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.
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.
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. This is not an emulsion that will do 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 past 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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Winter Solstice Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer
Heated water phase
19.85g | 39.7% distilled water
10g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution (USA / New Zealand)
7.5g | 15% rose hydrosol
2.5g | 5% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
0.05g | 0.1% citric acid (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 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. If you are making a 50g (1.76oz) batch (as written here in grams) you will need something smaller than an immersion blender. In the video I use a mini mixer. If you don’t have a powerful smaller mixer I would recommend scaling the batch up to 100g (3.5oz) so you can use an immersion blender. You really do need to use a powerful high-shear mixer for this formulation and make sure you blend the product extensively as it cools, or you may encounter splitting/separation.
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, leave to cool for five, blend for another minute or two, and repeat this blend-cool-blend cycle until the outside of the glass measuring cup is barely warm to the touch and the lotion has thickened (it won’t get really thick, but it will thicken noticeably—watch the video to see).
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.
Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package it up! I used a 30mL (1fl oz) bottle with a treatment pump type top from YellowBee. That meant I had a bit of product left over from the 50g (1.76oz) batch—I stored it in a condiment cup so I can refill the bottle as needed.
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 recipe will make 50g. If you don’t have a smaller enough mixer to make a batch this small I would recommend scaling the batch up to 100g (3.5oz).
- 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 (Lipomoist™ 2036, allantoin, Ritamulse SCG, LuxGlide N350, 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 could use a different acid instead of citric acid to lower the pH, but you will have to do your own experiments and testing to ensure you are using the correct amount to get the correct pH as the amount of citric acid may not be appropriate.
- 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 gum or something like Sepimax ZEN instead of hydroxyethylcellulose. If you use a gum I would recommend lowering the amount to 0.3% or lower as gums like xanthan are more slimy/boogery than hydroxyethylcellulose. 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.
- 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.