After the annual colourful craziness of Christmas DIYs I’ve really been enjoying dreaming up something solstice-inspired these last few years. We’ve got a face cream, a soap, and a mask, and now we’ve got a star-studded charcoal-infused facial polish. This facial polish offers some mild physical exfoliation merged with some oil cleansing and great low-lather rinse-off. A titch of activated charcoal makes for a striking presentation, but without the disastrously messy sink activated charcoal can leave behind. It smells fresh and wintery, with notes of spice and intrigue. The making is a simple melt and stir deal, and the end product is intriguingly inky and star-speckled.
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This lovely facial polish grew out of some experiments I was doing as part of my Formula Botanica course work. My skin care routine already includes regular chemical exfoliation, so I don’t tend to do much physical exfoliation—but as I was working my way through the exfoliants module I was (of course) testing my experiments and… dang. My skin glowed. Something about a bit of proper physical scrubbing was practically magical. And knowing the potential of physical exfoliants to look like little stars, it seemed like the perfect thing to adapt for a solstice-themed formula.
The creamy base of our polish is a blend of safflower oil and refined shea butter, with a touch of cetyl alcohol for thickening and some Olivem 1000 for improved rinse-off. To that base we’ll add some sandy rhassoul clay, a bit of gentle Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate for some low lather and mild cleansing, and a wee 1% of activated charcoal. At just 1% we still get a product that looks very dark in the jar, but once you start massaging it into the skin it fades quickly, and when it comes time to rinse it off your face cloths (maybe not white ones… tread carefully there) and sink will escape unscathed.
Our stars come from some white jojoba beads. Jojoba beads are wee little spheres made of jojoba wax. They’re biodegradable, and since they’re spherical they really glide and roll over the skin nicely, making them a fairly mild physical abrasive. Feel free to have fun with your colour selection! I used simple white for a stark contrast, but you can buy jojoba beads in tons of different colours and a bit of added colour sure would be pretty.
The essential oil blend is mostly fresh fir needle essential oil, with cardamom and michelia alba adding a bit of spice and intrigue. See the substitutions list if you’re thinking you’d prefer something else!
The finished scrub is soft and creamy—scoop up a bit, massage it into your face, and enjoy some gentle exfoliation and some tiny, velvety bubbles. If you want you can decorate the top with some extra jojoba beads after pouring—I think it would be pretty cool to use a stencil to create a star or a moon!
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Winter Solstice Facial Polish
Cool down phase
1.2g | 3% white jojoba beads
0.1552g | 0.39% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.2g | 0.50% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
0.048g | 0.12% cardamom essential oil
0.032g | 0.08% michelia alba (white champaca) essential oil
0.32g | 0.80% fir essential oil
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the heated oil phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through. You might need to give the mixture a bit of help in the microwave—Olivem 1000 doesn’t like melting in water baths for me, so if yours is still semi-solid after twenty minutes I’d microwave the mixture for about ten seconds to fully melt it.
While the heated phase melts, prepare an ice bath. Take a bowl that is large enough to accommodate the container the heated phase is melting in, and fill it about halfway with ice cubes and cold water.
After about 20–30 minutes everything should be completely melted through. Remove the water bath from the heat, remove the measuring cup from the water bath, and dry it off with a dish towel. Add the powder phase and stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate and break up any clumps.
Pop the measuring cup in the ice bath and stir until it gains a bit of viscosity. Remove from the ice bath and stir in the jojoba beads (I like to add them after I’m certain I’ve broken up all the clumps from the other powders—jojoba beads will also melt around 75°C, so we want to make sure we’re well below that!). Return to the ice bath and stir until the mixture is noticeably more viscous and cool. Add the remaining cool down ingredients and stir to incorporate.
Transfer to a wide-mouthed jar. Something around 30mL/1oz is a good size—I chose white to really set off the dark polish!
To use—massage a small amount (~half a teaspoon) into your face and wipe off with a damp cloth. Your skin can be wet or dry—water will make it lather up, which is neat! I don’t use physical exfoliation on a daily basis, but really like it 1–2x a week. Do what works for your skin!
Please take precautions to keep the facial polish dry; while it does contain a broad spectrum preservative it also contains quite a lot of hard-to-preserve clay and I’m not confident the preservative is up to the task of a water-contaminated facial polish. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this cleanser could come into contact with water I have included a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. It really is best to keep this facial polish free from water contamination, though—there’s quite a lot of clay in here, and clay is really difficult to preserve. 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. As written in grams this recipe will make 40g.
- 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!
- You could use another soft butter in place of the shea butter, like mango or cupuacu. I do not recommend using coconut oil as it has a much lower melting point.
- You can use a different complete emulsifying wax in the place of Olivem 1000.
- You can use a different light to mid-weight liquid oil in place of the safflower oil. Just keep it inexpensive! No need to go fancy for a wash-off product.
- You could try cetearyl alcohol in place of the cetyl alcohol, but I’d drop it down to 1% and add the other 1% to the shea butter.
- Alternatively, you could leave out the thickening alcohol completely and use more shea butter—this will make for a slightly softer product with a lower melting point.
- You could try Australian black clay or a black mica in place of the activated charcoal, or simply use more rhassoul clay. I wouldn’t recommend using black iron oxide in the same amount as that will be very black, but you could try using it at 0.2% and making up the remaining 0.8% with more rhassoul clay.
- I wouldn’t recommend swapping out the rhassoul clay, but if you do I’d choose something a bit sandy—perhaps bentonite clay? Softer clays like French green and kaolin won’t offer the same “scrub” factor. They won’t be a total failure, but it will drastically impact the end product.
- You could try SLSa instead of SCI, or replace the surfactant with more clay. This will reduce the wash-off of the polish.
- Vitaburst beads will work in place of jojoba beads, but they are much larger. I do not recommend anything rougher, like ground nut shells.
- You can use a different essential oil blend, a fragrance oil, or nothing at all for scent. If you use nothing, make up the removed amount with more safflower oil.