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March 06, 2019 6 min read

DIY Facial Cleansers

For many, cleansing your face of the night's sleepiness or the day's sweat and stress is an important self-care ritual. In this week's blog we delve into facial cleansers and how you can make natural ingredients work in wonderful ways.

We have previously covered oil cleansing, but there are other cleansers that come in the form of cleansing balms, cream cleansers and liquid washes. In this blog we will cover them all, and it's jam packed with recipes that we have tried and tested ourselves. Facial cleansers are easily customisable and you can even add in apricot kernel grounds to make them exfoliating. These are all 100% natural, biodegradable and friendly on the face as well as the planet.

Lately I’ve been fascinated with surfactants (naturally-derived ones of course) and all the things you can do with them. Simply put, surfactants are foamy cleansers, and they have a huge variety of applications. They are added to shampoos, cleaning agents, cleansers, body washes, hand soaps, you name it. They provide creamy bubbles and a cleansing action. Some can however, have a high pH which you don’t want to use on delicate facial skin (or if you do use them, tone down the pH with something acidic such as citric acid or Vitamin C powder), so you need to keep a beady eye out for which ones you are incorporating into your formula. Stick to ultra gentle cocamidopropyl betaine, coco glucoside (blended with the betaine) and OliveM300 for use on your face. There are other mild and pH gentle surfactants but they are almost impossible to get in South Africa unless you import them in bulk from overseas.  In the recipes below we make sure to only use readily available surfactants that are very gentle, so you don’t need to worry about sourcing ingredients.

Here we lay out cleanser recipes for all DIY levels, beginners to more advanced. From easy oatmeal scrubs to cleansers with a more 'professional' feel, we've got you covered in the clean face department.

Probably the easiest cleanser, especially for very sensitive skin types, is to simply use oat flour mixed with powdered green tea leaves. Oats have a natural lather and gentle exfoliation action and are perfect for ultra sensitive skins.

Oatmeal Scubby Cleanser

¼ c oat flour (a natural creamy cleanser when combined with water, and a gentle exfoliant)

2 tsp powdered green tea (a skin toner, cell regenerator and full of antioxidants)

Blend the oats and the green tea together and store in a glass jar. To use, scoop out a teaspoon into the palm of your hand, wet your other hand and drip some water onto the oat mixture. Rub together to lather up and massage into your skin. Then rinse off and apply moisturiser as usual. Your skin will feel soft, smooth and awake!

Here is a simple cleansing recipe using mild castile soap as the surfactant. You can easily substitute in any other oils (jojoba and moringa are nice) in place of the almond oil, or add in aloe vera instead of the tea. Alternatively, you can use another herbal tea solution.  Please note that this cleanser doesn’t contain a preservative so use it up within a few weeks.

Chamomile and Castile Facial Cleanser

¾ c brewed chamomile tea

⅛ tsp (just the smallest pinch) citric acid (to bring down the pH of the castile soap)

¼  c liquid castile soap(a very gentle soap but still has a pH of around 9)

½  tsp almond oil

2 -3 drops vitamin E oil (optional)

8 drops frankincense essential oilor any other essential oil of your choosing

8 drops lavender essential oil or any other essential oil of your choosing

Add the citric acid to the chamomile tea, stir to dissolve and leave to cool. Add the castile soap, almond oil and vitamin E oil to a glass bottle. Lastly, add the essential oils and top the bottle up with the cooled tea solution. Shake gently to combine. To use, wet your face with water, pump out some of the cleanser and massage into your skin for about a minute. Then rinse off and follow up with your favourite moisturiser or serum.

Creamy Honey Cleanser

Gently exfoliating, pore refining and brightening from the honey, this cleanser is packed with skin-loving ingredients.

4 T pure shea butter

½ c liquid castile soap

1 tsp raw honey

3 tsp aloe vera gel

3 tsp argan oil

½ tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp vegetable glycerin

7 drops tea tree essential oil

7 drops lavender essential oil

7 drops geranium essential oil

1 T oat flour (optional but I love it!)

Pump bottle

Melt the shea butter, then stir in the honey, aloe vera, argan oil and glycerine. Add in the xanthan gum and oat flour and blend well to fully incorporate. Lastly pour in the castile soap. Blend with an immersion/stick blender for a minute or two to fully mix up. Then add your essential oils and pour into a pump bottle. To use, massage into a damp face and rinse off.


If you want to cheat and make a super easy cream cleanser, you can actually take a cream you already have, or better yet whip one up yourself, and add some extra liquid and a surfactant to it. Because that’s essentially what a cream cleanser is, runny cream plus a cleansing agent. I tried adding some extra water and a teaspoon of castile soap to a dollop of thick body cream and it worked perfectly fine. You will achieve even better results by adding cocamidopropyl betaine to it rather than castile soap. Depending on the amount of cream you start off with, I would use 1 g of coco betaine per tablespoon of cream. Add the betaine to 2 tablespoons of water, then blend with the cream. Adjust to your likeing if necessary by adding more water or betaine for extra foam action.


Gel cleansers are fun to make and lightweight to use. This cleanser is ultra gentle, incorporating coco glucoside and betaine as surfactants, glycerine for moisture as well as a lovely hydrosol.

Geranium Gel Cleanser

5g vegetable glycerin

1.25g carrageen / Irish moss or try guar or xanthan gum  (just allow for a longer thickening up time)

0.5g coco glucoside

1g cocamidopropyl betaine

7.5g geranium hydrosol

34.5g distilled water

0.25g geogard 221 or Euxyl 940 blend

If you are using the Irish moss, make the gel by soaking it for a few hours or overnight until the moss has absorbed some water then blending it to a smooth gel. If you are using guar or xanthan gum, add it to the glycerine, stir well to incorporate and then leave it for 10-15 minutes to thicken up while you prepare the other ingredients.

Weigh the coco glucoside and betaine, water, preservative and hydrosol out and blend together. Then add this water mixture bit by bit to the glycerine gum mixture, stirring very well in between additions. Finally, pour your gel cleanser into a glass jar. To use, take out a small amount with your fingers, wet your hands and rub together to lather up, then apply to your face. Rinse off and apply moisturiser as usual.


Cleansing balms are more oil based but contain OliveM 300 which adds a gentle solubilising action for when combined with water. This easily rinses off, leaving your skin feeling fresh, clean and moisturised.

Minty Fresh Cleansing Balm

Heated phase

3g Eco E emulsifying wax or Polawax

2g OliveM300

31g fractionated coconut oil

8g castor oil

1.65g cetyl alcohol

3.85 stearic acid

Cool down phase

0.25g vitamin E oil

2 drops eucalyptus essential oil

4 drops peppermint essential oil

Prepare a water bath and melt all the Heated Phase ingredients together. It might take about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through to make sure everything is blended together. Then leave the mixture to cool down slightly for about 10 minutes. Add in the Cool Down Phase ingredients and stir well. You can pop the mixture in the fridge to help the cooling process, taking it out to stir every now and then. Pour the balm into a pump bottle or a recycled tube. To use, take out a small amount, spread it on your wet hands and rub together. Then massage onto your face and rinse.


Something fun to finish off with is a cleansing mud mousse! In the old days (and sometimes still today), people would use clay as soap. To read up more about clays and their unique properties, go to our previous blog here. This cleansing mouse has a gentle chemical exfoliation action as well as Vitamin C, clays and herbs with many skin-loving properties

Cleansing Mud Tub

1 tbsp kaolin clay

1 tbsp rhassoul clay

1 tsp Himalayan salt (optional)

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp vitamin C powder

½ tsp dried marshmallow root powder

½ tsp dried calendula petals

½ tsp dried rose petals

Pinch of  ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground turmeric

Add everything to a blender or coffee grinder and blend well. Decant the mixture into a glass jar. To use, spoon about half a teaspoon into your palm and add water until you have a thick, frothy, mousse-like paste. The baking soda and vitamin C will create a reaction that will make the mixture froth when water is added - so make sure you don’t get any water into the jar of clay mixture! Massage the mousse into your skin then rinse off and apply a moisturiser.


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