This Extra Creamy Green Clay Cleansing Balm is a Bee Better version of 2017’s Forest Cleansing Balm. That formula was one of the first anhydrous formulas I made with fatty thickeners and I remember being absolutely blown away by its rich, creamy, slippy consistency and incredibly easy rinse-off. I wasn’t the only one! Over the years I’ve heard from many people that my Forest Cleansing Balm is their favourite cleansing balm formulation 💚 Because the original was already pretty darn lovely, this updated version isn’t super different, but it’s definitely more polished. Keep reading to learn what I levelled up 😄
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The first step in Bee Better-ing this formulation was fully percentage-ifying it as the original was presented in a mix of weights and drops (for the essential oils). I used a spreadsheet to do this, entering in the weights of the ingredients that were measured in weights, and then doing a bit of quick math to work out the percentages for everything. I have a whole post and video on how to do that; check it out here! Those initial percentages were a bit messy, so I smoothed them out by rounding up or down. That left me with 0.3%, so I made that the fragrance/essential oil.
Up next: formulation modifications. The fragrance adjustment was the first one. The original used a blend of 4 different essential oils, most of which I no longer own. I decided to use a forest-y fragrance oil instead; I used Silver Birch & Vetiver from Rustic Escentuals. You can definitely use something else, just be sure it’s approved for use at 0.3% in rinse-off facial products (or use less, if the usage rate is less—balance it out with more fractionated coconut oil). If you scroll down to the “IFRA Maximum Skin Exposure Levels” on this page you’ll see the maximum usage rate for a face wash is 8.40%, which is a bit bonkers (but clearly 0.3% falls within that limit). If you want to use this cleansing balm to remove eye makeup (you’re planning on rubbing it into your eyelids/lash line), I recommend removing the fragrance oil/essential oil. Simply drop it from the cool down phase and add 0.3% to the fractionated coconut oil.
My next change was reducing the emulsifiers/rinse-off ingredients from two (Emulsifying Wax NF and Polysorbate 80) to one—just the emulsifying wax. I got a lot of questions about substituting/replacing polysorbate 80 with the 2017 original, so I thought I’d just remove it from this updated version. Back in 2017 I wasn’t sure if this would be enough cleansing power—I’ve since learned from trying it that it is! This removal also makes this updated version a bit gentler. If you want to keep the polysorbate 80 you definitely can. It was used at about 8% in the original, so I’d recommend using up to 8%, adjusting the fractionated coconut oil to make room for it.
I kept the inexpensive carrier oils (fractionated coconut oil and castor oil) the same, and I also kept the original blend of thickeners. The original Forest Cleansing Balm was the first cleansing balm I formulated that was thickened with a blend of stearic acid and cetyl alcohol, and SWOON. This blend (roughly 4:1) is rich and creamy, but also slippy. It quickly melts from a soft buttery solid into a slippy, silky oil that glides over the skin and is lovely. The consistency of the balm was one of the things people loved the most about the original. “I made this one and it was beyond lovely…so creamy and luxurious.” –Fabricated Reality (YouTube).
The last ingredient change was bumping the clay from ~3% to 5%, purely because I love clay. If you don’t have French green clay you could use a different soft, low-pigment clay instead. White kaolin would be easy, as would zeolite. Be careful with really pink clays; they’ll work, but can cover your sink in rather alarming pink/red splatters. If you do want a pink cleansing balm I’d recommend blending the pink clay with some white clay to mellow out the colour a bit.
When I mixed this up back in 2017 I kick-started the cooling process by putting the mixture in the freezer for a few minutes and then semi-panic-stirred it afterwards to try and get a smooth final product. I’m doing something far less stressful this time; I’m using a cool water bath. It’s not a frigid ice bath, as that level of cold causes solid clumps to form on the bottom faster than I could work them into the rest of the mixture. It’s just cool water, with one or two ice cubes. Things don’t move as quickly, but it’s far less stressful and I was able to pour the evenly thickened liquid balm into jars instead of mashing around a semi-solid mixture of dubious uniformity. Hooray!
The finished Extra Creamy Green Clay Cleansing Balm is soft and creamy, melting down into a slippy oil in no time. It rinses off the skin beautifully, leaving it feeling soft and clean. Parfait!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Emulsifying Wax NF in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Fractionated coconut oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Castor Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Stearic Acid in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cetyl Alcohol in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- French Green Clay in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- All-Purpose Scale in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Jar/Icing Spatulas in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- How to Scale Any Recipe (how to percentage-ify a formulation)
- More cleansing balm formulations:
Extra Creamy Green Clay Cleansing Balm
10g | 10% Emulsifying Wax NF (USA / Canada / AU)
50g | 50% fractionated coconut oil
10g | 10% castor oil (USA / Canada)
19.2g | 19.2% stearic acid (USA / Canada / UK)
5g | 5% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
5g | 5% French green clay
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 phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker; I prefer a measuring cup for the higher heat capacity/slower cooling. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
While the heated phase melts, prepare a cool water bath. Take a bowl that is large enough to accommodate the container the heated phase is melting in, and fill it about halfway with cold water and an ice cube. We’re aiming for just cool (not nearly freezing) water as we don’t want the balm to cool too quickly or it can get clumpy/lumpy.
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 dishtowel. Set the measuring cup on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything.
Place the measuring cup containing the heated phase into the ice bath and cool, stirring constantly, for a minute or two—until you can touch the measuring cup to your wrist and it’s not hot. Remove the container from the water bath and add the cool down phase. Stir to incorporate.
Continue stirring the mixture in the cool water bath (adding another ice cube or two as needed) until you reach a fairly thick “trace”. Pay attention; when you notice some soft solid bits coming up on the spatula when you stir across the bottom of the measuring cup, pull it out of the water bath and stir stir stir to blend those soft solids into the overall mixture to avoid clumping. You’ll know you’ve reached trace when the mixture has enough viscosity that a small amount drizzled over the surface of the mixture leaves a 3D “trace” for a moment. The mixture should appear opaque. Refer to the video to see it in action! This part can be a bit tricky as too much viscosity will mean the batter won’t pour into the container nicely, so be careful and make sure your packing is standing by.
Once you reach trace you can now pour the product into its container; I used two 50mL (1.69fl oz) plastic jars from YellowBee (gifted). Carefully transfer the jars to the fridge to fully to set up. Once the formulation has chilled through, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
To use, massage a small amount of the product into dry skin. Wet your hands, and massage your face again; you’ll notice the balm transforming into a creamy milk! Wipe the product off with a damp cloth, and that’s it.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this cleansing balm does not contain any water, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Be sure to keep it dry to ensure it lasts as long as possible—don’t let any water get into the container and it should easily last a year (use a dry finger or popsicle stick to dip into the container). If you plan on giving this cleansing balm away or taking it into the shower/bath with you, please include 0.5% liquid germall plus (USA / Canada). Though this preservative is water-soluble, this cleansing balm contains emulsifiers so it will emulsify, and because it is water-soluble it’ll be in the right phase if the balm gets contaminated with water.
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 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 please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You can try a different complete thickening emulsifying wax, like Polawax or Olivem 1000, instead of Emulsifying Wax NF.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of fractionated coconut oil. You could also replace the castor oil with more fractionated coconut oil or a different lightweight liquid oil. I recommend sticking to liquid oils so the melting point of the product stays roughly the same.
- You can try Cetearyl Alcohol to replace the blend of Cetyl Alcohol and Stearic Acid, but you will likely have to do a bit of re-development work to get the melting point just right. I do not recommend using just Cetyl Alcohol or Stearic Acid as their consistencies are very different when used alone.
- You could use a different soft, silky clay (other French clays, Zeolite, kaolin) instead of French green clay. I don’t recommend rhassoul or bentonite as the consistency is very different.
- If you’d like to use an essential oil instead of the fragrance oil I used, please read this.
- If you’d like to use a different fragrance oil, please read this.
- If you want to use this to remove eye makeup, please replace the fragrance oil with more fractionated coconut oil.