This beautiful Sweetgrass Facial Serum features a stunning blend of some great-for-skin ingredients to create a lightly golden serum that focusses on brightening and hydration, with undercurrents of soothing and healing. We’re also using a new-to-me hydrosol that I’m completely in love with—sweetgrass hydrosol. I’m loving this serum towards the end of my skin care routine, topped off with a bit of an oil serum.
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This serum is kicking off a new sweetgrass series, inspired by the oh-so-stunning sweetgrass hydrosol from Plant’s Power. I’m not sure I can adequately describe how wonderful this hydrosol smells; it is like honey, warm sunshine on dry grass, and perhaps a hint of apple pie. It is warm and sweet, but not cloying or dessert-like—more of a botanical, herbal sweet. I thought for months about what I could do with this hydrosol—what would do it justice? What could I pair it with? In the end I settled on creating a collection of formulas that get their scent entirely from sweetgrass hydrosol so it can really shine. This has the added benefit of creating a series that can be customized by using a different hydrosol, or easily made unscented by replacing the hydrosol with distilled water.
My primary aims with this serum were hydration and brightening. For hydration I’ve included super-hydrating hyaluronic acid, soothing & moisturizing panthenol (Vitamin B5), and two non-sticky humectants: sodium lactate and propanediol 1,3. We’ve also got a sub-set of soothing and regenerative ingredients with the allantoin/ panthenol pairing. Allantoin is a great skin protectant that helps boost healing by increasing skin cell turnover, while panthenol is also soothing and helps the skin regenerate.
For brightening I’ve included both niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and N-Acetyl Glucosamine. Niacinamide has been one of my all-time favourite skin care ingredients ever since I first introduced it to my skin care routine in the form of The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum just over two years ago. It helps regulate sebum production and brighten the complexion, and in my experience it’s been absolutely key in drastically reducing acne. N-Acetyl Glucosamine is practically magic. It improves barrier function, boosts healing, reduces water loss, and brightens the complexion. When the two ingredients are paired they’ve been found to have significant brightening effects, reducing hyperpigmentation and evening out skin tone more than either ingredient does on its own. So cool!
Because niacinamide does best in products with a pH around 6, you’ll need to test and adjust the pH of this serum to ensure the pH is ideal. I go over how to do this in the video, so definitely give it a watch! That’s the only semi-tricky part of this formulation; everything else is cold-processed stirring. I hope you love this powerhouse serum (and the stunning sweetgrass hydrosol!) as much as I do—happy making!
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Sweetgrass Facial Serum
18g | 30% distilled water
12g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution
18g | 30% sweetgrass hydrosol
1.8g | 3% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
1.8g | 3% propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)
1.8g | 3% sodium lactate (USA / Canada)
0.3g | 0.5% allantoin (USA / Canada)
3g | 5% N-acetyl glucosamine (USA / Canada)
3g | 5% niacinamide
0.3g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
Citric acid, as needed
Weigh everything into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker, and stir to combine. You may need to leave to mixture to sit for a while for it to become clear.
Up next, let’s get set up to adjust the pH. Be sure to read this great article on the importance of diluting solutions when pH testing them—we’re doing that here! Prepare at least two small bowls by weighing 9g of distilled water into them (you’re going to want a scale that’s accurate to 0.01g for this). To make your citric acid solution, weigh 5g of citric acid into a small beaker and add 5g of distilled water. Stir to combine; you’ll probably a couple quick microwave bursts are required to get the citric acid to dissolve as this is a pretty concentrated solution.
To test the pH, add 1g of product to one of the bowls containing 9g of water to create a 10% dilution, and pH check that. If necessary, add a drop of the citric acid solution to the parent batch, stir, and re-test. Continue until the pH is close to 6. Please watch the video to see this in action!
Once the pH is happy you’re ready to package up your serum! To use, apply just a few drops after cleansing and before any oil serums or creams. You will want to follow it up with an oil serum or lotion/cream to ensure it doesn’t feel tacky. 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 I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You can use a different hydrosol in place of the sweetgrass hydrosol, or simply use more water. This will alter the scent.
- I don’t recommend substituting out the hyaluronic acid.
- Please refer to the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia for substitution suggestions for the panthenol, propanediol, sodium lactate, allantoin, N-Acetyl Glucosamine, and niacinamide.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
The sweetgrass hydrosol was gifted by Plant’s Power. The hyaluronic acid was gifted by Pure Nature.
Morning! The link for niacinamide is not working. I’ve looked at Amazon but there are a few. Could you please correct the link or give more detail?
Never mind. ♀️ found it!
I use acne is due to any component?
Fixed! Thanks for the heads up 🙂
This sounds lovely but I noticed it’s pretty watery (which is not a bad thing, I just like my serums a bit more gel like!)… was wondering if I could tweak the formula to add either sepimax zen or sepimax emt or even Aristoflex avc, provided the ingredients are compatible with these gelling agents. Also thought of including ceramides and CoQ10 but again, I’d be completely changing the formula! I think I’ll try yours with zen… I imagine it would feel fantastic on the skin since there’s nothing there to make the serum sticky (zen combined with certain ingredients = stickytown!!) It’s nice to be back around here, I went too long without diy’ing… and now half my stash of ingredients are expired…
You can tweak anything if you’d like to tweak! That’s the purpose of DIY’ing isn’t it? Tweaking a formula/recipe to bette suit your needs. Give it a go and tell us what you ended up doing and how it worked! And I agree with you, Zen sounds like it’d be the better choice for this guy!
And oh no about your ingredients! Did you chuck them or make some soap?
Ugh, this serum sounds absolutely lovely, but I have almost zero of the ingredients! And I need to curb the knee-jerk reaction to run to lotioncrafter every time you post a recipe. I’ll have to save this recipe for later. Your description of the scent of sweetgrass sounds similar to Roman chamomile. Maybe that could pair together or be used as a scent substitute?
Sorrrry 😛 I am working on some simpler things, too, I promise! I’d say the sweetgrass is somewhere between South African/Cape chamomile and labdanum, I guess? It’s really hard to do it justice. It does have some of the warm/grassy notes of chamomile, but without the mustiness that chamomile hydrosol can have, if that makes sense?
I have all these ingredients save the specific hydrosol~
But I just made the soothing serum a few days ago, LOL.
Mother’s Day gift!
Fortunately the hydrosol isn’t the lynchpin of the formula at all, but it sure is lovely and I do recommend grabbing some if the opportunity ever presents itself 🙂
I feel like I’m constantly testing new serums—I think my skin care routine is permanently rotating around 10 steps with all the different stuff I have in there at any given time LOL.
This sounds lovely, Marie. Do you have any concerns about sun exposure when using hyaluronic acid? HA seems like a good product but the sun warning seems counterintuitive. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Sweetgrass=Coumarin goodness, sweet, vanilla, almond grass. Fun fact-dry sweetgrass has a stronger scent then fresh! I totally agree that niacinamide is the holy grail, good stuff!!!! I’ve really been digging fermented skin care, yeast extract naturally contains niacinamide, my skins been loving it in a light spring lotion!
Holy smokes Jade!
You’ve hit the jackpot! Fancy sharing some of your #humblebeeandme inspired products on Instagram? I’m with you, I love my niacinamide, but my heart shall always belong to panthenol in my products first and foremost!
I create natural perfumes from flowers I grow 🙂
I put the insta link because I just did a post on coumarin and the plants that contain it 😉
Hi Jade, Thanks for shareing! I’ve been useing fermented cosmetics on and off past 6 months with great results but had no idea about b3 in yeast extract! I’d love to try this serum recipe but my skin seem to love gentle acid toning + fermented stuff too much…anything more than ph ~5 seem to irritate my skin.
I did a quick search for credible articles relating to the topic of Hyaluronic Acid and sun exposure. Can you provide a link?
I’ve been waiting for n-ag/nia serum! What do you think about adding a ceramide complex to this to sub out some of the water?
I don’t see why not! I’d suggest starting at 3% with the creamide complex and dropping the water by 3%. I’ve not worked with the creamide complex yet, talk to me about it! Do I need to buy some?????
Yes, get yourself some ceramide complex! Ceramides = amazeballs 😀
After fruitlessly searching for a replacement for a niacinamide + acai berry mask that used to help my rosacea, I decided to tweak your soothing serum recipe. Not a good idea for a beginner, but I was desperate. The stuff just arrived, and here you have a niacinamide serum recipe, exactly what I needed, with a demonstration of pH adjustments! Hooray!
Woohoo! I really hope you end up creating something fantastic 🙂 Happy making!
Hi Marie. I had vitamin c / SAP + B3 version of this. I used another hydrosol as well, but because I lost my notes, I’ll whip a batch soon to see how it works. I’m beyond grateful that you introduced b3 for me! I love the skin benefits it gives me with AHA’s! I need my usuall skin clearing toner only occasionally. B3 also costs much less. Results are much more than I expected. Thank you. <3
Can I add COQ10 component to the above formula?
You could, but it is oil-soluble, so you’d also need to incorporate a solubilizer to ensure it incorporates properly. I would probably choose to include the COQ10 in something that already has an oil phase instead 🙂 Happy making!
Hi can i use hydrolyzed silk for this recipe?
Yup, just be aware that addition may make the serum a bit tackier, which you may or may not be ok with 🙂 Happy making!
Thank you so much for the reply Marie! 🙂 You’ve inspired me to start with DIYng
That’s amazing! Happy making 😀
Hi Marie, what ph meter do you use? There is a handheld one on New Directions for $100/AUD, do you think that would be a good one to buy? Thank you
I’ve linked the one I’ve got in this post 🙂 I’m not particularly attached to it, and it’s the only one I’ve tried, so I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask. I’d probably read reviews & make sure it has the range/specificity you’re looking for. Happy making!
Ok, I think that because I am mainly looking at getting a pH meter for niacinamide, I thought I could just get pH strips instead. It the pH is in between 5 and 6 is that ok? Thank you!
I’ve always found that to be fine 🙂 Lab Muffin uses pH strips for her simple vitamin C serum so they can’t be all bad—she’s got a PhD in chemistry, so I trust her on lab equipment!
I tested 5 % vitamin c/ SAP first on it’s own and it’s pretty sticky. Anyway, I made this serum few days ago with SAP/ vitamin c and B3, mint hydrosol and thickened mixture a bit with HEC to control the usage amount and reduce stickyness. Then I had silly idea: could this work as bi-phase serum? Apparently it can. 20 % oils (squalane + hemp oil) is a lot but it works for me. Only but is shaking before usage.
I’ve used commercial vitamin c serum to keep my skin healthy lately, and this seems to work equally well! Apparently oil creates airlock and reduces stickyness not to mention color therapy. It makes me happy to know that I can and will make this again, with different oils (thinking healthy aging glow serum I made for formula botanica’s mini course, perhaps with q10 like in your gel serum). Thanks Marie.
Hello my serum is a bit sticky.Is this normal or not?
Hi, can i ask a question? I include serum and moisturiser in my skincare routine.. can i make serum with 4% Niacinamide 2% acetyl glucosamine. Then, my moisturiser also contains 4% Niacinamide and 2% acetyl glucosamine. Do you think there is too much active in my skincare routine? can anyone answer me
Only you and your skin can answer this question since it’s about your skin 🙂
I’m aware that I’m a bit late but I made this with few swaps: orange blossom hydrosol, pentylene glycol and SLMW + HMW HA (both sodium hyaluronate, preserved with euxyl k712). I like it a lot! Your tip to heat preservative with water (in brightening mist) is brilliant. Euxyl PE9010 stands heat and it has never dissolved that easily. This was again, very easy to make. It feels great on skin, rich and slippy. Thanks so much for your generosity and hard work.
YAY! Thank you so much for sharing your decadent modifications and your results ❤️
*so excited* I found out that it would cost over $100 to get sweetgrass hydrosol from Canada because of the minimum order plus shipping, but I just found it on LotionCrafter!!!!!!!! I love sunshiney fragrances. (One of my favorite fragrances from Aztec for soap is sweet grass and dandelion. Highly recommend to anyone and everyone.) I’m so excited to make sweetgrass hydrosol things!!!
Hooray! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it ❤️
Amazing formulation! I fell in love as soon as I read it. I tried to formulate it but instead of Sweetgrass hydrosol, which I’m ordering some time soon, I used lavender hydrosol. However, I can’t understand why the final product had a tacky, sticky feeling. When I applied it to me face, it felt as if I coveted my face with honey. I can’t see any of the other actives have that physical characteristic. I did not use Glycerin, which tends to hake that effect. Any idea to the reason why?? I know propanediol is NOT supposed to be sticky, is it?.