This exotically-scented Sweet Magnolia Natural Cleansing Oil gently cleanses the skin, leaving your face feeling soft and nourished. It uses a new-to-me natural emulsifier and has quickly become a favourite facial cleanser for removing layers of summer sunscreen (and sweat) at the end of the day. I love the velvety way it makes my skin feel, and the scent is intoxicating. You’ll only need six ingredients, and many of them are easy to swap out—let’s dive in!

How to Make Sweet Magnolia Natural Cleansing Oil

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The basic structure of this cleansing oil (and all cleansing oils) is pretty simple; it’s mostly oil-soluble emollients with an added emulsifier that enables the oils in the cleanser to self-emulsify with water, making a product that rinses off the skin far better than straight oils do. Oil cleansers are wonderfully effective; because like dissolves like, they’re great at removing excess sebum and the film formers that make cosmetics long-wearing.

The emulsifier I’ve used in this cleansing oil is new to me; polyglyceryl-4 oleate (gifted by Skin Chakra; thank you!). It’s a natural, oil-soluble, low-HLB liquid emulsifier. When compared to the liquid emulsifiers I’ve used in other cleansing oil formulations, there are two key differences. Difference #1; it’s natural, which is neat. Difference #2; it creates water-in-oil emulsions rather than oil-in-water emulsions.

The natural-ness of the emulsifier isn’t something you’ll notice when using this product, but the water-in-oil-ness is very noticeable. In a water-in-oil emulsion, water is the inner phase, and oil is the outer phase. Because oil is the outer phase, water-in-oil emulsions do not rinse off the skin easily like oil-in-water emulsions do—rather the opposite. This makes for a far gentler, lower rinse-off cleansing oil.

If you have a cleansing oil made with an oil-in-water emulsifier (like polysorbate 80 or Cromollient SCE) I highly recommend trying it side-by-side with this formulation to see how the performance differs. I find the polyglyceryl-4 oleate cleansing oil leaves the skin feeling far softer and more nourished, while polysorbate 80 etc. cleansing oils rinse off more cleanly, leaving the skin feeling cleaner (and doing a better job of removing waterproof eye makeup) but also drier than the polyglyceryl-4 oleate version. I find I love the gentleness of the water-in-oil (polyglyceryl-4 oleate) formulation for a full-face cleanser these days, while I appreciate the better rinse off of an oil-in-water formulation for removing my eye makeup.

The oil blend that forms the bulk of this formulation is fairly simple and inexpensive; it’s mostly fractionated coconut oil, with a bit of castor oil and some coco-caprylate to further improve the spreadability and lightness of the product. There’s definitely plenty of room to play around with the oil/emollient blend, just be sure the bulk of it is inexpensive oils (or older oils you need to use up in a hurry!). Since a cleansing oil is in contact with your skin for maybe a minute before being washed off there’s no reason to include anything fancy—save your beautiful luxury oils for leave-on products!

I’ve scented this cleansing oil with one of my favourite essential oils; magnolia flower essential oil, also known as michelia alba essential oil. This zippy, exotic smelling essential oil has bright floral and dancing evergreen notes that are hard to pin down. In the past, I’ve paired it with essential oils like fir, cardamom, cypress, ginger, and oak moss, but I decided to let it fly solo in this formulation. The bottle I’m using now is from Plant’s Power (gifted). If you decide you’d like to use this cleansing oil to remove eye makeup I’d recommend dropping the essential oil and replacing it with more fractionated coconut oil; it’s fine for general face washing, but I wouldn’t recommend massaging this cleansing oil into your eyelids and lashline with any sort of essential oil in it.

Making this is very simple; just stir everything together and you’re done! The polyglyceryl-4 oleate does take a while to incorporate, but keep at it—it’ll blend in. I packaged mine in a bottle with a treatment pump top, but something with a turret cap or some other sort of orifice reducer would also work. Let’s get making!

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Relevant links & further reading

Sweet Magnolia Natural Cleansing Oil

27.1g | 54.2% fractionated coconut oil (USA / Canada)
5g | 10% castor oil (USA / Canada)
10g | 20% coco-caprylate (USA / Canada / UK / EU / NZ)
7.5g | 15% polyglyceryl-4 oleate (USA / Canada / EU / UK)
0.15g | 0.3% magnolia flower essential oil
0.25g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)

Weigh all the ingredients into a small beaker, or directly into the bottle you’ll be storing the cleansing oil in.

If it’s a beaker, stir until the mixture is uniform. If you went straight for the bottle, cap and shake. Polyglyceryl-4 oleate can take a while to break down and incorporate, but it will—just keep stirring!

Once the cleansing oil is uniform, package it up! I used a 50mL (1.69fl oz) airless pump bottle from YellowBee to package my cleansing oil. Whatever you choose, I recommend something that has some sort of orifice reducer so you can control the amount of product you end up with in your palm. A bottle with a turret cap or flip-up disc cap would also work well.

To use, massage a dime-sized amount of the cleansing oil into dry skin. As the polyglyceryl-4 oleate creates water-in-oil emulsions it isn’t really strong rinse-off agent; as such, I prefer to use a damp microfibre cloth to remove this cleansing oil rather than rinsing alone.

Shelf Life & Storage

Because this oil cleanser is 100% oil-based, 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!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.


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, which is just shy of 60mL (2 fl oz).
  • 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 can substitute another inexpensive lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed for the fractionated coconut oil.
  • I don’t recommend substituting the castor oil, but if you have to I would just use more fractionated coconut oil.
  • For the coco caprylate:
    • You could use another lightweight ester, like C12-15 alkyl benzoate or isopropyl myristate (IPM). Neither of these options are considered natural.
    • You could use Neossance® Hemisqualane or a natural cyclomethicone alternative for a natural option.
  • If you don’t have polyglyceryl-4 oleate you can modify this formulation to use Polysorbate 80 or Cromollient SCE instead. You won’t need as much (I’d recommend around 5% to match the original version in cleansing power), so use more fractionated coconut oil to make up the difference.
  • 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.


Gifting Disclosure

The airless pump bottle was gifted by YellowBee.The polyglyceryl-4 oleate was gifted by Skin Chakra. The magnolia essential oil was gifted by Plant’s Power.