Our Soothing series continues with this lovely Soothing Cleansing Balm. Up until now all of our soothing projects have included a water phase, and many of our awesome soothing ingredients (cucumber distillate, chamomile hydrosol, urea, etc.) live in that phase. This project is 100% anhydrous—this means many of the ingredients we’ve used before are off the table, but several news ones are now on the table!
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The bulk of this cleansing balm is calendula infused olive oil and a bit of castor oil. Calendula is a wonderful soothing, anti-inflammatory botanical, and infusing it in oil is a simple and inexpensive way to harness some of its powers. That is thickened with a blend of stearic acid and cetyl alcohol for a rich, buttery texture that doesn’t have any of the weight or waxiness that thickening with oil brings to a formulation.
Our cleansing comes from a combination of Polawax and Polysorbate 80. I find I like a blend of a solid and a liquid emulsifier/solubilizer in cleansing balms, though you could adjust the recipe to use all of one or the other if you prefer. Both Polawax and Polysorbate 80 contain double-ended molecules: one end that loves oil, and another that loves water. That water-loving end means that when you go to rinse the cleansing balm off your skin it’ll come right off, without any residual oiliness or greasiness. I have made cleansing oil/balm products that don’t contain any emulsifiers/solubilizers and I am really not a fan of the use experience—I usually just feel like I have to wash my face again to get the oil off.
For some additional cleansing I’ve included a wee bit of kaolin clay, which also makes things a bit creamier. Some colloidal oatmeal brings some more soothing goodness, and together they offer a bit of gentle physical exfoliation if you apply the balm dry.
In our cool down phase you’ll find a titch of anti-inflammatory, soothing, anti-irritation bisabolol and some classically calming lavender essential oil. I’ve kept this series essential oil free up until now, but for a wash-off product (and at 0.5%) I thought we could enjoy the benefits of lavender without much potential for irritation.
The finished balm is soft and creamy. I find the inclusion of the colloidal oatmeal and kaolin clay makes the cleansing balm all kinds of creamy and rich when combined with water, which is wonderfully indulgent. After cleansing you’ll be left with soft, smooth, clean skin. Swoon.
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Soothing Cleansing Balm
3g | 6% Polawax (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 5% Polysorbate 80
24.875g | 49.75% calendula infused olive oil
1.5g | 3% colloidal oatmeal
5g | 10% castor oil
8g | 16% stearic acid
3g | 6% cetyl alcohol
1.5g | 3% kaolin clay
To prepare the calendula infusion: Weigh 5% dried calendula, 0.5% vitamin E, and 94.5% olive oil into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Prepare a water bath by heating about 3cm/1″ of water until warm, but definitely not simmering (we’re aiming for hot-tub type temperatures). Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath for two hours, stirring occasionally. After the infusion is complete, strain the mixture, reserving the infused oil and composting the spent plant matter. To learn more, click here.
While the heated phase melts, prepare an ice bath. Take a bowl that is large enough to accommodate the container the heated phase is melting in, and fill it about halfway with ice cubes and cold water.
After about 20–30 minutes everything should be completely melted through. Remove the water bath from the heat, remove the measuring cup from the water bath, and dry it off with a dish towel. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.
Place the container holding the melted balm in the ice bath and stir frequently until it gains a bit of viscosity. Remove it from the ice bath and weigh in the cool down phase, stirring to combine. Put the cleansing balm back into the ice bath, stirring until you reach a thin trace. Transfer it to your jar and leave the balm to set up.
Once the balm has set you’re all done!
To use, you’ve got two options. Option one is to massage a small scoop into your skin and wipe off with a damp cloth—because you’re applying the colloidal oatmeal dry this option includes a bit of physical exfoliation, which can be nice. Option to is to take a scoop in your palm, work it up with a bit of water, and then massage that creamy palmful of goodness into your skin before wiping off with a damp cloth. This option is less exfoliating and super creamy and rich from the get-go. Either work beautifully, and I’ve been finding I’ll choose one or the other at the time of use, depending on what I feel like.
Because this cleansing balm does not contain any water, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Be sure to keep it dry to ensure it lasts as long as possible—don’t let any water get into the container and it should easily last a year (use a dry finger or popsicle stick to dip into the container). If you plan on giving this cleansing balm away or taking it into the shower/bath with you, please include 0.5% liquid germall plus (USA / Canada). Though this preservative is water soluble, this cleansing balm contains emulsifiers so it will emulsify, and because it is water soluble it’ll be in the right phase if the balm gets contaminated with water.
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!
- Emulsifying Wax NF will work in place of Polawax. Emusilmulse/Ritamulse and Olivem1000 should also work; I’d avoid BTMS-50 simply because it is more expensive than the other options.
- You can try Cromollient SCE, water soluble shea butter, or Olivem300 (USA / Canada) instead of the Polysorbate 80
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed for the olive oil oil and/or castor oil. I would recommend infusing the new oil with calendula.
- If you don’t have stearic acid and cetyl alcohol you can try cetearyl alcohol instead; I’d probably start with ~20% total, but you’ll need to refine the precise amount yourself
- You could use a different smooth clay in place of kaolin or colloidal oatmeal, but keep in mind that anything with a colour (like French green clay) will impact the colour of the end product.
- A different calming essential oil, like chamomile, will work in place of lavender essential oil.