Today’s recipe is kicking off a new soothing skin care series that is perfectly timed for the driest, darkest, and often coldest part of the winter here in Calgary. The formulas in this series star a beautiful selection of wonderful, effective ingredients that have been proven to soothe, moisturize, and repair the skin. We’re starting with this simple, super-hydrating serum for a serious hit of moisturizing, barrier-boosting skin care goodness.
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The bulk of this serum is water, but I’ve included several fancy waters (hydrosols, juices, etc.) that have added skin-soothing, hydrating benefits. In addition to some simple distilled water we have anti-inflammatory aloe vera juice, super humectant hyaluronic acid stock, calming chamomile hydrosol, and refreshing cucumber distillate. Cucumber distillate is a new-to-me ingredient from Essential Wholesale and I cannot get over how incredibly cucumber-y it is! Though it is a bit pricey, just 7–10% it contributes a very distinct cucumber scent to the end product. It’s very fresh and clean smelling, and just downright lovely.
Panthenol, urea, and allantoin are all included for their fantastic skin-soothing properties. Both panthenol (vitamin B5) and urea are also fantastic moisturizers—you’ll be seeing urea in a lot more formulas in the future! I got some last spring from Les Âmes Fleurs and I am positively smitten with the stuff. I’ve written about its wondrous moisturizing, soothing, barrier-boosting benefits in the encyclopedia, but you should also give this amazing mega-post from Simple Skincare Science a read to learn more. If you’re not sure about it you can easily purchase a simple high-concentration urea lotion from a local pharmacy (I have this one) to test it out before ordering the raw ingredient.
Sodium lactate and propanediol 1,3 further amp up the moisturizing awesomeness of this serum. Both are very effective, non-sticky humectants. Some calendula botanical extract adds further skin-soothing, moisturizing goodness to the serum, as well as some lovely herbal label appeal. The whole lot is preserved with some liquid germall plus, and that’s it!
The final serum is slightly viscous; I put mine in a bottle with a treatment pump, but an eyedropper or disc-top would work as well. I massage a few pumps into my face (remembering that treatment pumps dispense much less product than a more typical lotion pump type cap!) in the middle of my skin care routine, morning and night. My skin is glowing, bouncy, and hydrated, even though the air is drier than a bar of soap that’s aged for five years. In fact, ten days or so after I started testing this serum an older lady though I was eight years old (seriously—”maybe nine”, she said, but she was pretty sure I was eight), so perhaps we can throw in a whiff of anti-aging benefits as well 😝
This all comes together very easily, so you can always have some on hand for these absurdly dry days. Watch for more soothing recipes, too—I’ve got several great ones coming up!
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Soothing Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum
9.6g | 16% distilled water
12g | 20% aloe vera juice
12g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution
12g | 20% chamomile hydrosol
6g | 10% cucumber distillate
1.2g | 2% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
2.4g | 4% urea (USA / Canada)
0.3g | 0.5% allantoin (USA / Canada)
1.2g | 2% calendula extract
1.8g | 3% sodium lactate (USA / Canada)
1.2g | 2% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)
0.3g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
Weigh the everything into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or directly into a 60mL (2 fl oz) bottle. Stir or cap & shake to combine. If you didn’t make the serum directly in your bottle, transfer it to the bottle. That’s it!
To use, gently massage a nickel-sized amount into your skin after any actives, but before heavier creams and occlusives. Make sure you do follow up with something that contains at least some oil otherwise you might find you skin feels a bit tacky after application. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this serum 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 60g.
- 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!
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- The theme of this formula is soothing and hydrating; keep that in mind when choosing alternative ingredients.
- You can try different hydrosol(s) in place of the aloe vera juice, chamomile hydrosol, and/or cucumber distillate. Try to choose things that will smell nice together!
- I really, really don’t recommend dropping the hyaluronic acid.
- Panthenol, urea, and allantoin are all included for their skin-soothing properties. Read the encyclopedia posts for each (linked in the previous sentence) for substitution ideas.
- You could use a different soothing/calming botanical extract in place of the calendula extract.
- I chose sodium lactate and propanediol for humectants as they aren’t sticky. Ideas for alternatives include sodium PCA and propylene glycol. You could try including some glycerin, but I find its tacky feeling is more noticeable in super watery products like this.
The cucumber distillate was gifted by Essential Wholesale. The hylauronic acid was gifted by Pure Nature.
Because I don’t have the urea, would it be better to add more sodium lactate or should I just leave it out? We are in a cold snap here in Winnipeg so this definitely comes at a good time. Thanks!
What do you think about honeyquat as a sub?
Honestly, honeyquat smells like fish butt, and I wouldn’t want anything made with it anywhere near my face :/
I’d probably add more sodium lactate—ALL THE HUMECTANTS! 🙂
Just what I need in this dry winter. My skin is flaking and without a humidifier, my room was measuring below 30% humidity! Do you know if I can add say 5% ceramides to this serum? My skin needs all the barrier help it can get.
I hope this can help your dry skin! You can certainly try adding some ceramides; just ensure whatever product you have is compatible and remove the 5% from the water 🙂
I was wondering if there’s a particular order you have to follow when adding ingredients? For instance I’m your lovely beautiful hyaluronic acid stock blog post you add the water and preservative first then the HA but here you add the preservative last?
I’d like to make a hybrid of your HA stock but include urea and possibly Panthanol but I’m just wondering the order of things while mixing! I found your blog last night and it’s the best thing in earth! Thank you for being you
The short answer to your question is… yes and no.
When making your hyaluronic acid stock, you are making a batch. An amount where you’ll make some and leave it in a container to use in other products. So yes, a preservative is a must.
To answer your second question.. I’m going to give you a link!
This sounds like exactly what my skin needs! Have to hunt down some ingredients, though (interestingly enough, urea is something I can get easily!).
I hope you love it! Happy making 😀
I’m so excited about this skin soothing series. I discovered a few weeks back that my skin loves a simple serum of water and glycerin (it’s mid-Summer in New Zealand) but boy is it tacky. I look forward to building up my supplies and trying these new recipes. Thank you, Marie!
OOoh, I hope you find some new favourites and create some things you love! 😀 And I am so envious of your summer weather—just today I was basking in some beautiful 3°C weather LOL.
WOW! I made this up last night and I can’t believe how soft, smooth and silky it has left my skin, and so easy to make. I love it.
YAY! I am so dang thrilled 😀 Thanks so much for DIYing with me! Happy making
Thanks for this wonderful new recipe! Just wondering, where did you get the pump container? That would be so helpful, thank you!
They’re from Voyageur 🙂 Happy making!
Hi, this is a question about Germall Plus, which you recommend frequently in your recipes. I bought some recently, used it several times over the course of a few months. Then when I went to use it again, it had developed a FOUL odor, so I got rid of it. Did I contaminate it accidentally, is this unusual, did I just get an “off”batch? Thanks very much, your attention to detail and diligence is greatly appreciated.
I have never, ever heard of anything like that happening. Even if you did contaminate it, being a straight-up preservative one would think it’d have the fortitude to stand up to pretty much anything (especially if it was such a small amount of something that you didn’t even notice!). I would really recommend contacting your supplier about this because it is very odd. Let me know if anything comes of it 🙂
Can’t wait to make this! I see that some hyaluronic serums have more than one molecular weight—even 3-5. Would it work to purchase a high, low, extra low and hydrate them all together? Or make 3 different stocks and mix together?
You could certainly try it—I’d make different stocks so your starter stocks are as simple as possible, giving you more flexibility to work with them. You might also want to give this post a read 🙂 Happy making!
Big fan of your recipes.
Can i use only hydrosol instead if water in hyaluronic acid serum so that i won’t be forced to add a preservative since the hydrosol is already preserved?
Okay after all the reading you have sold me on Urea. Just waiting for a delivery and will me making this. So looking forward to this series. It is summer time here in Australia do my skin is definitely needing some hydration. On a side note – your spreadsheet formulation guide has been amazeballs. I very nervously created a formula with it and success!
Woohoo! I am SO sold on urea—I got a store bought 20% urea cream back in June and holyballs it makes my feet so soft it is almost unnerving LOL.
I am so thrilled you’re enjoying the spreadsheet thing—congratulations on your first spreadsheet-ed formula! 😀
So made this and (George Takei) oh myyyy! Even after a few days feeling pretty darn good. This series is going to be so exciting. So what amazing ingredient is coming next hmmm…..
Woohoo, I am so glad! Yay!
Hi Marie, my “mature” skin and I are very excited about the soothing series. This serum sounds lovely! Excited to try urea too. I went back and watched your “new ingredients I’m excited about video” and have a list of things ready to order. Hopefully I’ll be ready for some of the future recipes too.
I wanted to add how impressed I am with how your recipes & knowledge have grown over the past year or so. I’m so happy I found your blog several years ago. Thanks for all you do!
Thank you so much, Kelly! I’ve really been working hard at studying, experimenting, and just generally being better and getting better, and I’m glad it shows 😀 I really appreciate all your support!
Looks wonderful. Wondering why the low molecular weight HA is used instead of a higher molecular weight? Seems like the serum would have a bit more gel-like consistency with the higher weight?
According to my research, low molecular weight is the sweet spot for efficacy 🙂
Hi! For your Soothing Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum, have you worked out what an estimated cost would be? I did order the Hyaluronic Acid from Windy Point, however it was $65 for 25g. So this serum is looking like it will cost between $35-$40, does that sound about right? (I gave a rough estimate of all the other ingredients)
Thanks for the recipe 🙂 I can’t wait to formulate this one and use it.
Hey! I haven’t worked out the exact cost, but I’m 100% certain it’s not $35–40! 100g of this recipe would contain 0.2g hyaluronic acid (20g of a 1% solution). You paid $2.60/g, so that would be $0.52 for the HA part of this recipe 🙂
Hi Marie! I love HA serums! This one seems lovely – can’t wait to make it. I was surprised to see that the allantoin didn’t need heating for dispersion. You didn’t find that the finished product was shardy?
Not a hint of shardiness! The recommendation for allantoin is to avoid heating it as apparently the shardy-ness typically comes from it re-crystallizing as the mixture cools 🙂
Ah good to know! I just watched your Youtube video on your hydrating summer facial and body mist and you had mentioned how the allantoin didn’t dissolve and left shardy bits unless you heated it up, so I assumed it was a heat and dissolve ingredient. Thanks for clearing it up!
Yes, I have since found a different source and so far the new not-heating thing seems to be working well 🙂
Hi Marie! I really enjoy your blog and your videos, you’re are great teacher! I’d like to make this recipe, however, HA is unavailable on Amazon.ca right now… However, I do have the HA from Deciem (both the one you talked about, with Pantenol, and the big tub of just the HA). Do you think that would work in this recipe? I don’t see why now, right? Thanks! 🙂
Hey Melanie! It’s not really a good idea to include store bought finished products in our DIYs. It’s hard to predict how they will perform (how will the preservatives, etc. interact with other ingredients in the product?). Windy Point has the HA, though!
Is it necessary to heat and hold ingredients such as aloe and hydrasols to kill all the nasties? Is it necessary to add a chelator like disodium EDTA?
Nope; as written is fine, assuming your raw materials are clean (and they should be—if they aren’t, get a new supplier!).
I was thinking about adding niacinamide to this serum. Would that be okay, or will pH be an issue? If it is an issue, can you please tell me how to fix it so that it can be added? I don’t have a way to test pH, so if I DO have to add citric acid, how much?? Thank you!
I added niacinamide to mine instead of the urea (didn’t have). You’ll need to really stir it and make sure the powder is incorporated. The ph comes to 5-5.5.
If you wanted to add some niacinamide either replace something with it or adjust your water to relect how much powder you’re putting in. Want 2% niacinmide? Remove 2% water from your percentages.
Ohhhh Jen I think you might just be a genius! As you well know, adding any additional ingredient to anything can result in a ph drift, so you would need to check out the ph of your finished product and adjust accordingly. But truly, adding niacinamide to this serum would make it one awesome serum! Kind of like The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum! Let me know how you like it!
I have one more question. Would it be beneficial to add honeyquat to this? If so, how much would you recommend? Thank you!
I really don’t recommend it because honeyquat smells gross and I don’t want it anywhere near my nose!
Pardon me if this has been asked and answered. What is the difference between a distillate and hydrosol and can they be used interchangeably? Thinking that cucumber hydrosol can be substituted here. When I googled it seemed they were the same. Thanks
I just wrote an FAQ on this because it is an annoying topic 😛 Basically, they SHOULD be the same, but not everybody tells the truth.
Allantoin does need to be heated to be dissolved and effective. If it is not, it forms crystals that feel unpleasant on the skin. Also how gel-like is it, and did HA suspend (not stuck to the bottom of the bottle)? Thoughts?
Thank you, you are as always very inspirational.
I haven’t found it needs to be heated; I’ve used several batches of this serum with no crystals or settling out, in stark contrast to products I’ve made where I did heat the allantoin. My more recent research into it advises avoiding heating it beyond a certain point to avoid the crystals as they can form after dissolving and then cooling.
It is a relatively thin gel with a uniform consistency 🙂
I have found the best way to store a diy HA serum is in fridge and it stays good a long time also it feels great on skin when its cold. Also for other finding the HA expensive, I ordered HA,DMAE,coenzyme Q10 and ascorbic acid powders from Bulk Supplements on amazon for super cheap. Just add to a base like distilled water and aloe vera or Rosehip oil or a face cream depending on which product as they differ with solubility. Anyways hope this help with cost for some of you.
Oh yes. Oh yes indeed! I love storing my serums and face stash in the fridge come warmer weather. THEN taking a toner like this one, or the Soothing Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum, applying it to a sheet mask and slapping that puppy on my face. It is like fantastic and relaxing day at the beach!
Hello Marie may I use White Tea Extract (Camellia Sinensis) (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01G0XRFBW/ref=ppx_od_dt_b_asin_title_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 ) instead of calendula extract?
I dont have the propanediol may I add more of sodium lactate ?
Good morning Alla!
Yup on the White Tea Extract!
As for the adding more sodium lactate… the recommended usage amount is .5-5% and if you are not sure how your skin will react to sodium lactate, it might do more harm than good initially! I’d suggest just replacing the propanediol with 1% glycerine and add 1% more water to your formula.
At what point in the skin regiment do you use this.
I clean, tone, apply DYI Hyaluronic/vit c/ferlic serum, use oil face serum and apply cream…….. I’m afraid my face is going to fall off with all the weight (joking).
It sounds like you’re doing things right! I’d probably switch the order of the facial oil and cream (or just blend them together in my palm before application), but I think that is more a matter of personal preference than anything 🙂
My skin care routine generally has upwards of 9 steps, so I get it! 😛
Should I replace my DYI Hyaluronic Acid/ Vit C/Ferlic Acid Serum with yours or just add your soothing hyaluronic acid facial serum into my routine?
I’d add this serum without replacing the vitamin C serum—I kept my vitamin C/HA serum in my routine and added the soothing serum as another hydrating layer (it seems I can never have enough!).
I finally made this 3 weeks ago….Amazing and so quick to make. A little really goes along way as well. I feel so rich after using this. The cucumber is so juicy it’s like those movies when they have slices on their eyes relaxing with an avocado mask on!
Truly a benefit and my 41 year old skin continues to look healthier and younger daily!
I am so thrilled you’re enjoying it so much! Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
Your aloë vera juice is powder with distilled water?
I would like to add niacinamide, like a mix between your two ha serum recipes.
A question about the ph. I read that the ph needs to be 6 or higher (for the niacinamide), and around 6 (for the urea). But I imagine that using Aloe vera will make the serum too acidic?
Another question about panthenol. I have liquid. I use the same amount as powdered?
I tried it without the aloe vera. I used hyaluronic acid, allantoin, urea, panthenol and glycerine (and cosgard as my preservative). My ph strips showed 4. That seems so low. I didn’t feel like using baking soda to bring the ph higher so that I could include niacinamide. Still, 4 seems so low. Did I mess up?
4 should be more than fine for skin, though not very niacinamide friendly as noted. You might be interested in this study!
I’m a Patron of yours and I have a question regarding the HA used in this recipe. I would like to include both ULMW and HMW HA solution in this recipe to cover both the upper (outer) layers of the dermis and the lower (deeper) layers. Would this combo in one solution be usble?
Thanks so much!
Hey Sue! I’d probably make two different 1% stocks so I could blend and use them as desired in the future. For this formula, you could use 10–20% of each, depending on how indulgent you’re feeling (adjusting the amount of water to keep the formula balanced). Happy making!
Yes, my aloe juice is concentrated aloe powder mixed with water. You can learn more here.
I’d aim for a pH right around 6 for what you’re doing; you can always increase the pH if need be.
For the liquid panthenol—check to see if there is a concentration percentage noted. If it is, say, 50%, you’d want to use twice as much, removing the extra from the distilled water.
Hi Marie, I just made this serum yesterday and already I feel the difference. Where has this been all my life. I did have to sub the Urea for N-acetyl glucosamine. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. I can’t wait to try other Hyalauronic acid recipes.
Hyaluronic Acid oh Hyaluronic Acid, you bring our skin plumping factors, and make us feel as if we have dew for skin… Nah. I suck at poetry! But I hear you! This stuff is amazing! Glad you are loving it!
This combined with the simple Argan/primrose oil serum has been simply the best for my skin. No heat and super fast to make. If I was to add some Ceramide to it would that come out of the water component and at what percentage would you include it? Thanks Marie – big fan!
YAY! I’m so stoked your skin is loving that combo—awesome choices, too 🙂 You can definitely add some ceramides to this; I’d probably start around 5%, and yup, remove it from the water. Enjoy and happy making!
Do we not need to prepare a buffer in order to use urea in a formulation?
In my experience, with small batch sizes and decently quick use, the pH doesn’t shift much, and I’m trying to keep things on the simpler side. I’ve discussed that a bit more here 🙂 From everything I’ve read it is definitely best practice, and if I were to be selling something containing urea I’d definitely do it, but for single-batch personal use I have not found it to be necessary (at this point, at least—I’m always learning and experimenting!).
Hello Marie! Thank you for this formula <3 I wonder, using oils in water, doesn't I need any solubilizer?
Hey Eugene! This formula doesn’t contain any oils or anything oil-soluble, so that’s why 🙂
oh thank you! I thought that calendula was an oil extract :))
I love all your videos and recipes … Thanks so much for putting in so much of efforts.
Is there any particular reason you are using low molecular weight HA?
just something that pop my mind
I recommend giving this article a read to learn more about the different weights of hyaluronic acid 🙂
hy! my name is clara. I’m from Brazil. i am loving your site. I would like to know … can you answer this comment with a purchase site link for hilauronic acid? I went to your encyclopedia and saw that you recommend looking at the amazon website, but I didn’t find the vegan hilaurionic acid powder. And I looked here in Brazil but there isn’t one. Gratitude!
Hi Marie. I want to make this recipe, but I just have Nipaguard SCE as my preservative I saw that it is not very soluble in water, what could I do to use it and be effective since I have no way to buy another preservative? use any solvent?
If I wanted to increase the percentage of urea, what other changes would I need to make to account for changes to ph, etc?
I’m sorry, I’m very new at this.
There’s not a simple, streamlined answer to this question, unfortunately. Please read this for more info 🙂
I Purchased my hyaluronic acid from NDA. It does not really gel at all, and I find the resulting serum a titch more watery than I prefer. Can I thicken it with anything without ruining the recipe? Any of the cold process things, like sepimax zen?
Yup, 0.3% or so Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN) should do the trick!
Marie, thank you for another amazing recipe! I only have lactic acid. Is it ok to use or the pH will drop to non-acceptable values? (It’s lactic solution 88%)
How/why are you thinking of using lactic acid in this formulation?
Instead of Sodium lactate, because I don’t have it right now
Definitely not—those two ingredients are never interchangeable. Please read up on sodium lactate in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/diy-encyclopedia/) to learn more!
Hi Marie. more Canadian expats are here…(happy me)…I am showing my friends -Liza and Jane- your blog and how many wonderful recipes it has. They are very exited and want to start DIY’ing with you. They just tried your soothing HA serum from my home collection and was surprized of how GOOOOOD it is, let alone the savings they could make. However, they just asked me of WHY use (20%) low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution RATHER than using the (100%) low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution, wouldn’t that be even better and more hydrating. I couldn’t answer them as I’m not well established in ……….. maybe (chemistry) HAHAHA.
Thank you…. you’re wonderful..xxxxx
Oh, girl, I messed up BIG time…I didn’t see that I had to let the HA sit in the water for a few hours and now my mixture is SUPER thick…I also subbed 25% of the Low molecular HA with High Molecular. Can I save this? It would be SO expensive to toss 🙁
Hmmm. I’m definitely going to have to make this! I’m not quite sure where to use it though. When you say to apply it after actives but before heavier creams, what does that mean? What is an active? And would the green tea face cream be a heavy cream? Currently I use a DIY cleansing balm, mist on some Thayer’s witch hazel toner, apply the DIY green tea face cream, and then apply 2-3 drops of oil serum to my breakout-prone areas. Where would this water-based serum fit in?
I finally made this today. Better late than never? I subbed LMW HA with SLMW HA and HMW HA (1300 kda) , calendula with willow bark extract and hydrosols with orange blossom hydrosol. I made 60 g batch as my dry hands and legs seem to enjoy it too. Preservative swap took a bit adjusting but my experiments with natural solubilizers and micellar water paied off. I like the texture a lot and it has beautiful scent. It glides on skin well but doesn’t seem to peel off. Urea seems more versatile and affordable than BHA I’ve used in the past. I love it and will make lots of soothing stuff during next few days! Thank you so much!
Hi! Years ago your Make It Up book helped me so much with healing my damaged skin. Thank you so much!
Love how simple the formulation of this serum is!
Thinking of 1) simplifying the liquids down to just aloe and HA and 2) adding B3, Matrixyl, and Agireline to make an all-in-one actives serum. Would have to adjust the pH for the B3, but is there anything else to watch out for?