How to formulate a Face Wash – with Recipe

Now that we have studied the theory of Surfactants (here and here) and we have the values of some of them it is time to finally formulate! 😀

The recipe of today is for a very delicate Face Wash which helped me when I used to suffer of a mild but annoying and constant (meaning that my skin wasn’t covered in pimples completely but I did have a few all the time and this lasted over two years) form of acne. I should make a post about this! I used to be quite aggressive with my skin: I was scrubbing, using alcoholic toners, applying aggressive creams… but nothing was helping (on the contrary…).
Then one day I decided to give a break to my skin, I stopped scrubbing crazily, I stopped attacking my skin and I started concentrating on eating more healthy food and… TADAAA it did the trick 😀 I simply found out that all my skin needed was to be treated gently.

DIY Face Wash - Recipe

This is how the formulation was done:

I wanted a very gentle face wash, so I opted for a 6.5% ASM (if you don’t know what I am talking about, just go here)
I also wanted the surfactants to be gentle so I chose the surfactants accordingly:
– Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (anionic – ASM 29%) (this would be the “first surfactant”, the one in higher amount in the recipe)
– Cocamidopropyl Betaine (amphoteric – ASM 32%) (I picked it because, when combined with other surfactants, specially with an anionic one, it makes it more gentle)
– Lauryl Glucoside (non-ionic – ASM 52%) (I decided to add this one, even though in very low percentage, because I like to use all the three kinds of surfactants in my detergent. I feel the result is more balanced and complete).
– Coco Glucoside and Glyceryl Oleate (non-ionic – ASM 55% but refatted by the glyceryl oleate so the result is extremely mild)

I tried with these values:
Sarcosinate 10
Betaine 6
Lauryl Glucoside 3

The calculation to see what kind of ASM I would obtain with such values is here:
Sarcosinate : 10*0.29 = 2.9
Betaine 6*0.32 = 1.92
Lauryl Glucoside 3*0.52 = 1.56
Total : 6.38

6.38% is the total ASM of our face wash and, having planned to make it 6.5, I am satisfied so these are the surfactants I have chosen and their percentage in the recipe! 🙂

Now to the overall formulation of the detergent [If this is the first post you read, notice that my recipe is in grams and the value next to each ingredient is the ingredient value “percent”; “water to 100” means that the water added to this recipe is 100 minus the sum of all the amount of the other ingredients]


Phase A: 
Water to 100 (explanation HERE)
Glycerin 3 
Xanthan Gum 0.5 (I always like to add xanthan gum when using sarcosinate because the chances it becomes too liquid are very high. Of course if you don’t have xanthan gum or if you don’t mind washing your face with water-liquid detergent… you can feel free to omit this ingredient!) 🙂
Preservative (water-soluble!) 0.6 (this is the amount % I have to use of my water-soluble preservative: you add the amount needed with the kind of preservative you are using 🙂 some need to be added up to 1%, some at 0.4%… so add enough of what you use! 🙂 )

Phase B:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate 10 
Lauryl Glucoside 2 
2 drops Lavender EO 
2 drops Sage EO 

Phase C:
Betaine 6 

Check the pH and adjust to pH 5, using few drops of lactic acid or citric acid solution 🙂 (this is to make the Sarcosinate become dense 😉 )
If you want you can add one drop of water-soluble food coloring! Just to make it more fun 🙂

In the becher of Phase A add glycerin and xanthan gum. When the xanthan gum looks hydrated add slowly all the water and the preservative. Set aside.
In the becher of Phase B add the first two surfactants and mix very well (Lauryl Glucoside is dense at room temperature so microwave it for few seconds until it becomes more liquid and then add it to the Sarcosinate). Add two drops of lavender essential oil and two drops of sage essential oil. Mix slowly in order to not create any bubbles.
Now it is time to add Phase A to Phase B, pouring and mixing slowly until everything looks smooth and even.
The Betaine is left in the end because if added too early it might cause the other surfactants to “melt down”, adding it in the end sometimes works in keeping the detergent more firm… doesn’t always work with me though 😀 but I don’t mind that much! 🙂 ).

Now it is time to check the pH of your face wash.
Lower it to pH 5 using one drop at a time of lactic acid or citric acid solution (do it one drop at a time and check the pH often, because if it goes lower than 5 the Sarcosinate won’t become dense at all anymore) 🙂

For the final touch, if you like, you can add one or two drops of water-soluble food colorants 🙂

DIY face wash

Your Face Wash is done 😉

For more recipes click HERE 
To learn how to formulate cosmetics click HERE
For a list of online cosmetic ingredients suppliers click HERE 

Let me know if you have any question… and please send me a picture of your face wash if you try to make it!!! 🙂 I am very curious 🙂

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

30 thoughts on “How to formulate a Face Wash – with Recipe”

  1. I’ve made this recipe a few times and I love it. I follow your instructions carefully, but the only thing I have trouble with is the xantham gum clumps like crazy when I add it to the glycerin. What is your method for getting rid of the clumps? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! After you add the xanthan to the glycerin you should stir until it makes a thick paste, then add a little water and stir, let it become a hard gel and add a little more water. Eventually it becomes smooth, but it does form clumps if you add the water all at once or too much at a time!
      Hope this helps 🙂


  2. I really enjoy your blog because it is so didactic and clear! I just have one specific question: did you use the coco glucoside and glyceryl oleate in this recipe? Because they are listed among the surfactants but not included in the formulation. Also the concentration of lauryl glucoside is 3% in the ASM calculation, then changes to 2% in the recipe. Did I miss something? Thanks a lot!


    1. Hello Fernanda!
      Thank you for the comment. I wrote 2 by mistake and there was 1% of the pre-combined coco glucoside and glyceryl oleate. It doesn’t enter the ASM calculation because it is already superfatted. 🙂
      I will adjust the formula, thank you!


  3. Can I replace Lauryl Glucoside with something else? Can’t find it in my country 😢


  4. I used coco glucoside, and decyl glucoside with oils but i noticed that they surfactants separated from the oil. How can i stop my oils separating from they these two surfactants ?


    1. Then you put too much oil. It needs a very small amount!
      You measure the surfactants and add the oils directly to the surfactants. It might be helpful to heat up the mixture a little.
      However you can start adding 0.5% oils and if it is still too aggressive the next time you try adding 1%…
      However, IF separation happens you can still use the detergent, it just won’t be good looking.
      Make a very small batch (100 grams or 200 max) so you can improve your formula easily each time around! 🙂


  5. Hi

    Thank you so much for your site.. it’s been so helpful to me…,
    In a previous post you mentioned the ASM for intament care detergent/for personal hygiene should be 5, then on the next post you said


    1. Hi Adrianna I didn’t understand 🙂
      Do you mean intimate detergent (for lady parts)?
      Anyway the ASM is just “ideal” around 5. What is important is that the detergent is very very mild, even milder than a face wash 🙂


      1. Hiii .. omg … thank you for responding
        Yes, I was referring to lady parts😜
        Ok.. so ASM should be ideally around 5
        What mild, ecocert surfactants could you reccomend…


      2. Hi

        Hope you are having a great day
        … can you recommend a mild surfactant or surfactants that are great for a diy feminine wash for the the lady parts
        On my previous post u said the ASM should be ideally 5 …


      3. Hi Adrianna, i’m not the blog owner, but you can register an account with Ulprospector with a customised email (as long as it’s not a common one, such as gmail or hotmail) to look at the supplier formulas. You can search under the keywords “Intimate Hygiene”. Seppic has a small range of surfactant you can try out that are mild for intimate hygiene, but i’m not sure if they are ecocert. Please refer to the supplier info there.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hi Adrianna! I can tell you which surfactants I have seen used a lot: in the “organic” range I have seen glucosides used really a lot. Of course you can find also products with SLES and CAPB in low concentration but I don’t think it is a great combination. The ones I have formulated had a low concentration of decyl and lauryl glucosides. Nothing special nor fancy 🙂
        Not sure are these ecocert but it should be easy to check! 🙂
        It is a very common product in the country I live in. I don’t know if this is your case as well but my suggestion is: find a commercial product which you like and then, using the INCI as a guideline, try formulating your own using the same ingredient if possible. That’s what I do when I start formulating something I have never formulated before 🙂

        Ps. There are new surfs created every year and I haven’t tried formulating with all of them, so it is difficult to suggest you which surfs to use 🙂 there are many which I have seen used and I know are considered “mild” but I have never tried them. 🙂 Anyway surfs are usually not difficult to use, so you could try even an ingredient which I haven’t before!


    1. Read my post about formulati g with surfactants: you will find out that substitutions are always possible BUT the end product will be different. To make effective substitutions (which means substitutions to get a similar product) you need to do a lot of trial and error and you would have to be able to compare with the original… But I don’t think this is at all necessary in this situation.
      So the answer is: yes you can, but read the post on surfactants because you will have to change the quantities (SCI for example is usually in powder form so it is 100% of product, while the SLES I use is around 30%)


  6. Hi, i was wondering if i want to create a mild foaming cleanser with PROTEOL APL (Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids from Seppic), how should i still follow the Active Surfactant Matter that you mentioned? The brochure only mentioned it having a dry extract of 28% – 32%, usage at 3% – 10%. Also if you recommend me using it as a primary surfactant or should i add another surfactant or solvent?


    1. Hello Jeremeow,
      You can try using it as a primary surfactant but I do suggest you add other surfactants as well.
      The dry matter is the active matter and being between 28% and 32% you can make the calculations considering it is a 30% active matter.
      With surfactants it is all about trial and error: I have never tried this surfactant so I cannot tell you if it is mild or aggressive, if it is thick or thin, if it makes a lot of bubbles or only a small amount… I really have no idea, so try making a simple cleanser with this and then tweak the formula according to your needs! 🙂
      The good thing with surfactants is that it is pretty simple to make small amounts, so start by making a maximum of 100 grams so if you don’t like it, it is very easy to use it up fast and tweak the formula for then next time!


      1. Thanks for the reply.

        I was searching and i saw that Seppic had some sample formulas where they have the Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids with a solvent (ORAMIX™ CG110, INCI: Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside) in a formula named Micellar Lotion for Teenagers Blemished Skin at 3% & 1% respectively. I guess it would be a good gauge.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Is it possible to add chemical exfoliant to this? Like lactic acid? If yes, at what point? ofcourse i know ph is important here.


    1. A face wash needs to be at a pH which is ok for the eyes. The eyes are fine at pH 6.5-7.5
      You can add a small amount of lactic acid if the starting pH is very high, to lower the pH to neutral… Of course doing so won’t make the lactic acid have ANY exfoliating properties.
      I wouldn’t suggest making exfoliating face washes. Make a toner, make a serum, but a detergent is not the smartest idea.
      Btw many surfactants might not be stable at the low pH needed for the lactic acid to have its exfoliating properties.


  8. Hi, I love your formula, its really good. However, mine will lose its viscosity after a few hours. I dont understand what went wrong. Could it be beacuse i use different EO? I used damask rose and sweet orange EO, i love the combination.


  9. Hi, i really like this formula but I can’t seem to find Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate anywhere online to buy. What would you recommend as the best anionic substitute that could be mixed in the same ratio as this?


    1. I have grown to not really enjoy sarcosinate that much anymore… I like sodium lauroyl glutamate more or disodium laureth sulfosuccinate. Concentration can be kept the same as the surfactant matter is around 30% for both.


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