It’s time for another Bee Better project with a revamp of my first-ever face cream—2014’s Winter Solstice Face Cream. This new version uses several newer skin-loving ingredients to create an even better facial lotion that is designed to deeply hydrate and strengthen your skin. It’s somehow both rich and lightweight, with a gorgeous skin feel, a soft rosy scent, and all kinds of fabulous-for-skin ingredients. I hope you love this new version just as much as many of you loved the 2014 one!
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2014’s Winter Solstice Face Cream was the first-ever emulsified face cream I shared, and it was long overdue! That cream was probably my first serious flirtation with what would become my love affair of topical face hydration. Swoon. I found my skin healed faster and was just generally happier when I used my Winter Solstice Face Cream instead of just an oil serum, so I was safe to say I was in love. In addition to containing water, that cream also contained rose hydrosol, soothing allantoin, and moisturizing vegetable glycerin and hydrolyzed silk peptides. The oil phase was a blend of two lightweight oils (argan and olive squalane) and fast-absorbing mango butter, further thickened up with a touch of silky cetyl alcohol. A touch of all-around-awesome panthenol, our preservative, and a fresh, bright essential oil blend (lavender/cardamom/spruce) rounded off the lotion. See the full 2014 formulation here!
With all that in mind as a starting point, let’s look towards our 2019 Bee Better version—five years later, almost to the day (!). The main themes of the original were hydration/moisturizing + soothing, with the general intention that the cream would be used in the winter. I decided to really amp up the hydration angle and expand the soothing into a soothing/strengthening/fortifying kinda thing with lots of ingredients that help support and strengthen barrier function, allowing our skin to be its best, strongest self. When our moisture barrier/acid mantle is in tip-top shape our skin is more resilient, transepidermal water loss drops, and our skin is better protected from the outside world. Amazeballs. You can learn more about the acid mantle here.
In the hydration department, we’ve got some great ingredients; 1% low molecular weight hyaluronic acid stock, propanediol, rose hydrosol, and distilled water bring plenty of water to the table and help ensure it sticks around for as long as possible to work its hydrating magic.
Many of the other ingredients in this formulation help with hydration and moisturizing, but also help support barrier function. Niacinamide (vitamin B3), N-Acetyl Glucosamine, panthenol (vitamin B5), cholesterol, and ceramides all fall into this “fabulous multitasking” category. Back in 2014 the only one of those ingredients I worked with was panthenol, and while panthenol is fabulous (soothing & moisturizing!) on its own, I’m sure it’s happy to have some more skin-boosting friends in this formula. Niacinamide helps reduce both irritation transepidermal water loss, while N-Acetyl Glucosamine improves barrier function and boosts healing. Together, they have some seriously great skin-brightening effects, helping to fade hyperpigmentation and age spots.
Cholesterol is making its debut appearance on Humblebee & Me with this formulation. I first ordered it so I could make The Acid Queen’s Moisture Barrier Serum, and thought it would be just the thing for this project as it is a rich emollient that helps support barrier function and is great for dry, irritated skin. Ceramides further up the awesome factor in this face cream. The ceramide complex we’re using not only helps support our barrier function and supplement our naturally occurring supply of ceramides (learn more here), but it also helps encourage more ceramide production (along with niacinamide!). So many of the ingredients in this formulation do multiple awesome-for-skin jobs. Swoon.
For oils, I kept the olive squalane and argan oil and dropped the mango butter and cetyl alcohol as they were the only ingredients in the formulation that would need to be melted before incorporating, so eliminating them allowed this formulation to be entirely cold processed. I also included 2% dimethicone 350 for added skin protection, fabulous slip, and de-tack-ification. I dropped the spruce essential oil from the essential oil blend simply because I don’t have any right now, but the essential oils are optional in any event. I’ve been finding I prefer lower scent face products, so I left the essential oils out of the video version altogether (replace them with more water if you do that).
I created a few updated versions of this cream using the same emulsifier as before (BTMS-50), but I ended up veering off into gel-cream territory as my love affair with last month’s Cranberry Orange Facial Gel Cream is still going hot and heavy (or perhaps I should say “silky and moisturizing”?). Our emulsifier/gelling agent is Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (aka Aristoflex® AVC), an ingredient I’m pretty sure I had back in 2014 when I shared the original Winter Solstice Face Cream, though I didn’t share any formulations using it until 2019. Since Aristoflex AVC works as a cold-processed emulsifier I elected not to include anything that needed to be melted so we could whip this cream up quickly and easily, without any added heat. This emulsifier choice is another reason I included some dimethicone 350; I find gel creams feel tackier than more traditional emulsions, and I like to counter that with a bit of dimethicone and/or cyclomethicone.
I’ve yet to find a wrong way to mix up a no-heat concoction with Aristoflex AVC, but I have found some ways are easier than others. For this Winter Solstice Facial Gel Cream, I begin by mixing together all the wet watery things and then adding all the powders. I gave that a stir, and then topped off that milky mixture with our liquid oily ingredients. The Aristoflex AVC was sprinkled on last, and then the whole lot was whisked to combine. Leave it to hydrate for 30–40 minutes, whisk again, and you’re done! The finished product is really quite thick, so I put mine in a soft squeeze tube. I suspect it would be too thick for most pump-top bottles, but I’ll leave that up to you when you experience the final consistency for yourself.
The finished cream has a thick, decadent texture—it forms soft peaks when dolloped, which I love. It glides over the skin richly, transforming into more of a gel as it warms on the skin. It absorbs quickly, leaving the skin plump, hydrated, and fortified. It’s just the thing for dry, cold, and dark winter days. Enjoy!
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Winter Solstice Facial Gel Cream
9.1g | 18.2% distilled water
15g | 30% rose hydrosol
10g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution
0.5g | 1% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 5% ceramide complex
0.25g | 0.5% liquid germall plus (USA / Canada)
Weigh the first six ingredients into a small beaker and stir to combine. Add the next four, and stir to combine.
Weigh in the following five ingredients, stir.
Finish by weighing in the Aristoflex AVC. Whisk to combine; the mixture will thicken a bit, but will be pretty lumpy. Leave it to hydrate for 30–40 minutes, and whisk again. At that point you should have a silky smooth, thick, luscious gel cream!
When made as written, the pH of this gel cream comes out to 5–6, which is where we want it for the niacinamide. That said, it’s a good idea to test the pH of products where pH is imporant—you can learn how to test & adjust pH here.
All that’s left at this point is to package it up. I used a 50mL (1.69fl oz) soft squeeze tube from YellowBee, filling it with a large syringe. Ivan from YellowBee suggests a meat injector as an easier-to-purchase syringe type thing!
To use, smooth over the skin after cleansing. I usually use mine towards the end of my skin care routine, and top it off with an oil serum. Enjoy!
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.
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.
- 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 (panthenol, niacinamide, N-Acetyl Glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, cholesterol, etc,) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- If this formulation has too many ingredients for your taste, please check out the original from 2014. It’s still lovely!
- You can use a different hydrosol for a different scent, or replace the hydrosol with more distilled water to drop that scent note completely.
- I do not recommend substituting the Aristoflex AVC. If you do, keep in mind that you will likely need to re-develop the formulation.
- Aristoflex AVC is very sensitive to electrolytes; do not add anything to this formula that contains electrolytes.
- You can replace the dimethicone 350 with a natural silicone alternative like LuxGlide 350, or a very slippy oil. A non-silicone alternative will likely make the end product more sticky.
- Please do not substitute the ceramide complex; it is key to the product’s performance.
- Vegetable glycerin would work in place of propanediol.
- You can use different essential oils or replace them with more water.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.