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    February 11, 2021 3 min read

    DIY Gel Creams


    Gel creams seem to be all the rage right now and for good reason: they are wonderfully lightweight, non-greasy, good-for-the-skin gel-like creams. What’s not to love!


    There are various ways to make a gel cream from scratch, many of which employ a gelling agent which also has emulsifying properties. Unfortunately we don’t have easy access to these fancy gelling agents in South Africa so we must find another way to overcome this. Let’s take a deeper look.


    Gel creams, by their nature, have characteristics of both gels and creams. Gels are made by combining a gelling agent such as a gum or HEC with water, and creams are emulsions using oil, water and an emulsifier. So how can we combine the two?


    The answer lies in the common denominator, water. By replacing the water component in the emulsion with gel, we are still getting all our water in, just in gel form. You end up with a light and non-greasy gel-like cream that is perfect for face or body. Gel creams are my go-to when making a lightweight facial moisturiser or day cream. 


    The Gel Part

    If you are new to gels, please read Fun With Plant Based Gels for info and instructions on how to make up your gel. There are various gels to choose from but the two that are preferable for gel creams are xanthan gum and/or hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC). 


    An  HEC based gel cream gives an exceptionally lightweight, barely-there skin feel. It is non-greasy and ultra quick absorbing.


    xanthan gum based gel cream gives a very moisturising skin feel due to the xanthan gum, but at the same time it also makes a fast absorbing cream. Xanthan gel creams have great spreadability so a little goes quite a long way.


    You could combine the two gels and use both in the formula if you like.


    I prefer to make up the gels beforehand, and then use ready-made gel in the formula. 

    Tip: if you want to jazz up your gels for additional skin benefits you can replace some or all of the water component with a hydrosol or botanical infusion.



    The great thing about using a gel in an emulsion is that gels, by their nature, act as stabilisers and thickeners so you never have to worry about separation in your emulsion, or using an extra thickener.


    Below is a basic gel cream recipe which uses only the very key components necessary - just four ingredients. Feel free to customise it by choosing your favourite oil(s), making the gel out of botanical infusions or even a hydrosol, or adding in essential oils or other ‘extras’.


    I don’t find it necessary to use vegetable glycerine in these formulas, as there is glycerine in the gels already.



    Basic Gel Cream Recipe #1


    Heated oil phase

    14.5%  carrier oil of choice

    7% Eco E wax

     

    Heated aqueous phase

    77%  ready made gel


    Cool down phase

    1% Geogard 221


    As always, sterilise all utensils before you use them. Melt the emulsifying wax and the oil gently but thoroughly in a water bath. Gently warm the gel. Slowly blend the gel and the oil phase together using the blend-cool-blend cycle. When the gel cream is made and cooled, blend in some essential oils if desired, and the preservative. Pour into a jar and store in a cool place.







    You can play around with the ingredient amounts quite a bit, as gel creams are very stable. Try using less oil and more gel, or even adding in some extra water or a hydrosol to alter the consistency and skin feel a little - there is lots of room to play! In this formula we used less oil and emulsifying wax and added in some water. It yields a very lightweight cream that would make an ideal base for makeup or as an initial moisturiser.


    Basic Gel Cream Recipe #2


    Heated oil phase

    9%  carrier oil of choice

    4.5% Eco E wax

     

    Heated aqueous phase

    76% ready made gel - can use a combo both types of gel if you wish

    9% water

     

    Cool down phase

    1% Geogard 221

    As always, sterilise all utensils before you use them. Melt the emulsifying wax and the oil gently but thoroughly in a water bath. Gently warm the gel. Slowly blend the gel and the oil phase together using the blend-cool-blend cycle. Add in the water and blend. When the gel cream is made and cooled, blend in some essential oils if desired, and the preservative. Pour into a jar and store in a cool place.


    Gel creams are great fun and simple to make, and they are amazing for skin. We are sure you will absolutely love them!


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