Today is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere—the shortest, darkest day of the year, but also the turning point towards longer days (tomorrow will have a whole 5 seconds more daylight than today!). I’ve shared several winter solstice themed projects over the years, always right around now, and I’m excited to add another one to that collection today. This Winter Solstice Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer is a richly moisturizing fluid emulsion, featuring some of my favourite humectants and an ultralight blend of oil-free emollients. It feels incredible on the skin, vanishing within seconds and leaving your skin feeling soft and hydrated.
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Because this moisturizer is oil-free, I’ve focussed on including lots of awesome humectants and moisturizing ingredients. I’ve used silky and luxurious hyaluronic acid, inexpensive and super effective glycerin, and a neat multi-ingredient molecular film called Lipomoist™ 2036. According to Lipotec, the manufacturer of Lipomoist™ 2036, it helps increase collagen production and firm the skin in addition to being very moisturizing. You can review some relevant documents from Lipotec here and here (make sure you’re looking at 2036 in this document, not 2022 or 2013) to learn more. If you don’t have it and don’t want to buy it, please refer to the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia entry on it for substitution suggestions.
Post updated December 2022.
Our oil phase (which doesn’t contain any actual oil) is mostly comprised of Neossance® Hemisqualane. This ultra-light emollient is made from plant sugars and has an almost cyclomethicone-like skin feel. I’ve also included some LuxGlide/LexFeel N350, which is a naturally-derived dimethicone alternative. Our emulsifier is Ritamulse SCG, chosen not only for its emulsifying abilities but because it helps boost the moisturizing properties of this formulation. The oil phase is quite small, at just 13%, so I’ve also included some hydroxyethylcellulose for a viscosity and stability boost.
I opted to scent this moisturizer with just a bit of hydrosol. I tried peppermint hydrosol at first as it seemed appropriately wintery, but it was also a bit too “fresh” for my liking—a bit too much like stepping outdoors in -35°C weather without a scarf and feeling your eyeballs start to ice over and your nostrils freeze shut. Not quite that bad, but also not a thing I look for in a skincare product. So, while you don’t have to use rose hydrosol, I can’t recommend using peppermint.
If you’d like a stronger scent you can use more hydrosol (or a blend of hydrosols!)—just be sure to reduce the distilled water to keep the formulation in balance.
This Winter Solstice Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer has a ridiculously slippy-yet-rich skin feel. I find that the sensation of “slippy” can tip over into “slimy”, and precisely where that tipping point lies tends to be a fairly personal thing. So, if you are the sort of person who finds things slimy more often than not, you may wish to swap out 1% of the LuxGlide N350 for more Neossance® Hemisqualane, and drop the hydroxyethylcellulose down to 0.3% (making up the difference with more distilled water). Both of those ingredients have lovely slip, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
When it comes to blending the heated oil and water phases together, it’s important that you do so very thoroughly using a high-shear mixer. I didn’t find this emulsion worked well if hand-stirred or mixed with an underpowered hand-held mixer—it needs a powerful blendy kick in order to be stable.
The finished moisturizer is quite thin, and a little goes a long way, so I recommend packaging it in a bottle with a treatment pump-style dispenser, or something similar that won’t dispense a ton of product. A standard lotion pump will be too generous with dispensing, but a turret cap would work well. I do not recommend a wide-mouthed jar or tub. A squeeze tube might work if the orifice is fairly small and you don’t have to squeeze too hard to get the product out. I like to use this moisturizer at the end of my skincare routine, after thinner serums but before sunscreen. Enjoy!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Hyaluronic Acid in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Vegetable Glycerin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel N350 (natural dimethicone alternative) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Neossance® Hemisqualane in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Hydroxyethylcellulose in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Lipomoist™; 2036 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Allantoin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Let’s Talk About Hyaluronic Acid (How to make a 1% solution)
- What’s up with hydrosols, distillates, and floral waters? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Where can I learn more about lotion formulation? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- pH meter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- pH measurement in cosmetic lab: why we dilute samples? from Skin Chakra
- How to adjust the pH of your cosmetic products from Skin Chakra
- Why do you create a 10% dilution of a formulation before measuring the pH? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
Winter Solstice Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer
Heated water phase
39.8g | 39.8% distilled water
20g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution (USA / Canada / New Zealand)
15g | 15% rose hydrosol
5g | 5% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
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 (the hydroxyethylcellulose won’t met; that’s ok!) 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.
Now it’s time to blend! 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 about a minute.
Once the mixture has started to gain a bit of viscosity, switch to hand stirring. It’ll still be pretty thin at this point in time, but don’t worry!
Hand stir constantly until you reach a light trace, and then switch to occasional stirring until the lotion is cool.
When the lotion is cool 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.
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 in the 5–5.5 range. If it is lower than 4.5 you’ll want to raise it; if it’s higher than 6, you’ll want to lower it. Please read this article from Skin Chakra to learn more about pH adjusting.
Now all that’s left to do is package it up! I used three 30mL (1fl oz) bottle with a treatment pump type tops from YellowBee for my 100g (3.5oz) batch.
Use as you would use any facial moisturizer. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this moisturizer 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 formula will make 100g.
- 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 (hyaluronic acid) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You can use a different hydrosol instead of rose (or use more distilled water for an unscented final product). I do not recommend using peppermint hydrosol, though—I tried that and it was a bit too fresh for the face!
- You could use propanediol 1,3 instead of glycerin.
- You can use Dimethicone 350 instead of LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350
- You can substitute a lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed for the Neossance® Hemisqualane, but that will mean this moisturizer is no longer “oil-free”.
- You could try a different gelling ingredient instead of hydroxyethylcellulose.
- If you use a gum, I would recommend soft xanthan gum.
- I don’t recommend using Aristoflex AVC due to the electrolytes present in Lipomoist™ 2036.
- Sepimax ZEN is more electrolyte tolerant than Aristoflex AVC so it may work, but I have not tried it.
- You could try Natra CollaV as an alternative to Lipomoist™ 2036. Please read the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia entry for more ideas.
- You could replace the allantoin with Panthenol (Vitamin B5); I’d probably use more (2–3%) and adjust the distilled water to make room for it. Powdered panthenol can go in the heated water phase.
- 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.
The small pump-top bottles and Optiphen™ Plus were gifted by YellowBee.
The rose hydrosol was gifted by Plant’s Power (2020) and Essential Wholesale (2022).
The hydroxyethylcellulose was gifted by Essential Wholesale.
The hyaluronic acid was gifted by Pure Nature.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.