content of the ingredients that give the formulation its name. Of course, naming a formulation after its loveliest sounding ingredients is not at all uncommon (I do it all the time!); I mostly want to point out that there are some formulation reasons for keeping the shea butter content low (in addition to assumed cost reasons).
I chose a combination of bubbles-galore Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) and gentle Cocamidopropyl Betaine for the surfactants. Since oil inhibits lather, I wanted to choose a high-foaming surfactant for the primary surfactant so we’ll still get some noticeable bubbling on use. My first version of this formulation had an active surfactant matter (ASM) of 4.35%, which got you clean, but really didn’t kick off anything noticeable in the lather department and wasn’t super satisfying to use. So, I nearly tripled the active surfactant matter (ASM) to 12.5% and that gives us some downright lovely bubbles!
The oil phase is mostly made up of fractionated coconut oil, which I chose because it’s lightweight and inexpensive. This is not the place to use something really lovely, like argan oil! At 21%, the oil phase is substantial enough to add some seriously gorgeous creaminess to this formulation, but thanks to our emulsifier (Glyceryl Stearate [and] PEG-100 Stearate), this cleansing cream isn’t so thick that it doesn’t easily dispense or resists working into a lather. I’ve also included some Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN) in the formulation for emulsion stability; it’s in the oil phase as it can’t clump in there!
Everything else in the formulation is pretty simple and inexpensive. Glycerin for added moisturizing, citric acid to counter the high pH of the Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS), and a bit of water-soluble dye for colour. I chose acid black because low concentrations of it turn products a lovely dusty purple colour. I used lavender essential oil to scent this Rich Lavender Shower Cleansing Cream, but you could easily switch that up—see the substitutions list at the end of the formulation for some helpful links.
Making-wise, this is just like making a lotion. The high fat content means we can use an immersion blender without kicking up a ton of lather, though I do blend this formulation less than I would a lotion, moving to hand stirring fairly quickly. You will get some bubbles suspended in the emulsion, but that’s ok. It doesn’t impact performance at all and I find the cream is thick enough that the bubbles don’t settle out after a day, leaving you with a suddenly emptier bottle. Let’s dive in!
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Rich Lavender Shower Cleansing Cream
Heated water phase
37.59g | 37.59% distilled water
20g | 20% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
10g | 10% Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) (USA / Canada)
10g | 10% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
0.3g | 0.3% citric acid (USA / Canada)
0.01g | 0.01% water soluble dye
Heated oil phase
3g | 3% Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate (USA / Canada / UK & EU / Australia)
15g | 15% fractionated coconut oil
3g | 3% cetearyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
0.4g | 0.4% Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (USA / Canada / UK / Australia)
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 or glass beaker. 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 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.
When the lotion 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 lotion on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of lotion, 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 lotion. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package it up! I used a 100mL (3.3fl oz) frosted soft tube from YellowBee and it was just a wee bit small for this 100g batch, so I took a shower real quick and topped off the tube and that worked out beautifully. A 120mL (4 fl oz) tottle works really well for a 100g (3.5oz) batch.
Use as you’d use any shower gel. 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, which fills a 120mL (4 fl oz) tottle well.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, 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 propanediol instead of vegetable glycerin.
- 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 and read this FAQ. I recommend sticking with a high-foaming surfactant for the primary surfactant if you want noticeable lather on use.
- If you elect to try using a different emulsifying wax than Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate you will be very solidly in re-development territory. This blog post will give you an idea of some of the changes you’ll need to make.
- You could use cetyl alcohol instead of cetearyl alcohol.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of fractionated coconut oil, but whatever you choose, I recommend keeping it inexpensive as this is a rinse-off product.
- You can try a different gelling agent/gum instead of Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN).
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- If you’d like to incorporate a different essential oil, please read this.
- If you’d like to use a fragrance oil instead of the essential oil, please read this.