diy formulation educational series – cleansing balms

welcome back! today we’re formulating cleansing balms! cleansing balms are pretty neat. they’re like cleansing oils, but are more solid and contain both an emulsifier and a surfactant. that means they’re also different from micellar water, which can pull hydration OUT of your skin (and they aren’t the best cleansers, since you’re not washing the emulsifier containing the gunk off your face).

as always, NONE of the links provided are affiliates. i do not benefit in any way, i’m just trying to point you to reputable suppliers that i personally use if you want to try to DIY these.

there are some oils listed in the “inspiration formulas” that i do not believe belong on your face, either due to comedogenic rating and/or high oleic acid content, but everyone’s skin is different. for that reason, the formulations will be listed as close to the original as possible and i will note which ones i do not prefer. education is key, so do some research – it’s the second most fun part, other than blending 😉

please always check herb and essential oil use with your local herbalist and aromatherapist before use, no matter how ‘innocent’ they seem. for example, ylang-ylang EO is commonly used, but you should avoid it during pregnancy.



here are 2 cleansing balms that you can DIY at home, while controlling what oils and butters are best for your skin.

disclaimer: you technically do not need a preservative in these since they’re anhydrous, but i highly suggest one because there’s a high risk of water contamination. i usually love using aspen bark extract, but since it’s water-soluble, let’s try using elderberry extract at a max 5% instead, as it’s oil-soluble.

remember one aspect of a cleansing balm is that it contains a surfactant, aka the dirt remover. the names of them can look “scary” but they realistically are not. they’re also typically used around a 1% to 6% contribution, so overall very low. if you choose to not add these, as some companies do, that’s totally fine, but they will not by definition be a “true” cleansing balm.

please note that castile soap is not an acceptable surfactant for your face skin.



organic avocado oil, organic coconut oil, organic olive leaf oil, organic olive oil, organic beeswax, blood orange essential oil, polyglyceryl-3 palmitate


we’re not putting the highly comedogenic coconut oil on our faces, so we’ll substitute with tucuma butter.  tucuma butter is a nice emollient high in lauric acid and low in oleic acid. it is a palm oil (astrocaryum vulgare), but not the palm oil you’re thinking of, which is elaeis guineensis. moving along – i had trouble understanding what they meant by olive ‘leaf’ oil, as there’s no such thing; you’d have to extract it IN oil. i don’t think they’re using olive leaf extracted in oil, as it’s an extremely potent herbal ‘medicine’ and should not be used liberally. beeswax is entirely too occlusive for a rinse-off product, so we’ll swap it out and use a higher concentration of butter. and see the polyglyceryl-3 palmitate? they use it as their surfactant. it’s typically used at 3 to 6%. for this formula we will opt for a better, in my opinion, surfactant called caprylyl/capryl glucoside. this is also a solubilizer (surfactant that’s a dispersing agent/stabilizer for oils in water). win. it’s vegetable-derived.

lastly, let’s use the rule of thumb that essential oils for topical use really should not exceed 0.5% to 2%, depending on which EO it is. citrus oils can be phototoxic, so take that into consideration, although this is a rinse-off product. i’m assuming they used it at 2% for fragrance since it’s on the label, even though it could be a potential irritant for some people.


no coconut oil. no beeswax. substitute butter. swap pg3p surfactant for c/c glucoside.

diy formula:




Astrocaryum murumuru butter, Helianthus annuus oil*, Camellia oleifera oil*, Passiflora incarnata oil*, Orbignya oleifera oil, Decyl glucoside, Cetearyl olivate + Sorbitan olivate, Mangifera indica butter*,Ricinus communis seed oil*, Theobromo grandiflorum butter, Annuus seed oil + Terminalia ferdinandiana fruit extract, Annuus seed oil + Victoria amazonica extract, Annuus seed oil + Rosa-sinensis, Annuus seed oil + Salix alba bark extracta, Nigella sativa oil, Benzyl Alcohol, Pelargonium graveolens oil, Citrus aurantium amara oil, Brassica napus oil Rosmarinus officinalis extract, Cananga odorata oil, Rosmarinus officinalis oil, Cinnamomum camphor linalol, Citrus.aurantium bergamia FCF oil

murumuru butter, sunflower seed oil, camellia seed oil, passionfruit seed oil, babassu oil, decyl glucoside, cetearyl olivate + sorbitan olivate, mango seed butter, castor oil, cupuacu butter, kakadu plum infused in sunflower seed oil, hibiscus-infused sunflower seed oil, white willow bark infused sunflower seed oil, black cumin oil, benzyl alcohol, geranium EO, neroli EO, rapeseed/canola oil, rosemary EO, ylang ylang EO, camphor EO, bergamot EO


i would sadly not use this on blemish-prone skin, due to the high oleic acid components of mango seed butter and cupuacu butter.

what is confusing to me is kakadu plum, hibiscus, and white willow bark all have water– and alcohol-soluble compounds. ex – the salicylic acid component of white willow bark is not oil-soluble. seeing there is no water or alcohol in this formula, i’m honestly not sure what good these “extracts” are doing being infused into sunflower seed oil. if anyone has more insight, please share, because i’m always down to learn more about herbalism!

decyl glucoside is a surfactant with an entirely too high pH, and i don’t see any pH adjusters listed in this formula. we’ll swap it out for the more suitable c/c glucoside. also, cetearyl olivate + sorbitan olivate is a product known as Olivem 1000, and is an emulsifier. in high viscous formulations, like this one, the manufacturer suggestion is a 7-8% use, but we can use it at 5% for a waterless balm. i see benzyl alcohol, which i believe they’re using as a preservative. let’s swap it out for a gentler, oil-soluble one – elderberry extract. lastly, this balm has an involved EO blend that may smell wonderful, but some are phototoxic, so we’ll adjust slightly.


swap the surfactant. swap the preservative. take out the rapeseed oil (why is this even in here?).

diy formula:

the original is beautiful melty and silky consistency, so let’s assume a more balanced ratio of 50% butter, 50% oils. you may need to play around with the formula to get the texture you prefer.

have these given you any ideas of one you want to make for yourself?


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alexraye //

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