If you’ve been looking for a lightweight summer facial moisturizer with a gorgeous, powdery, expensive-feeling finish, you can stop looking. This is it! I’m currently obsessed with this cream—I can’t get over how lightweight and fancy it feels. It smells softly of roses, glides on like a dream, and leaves my skin glowing.

How to Make Ultra-Light Summer Face Cream

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With sunny, summery weather finally here (hooray!), I wanted this face cream to be moisturizing and hydrating without feeling heavy or just “too much” for a hot day. The lightness of the formulation is thanks to two major factors: a small oil phase (13.5%) and lightweight, silky emollients making up that oil phase (isoamyl lauratecetyl alcohol). The cetyl alcohol teams up with Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN) to boost the viscosity of this emulsion to something cream-like without increasing the size of the oil phase, which would make it richer.

The actives in this formulation focus on skin soothing, moisturizing, and barrier-boosting. Niacinamide (aka Vitamin B3) helps reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL), boost ceramide production, reduce inflammation, and improve skin elasticity. Allantoin is a fabulous anti-irritant/soothing ingredient that is an FDA-recognized skin protectant. Tocopherol (Vitamin E) helps protect against environmental damage, and chamomile extract adds skin-soothing, botanical goodness to the cream.

The scent for this formulation comes from 30% hydrosol; I’ve chosen rose hydrosol because I love it 😃 You could definitely use a different hydrosol—or blend of hydrosols—for a different scent. You could also use more distilled water for an unscented final product. If you’d prefer to use an essential oil, reduce the distilled water by ~0.3% and then add 0.3% essential oil to the cool down phase (it doesn’t have to be 0.3%; make sure whatever usage rate you go with is safe for leave-on use for the specific essential oil [or fragrance oil] you’re using).

As written, this formulation is 99.1% natural. The two not-natural ingredients are the preservative (Liquid Germall Plus) and the gelling ingredient (Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 [Sepimax ZEN]). You could use a natural preservative instead, but you’ll likely need to use more (adjust the distilled water to make room in the formulation), and you’ll need to watch the pH of the formulation. Natural preservatives like Geogard Ultra and Geogard ECT cause the pH of formulations to drop quite a lot, and our emulsifier (Ritamulse SCG) will fail if the pH of the formulation gets too low (approximately 4 or lower). Natural preservatives also tend to have a narrower effective range than Liquid Germall™ Plus, so you’ll need to be sure your finished formulation falls within whatever that range is for what you’re using. If you want to use a natural gelling ingredient, you’ll want something with a carbomer-y feel. It should create clear, smooth gels that aren’t gummy or slimy. I recommend hydroxyethylcellulose. Wondering if you can use something else? Mix up a small ~2% mixture of it and see what the consistency is like. If it’s slimy, snotty, or generally not something you’d want to rub on your face, that’s probably not the ingredient to use.

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Relevant links & further reading

Ultra-Light Summer Face Cream

Heated water phase
76.14g | 42.3% distilled water
54g | 30% rose hydrosol (USA / Canada)
9g | 5% niacinamide (vitamin B3) (USA / Canada)
9g | 5% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)

Heated oil phase
6.3g | 3.5% Ritamulse SCG (USA / Canada / UK / AU)
12.6g | 7% Isoamyl Laurate (USA / Canada / EU)
5.4g | 3% cetyl alcohol(USA / Canada)
0.72g | 0.4% Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (USA / Canada / UK / Australia)

Cool down phase
0.54g | 0.3% allantoin (USA / Canada)
0.9g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
1.8g | 1% tocopherol (vitamin E) acetate (USA)
3.6g | 2% oil-soluble chamomile extract (USA)

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 or glass beaker. 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 the water phase. Add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase 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 30 seconds, scrape down the container with your spatula, and blend for another 30 seconds before switching to hand stirring. You’ll need to be fairly diligent with the stirring at first, but once the mixture has thickened up a bit and is uniform you can switch to stirring occasionally. Once the outside of the glass measuring cup is just warm to the touch (40°C or cooler, if you have a thermometer) we’re ready to proceed.

Now 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. You’ll notice the emulsion thickens a bit when the cool down phase is added—that’s normal.

To test and adjust the pH: create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why we create a dilution to check the pH?). Check the pH with your pH meter. Depending on the shape of your bowl/beaker you may need to tilt it in order to fully submerge the sensor on your pH meter. The pH should fall around 6. If it is lower than 4.5 you’ll want to raise it; if it’s higher than 6.25, you’ll want to lower it. Please read this article from Skin Chakra to learn more about pH adjusting.

Once the pH is confirmed to be a-ok, all that’s left to do is package it up! This emulsion is a bit thick for a pump-top bottle, but will work nicely in jars and squeeze tubes. I chose to use Bramble Berry’s 2 oz Frosted Glass Jar with White Cap (gifted) for mine; this 180g batch will fill three of them.

Use this face cream as you’d use any face cream. It also makes a good ultra-light hand and body lotion! If you experience any pilling, examine the other parts of your skincare routine for electrolytes (aloe vera, sodium lactate, urea, etc.)—the interaction between the Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN) and the electrolytes is likely the problem.

Shelf Life & Storage

Because this cream contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative, this project may 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.

Substitutions

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 formulation 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 180g.
  • 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 use whatever hydrosol you want.
  • You can replace the hydrosol with more water for an unscented product.
  • I do not recommend replacing any water or hydrosol with aloe juice as Sepimax ZEN changes in the presence of electrolytes. Other electrolyte-y ingredients you should avoid adding to this formulation include Sodium Lactate, hydrolyzed proteins, sodium PCA, urea, sodium chloride, and magnesium chloride.
  • Please read the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia entry on Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) for substitution ideas.
  • You can replace the Propanediol 1,3 with vegetable glycerin.
  • I don’t recommend swapping out the Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse) as it is really lovely and contributes to the feel of the formulation. If you have to, a different self-thickening emulsifying wax (examples include Olivem 1000PolawaxEmulsifying Wax NF, and PolyAquol™-2W) will work.
  • You can replace the isoamyl laurate with a different lightweight ester. Examples include Neossance® HemisqualaneCoco-Caprylate, and isoamyl cocoate. You could also use a lightweight carrier oil, though this will make for a slightly richer finished formulation.
  • You could try Cetearyl Alcohol instead of Cetyl Alcohol, though this will make for a richer and less silky finished product. I do not recommend Stearic Acid or C10-18 Triglycerides (Butter Pearls) for this formulation. They’ll work, but they will change the character of the formulation.
  • You could try Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex AVC) or Hydroxyethylcellulose instead of Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN). I don’t recommend true gums like Xanthan or guar as they don’t have the same sort of skin feel.
  • Please read the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia entry on Allantoin for substitution ideas.
  • If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
  • If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
  • You can use tocopherol MT-50 instead of tocopherol acetate.
  • You can use a different oil or water soluble botanical extract your skin loves if you don’t have chamomile extract.

Gifting Disclosure

The cetyl alcohol was gifted by YellowBee.
The rose hydrosol and niacinamide (Vitamin B3) were gifted by Essential Wholesale.
The isoamyl laurate was gifted by Formulator Sample Shop.
The tocopherol acetate and chamomile extract were gifted by Bramble Berry.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.