I start planning out Christmas recipes in the summer and typically have everything more-or-less nailed down by the end of September. This formula wasn’t in the original plan, but I am so in love with plum oil right now that I couldn’t not make some sort of decadent lotion with it. It is just so downright swoon-worthy with its marzipan-y scent and golden colour and just… sigh. So, here we are, with a bonus Christmas 2018 recipe because I simply had to. Many apologies 😉
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Because this is a facial lotion I’ve packed it with a selection of things that are amazing for your skin (if you don’t have something, please refer to the substitutions list at the end of the post and the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia). Our oil phase is pretty small to keep the lotion lightweight and fast-absorbing. I’ve used a blend of fragrant plum oil and antioxidant rich argan oil for the bulk of it—an earlier version of this formula used more plum oil (plus some essential oils) than the version I’m sharing today, but I found it to be too fragrant for facial application so I dialed things back. I’ve also included a touch of dimethicone 350 as it is an excellent (and completely safe, non-pore-clogging, non-skin-suffocating) skin protectant, which is always a good thing in December in Canada! If you don’t want to use it, please refer to the substitutions list at the end of the recipe.
For our emulsifier I thought I’d use an emulsifier I used to use a lot, but haven’t used in ages—Ritamulse SCG, also known as Emulsimulse or ECOMulse. It’s an ECO-CERT complete emulsifying wax that gives our products a beautiful powdery finish. I find it creates thicker emulsions than similar amounts of Polawax or Emulsifying Wax NF, so I reduced the amount of cetyl alcohol that I might otherwise include to keep the lotion nice and pump-able.
The bulk of our awesome-for-skin actives are in our water phase and our cool down phase. I’ve included 20% of a 1% low molecular weight hyaluronic acid stock; that makes for a 0.2% concentration of hyaluronic acid in the end product, which has been shown to be effective. Hyaluronic acid is an excellent humectant, helping plump our skin and keep it soft and hydrated. Vegetable glycerin and propanediol further amp up the humectant profile of the lotion, helping combat winter dryness. I’ve also included some panthenol (vitamin B5) and hydrolyzed oat protein. Panthenol is anti-inflammatory and helps reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), while hydrolyzed oat protein helps retain moisture and leave the skin feeling soft and lovely.
In the cool down phase we’ve got some Penstia powder, allantoin, and N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG). Penstia powder significantly improves the feel of the lotion, improving slip and generally making the lotion feel much more luxurious. Allantoin is soothing and helps boost healing; it’s not hugely water soluble, though, so we’re adding a small amount in the cool down phase to prevent recrystallization as the lotion cools. N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG) is an ingredient I’ve been meaning to play with for a while—it has been found to help with moisturizing, boost healing, increase collagen production, improve skin tone, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and take you to the Bahamas for a relaxing beach vacation. In short, it’s pretty amazeballs. It can be derived from the shells of crustaceans, so if you are vegan (or allergic to shellfish) you’ll want to inquire with your supplier about the source.
Phew. That was a lot of ingredient talk! Fortunately the making part is pretty easy—it’s standard lotion-y procedure with our two heated phases, some blending, and a cool down phase to wrap things up. The end product is lovely enough that you’ll probably just want to keep it for yourself, and I don’t blame you. Merry Christmas from me to you!
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Sugar Plum Facial Lotion
Heated water phase
44.9g | 44.9% distilled water
2g | 2% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
20g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution
3g | 3% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
2g | 2% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)
2g | 2% hydrolyzed oat protein (USA / Canada)
Cool down phase
0.1g | 0.1% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
3g | 3% Penstia™ powder (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.5% allantoin (USA / Canada)
2g | 2% N-acetyl glucosamine (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 heated water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. 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 it. Add enough hot distilled water 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.
Now you can package it! I split the batch between a 50g soft squeeze tube from YellowBee and a 50g airless pump bottle (I’m not sure where it came from).
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this lotion 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 100g.
- 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!
- Panthenol, vegetable glycerine, and propanediol all function as humectants in this recipe, so if you are missing one or more, try replacing it with another humectant. Sodium lactate and sodium PCA are good options, and you could also use more of what you do have. (Panthenol isn’t just a humectant, but its other roles are hard to replace)
- If you don’t have the hylaronic acid you can try replacing it with aloe vera juice or just use more water. This isn’t a very good swap as neither are anywhere close to the moisturizer that HA is, but you can’t just leave it out.
- You can try a different hydrolyzed protein, like silk, instead of the hydrolyzed oat protein.
- If you don’t have the plum oil (I haven’t found it in Canada yet—I’m sorry!) I think your best alternatives would be apricot kernel oil (USA / Canada) or cherry kernel oil—oils that are also pressed from the kernels of similar stone fruits. You will lose the marzipan/cherry note; if you aren’t a fan of the scent you might prefer that! Otherwise, you can look for a fragrance oil with a similar scent and incorporate it (I’d start at 0.1–0.2% as it’s a pretty subtle scent). I haven’t found this scent anywhere else in the realm of natural ingredients, sadly.
- You can use Olivem1000, Polawax, or Emulsifying Wax NF instead of Ritamulse SCG.
- You can try cetearyl alcohol instead of cetyl alcohol.
- You can replace the dimethicone 350 with more argan oil, or a natural silicone alternative like LuxGlide N350.
- You can use more water instead of the Penstia powder.
- A comfrey root extract would be a good alternative for the allantoin, though you will need to check the recommended usage rate and likely adjust the recipe—there’s a very good chance the recommended usage rate is much higher that 0.5% as it will not be as concentrated.
- You can replace the NAG with more water or more of a non-sticky humectant. This isn’t really a substitution (read the post—NAG does a lot!), but it’ll keep the recipe in balance.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.