This DIY cleansing milk recipe is the perfect homemade facial cleanser for dry, sensitive, and mature skin. The milk cleanser is incredibly gentle and has a luxurious texture. The product melts away make up and will leave your skin feeling moisturized and nourished.
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The best cleansing milk recipe
A few months ago, our lovely reader Dawn asked for a gentle cleanser recipe for sensitive and mature skin. I’m happy to comply with Dawn’s request and share this mild DIY milk cleanser recipe.
This milky cleansing lotion is an excellent DIY cleanser for mature, dry, sensitive, and normal skin. It cleanses and moisturizes in a single step and won’t leave your skin feeling tight or stripped.
The post is a bit lengthy as I wanted to create an in-depth resource with all details on how to make and use homemade cleansing milk and the benefits this nourishing cleanser has to offer.
The problem with many cleansers
Do you know that dry, itchy feeling after using a facial cleanser? It’s an indication that the cleanser is too harsh. Too harsh means that the cleanser is removing more than it should. What does that mean?
In theory, a cleanser should only remove excess oils and sebum plus the dirt and grime of the day.
But harsh cleanser will also strip the skin of its good oils and natural moisture. The repeated use of harsh face cleansers will disrupt and weaken the skin barrier, which can lead to irritation, itchiness, redness, dryness, and skin sensitivity.
Why are some cleansers too harsh? That usually depends on the type of cleansing agent, the surfactant. Sulfates, which are often used in cleansers and shampoos, can be extremely harsh on sensitive and dry skin and strip the skin of its natural sebum layer.
Not so this homemade cleansing milk!
What is cleansing milk?
Cleansing milk is a liquid face cleanser and has a milky texture and appearance. This type of cleanser is incredibly lightweight and gentle yet still highly effective to free your face from grime, sweat, + makeup and helps to keep the skin free of impurities.
Formulation-wise, cleansing milk is an emulsion. The skincare product is made by combining a water phase (= the water-soluble ingredients) with an oil phase (= the oil-soluble ingredients) with the help of an emulsifying agent.
How does cleansing milk work?
As I mentioned, cleansing milk is a water-oil emulsion. The oil part attracts skin oils, sweat, and make up, and the water part makes it possible to wash this stuff away.
Cleansing milk benefits
Now that we know what cleansing milk is and how this DIY face cleanser works, let’s recap the benefits of cleansing milk:
- Gentle: Cleansing milk is formulated with mild ingredients and cleanses gently.
- Non-drying: The hydrating formula ensures that your skin feels moisturized and doesn’t dry out.
- Soothing: If conventional face cleansers cause irritation, you’d be pleased to know that my milky cleanser is calming and soothing.
- Nourishing: This homemade cleansing milk doesn’t strip the skin. Instead, it contains emollient + refatting ingredients that leave your face feeling soft and refreshed.
DIY cleansing milk ingredients
This homemade milk cleanser recipe has all kinds of good-for-you materials in it. The key ingredients that make this DIY milk cleanser so gentle and nourishing are:
- Distilled water acts as a solvent for the other ingredients and provides moisture. If distilled water isn’t available, use boiled, cooled bottled water.
- Jojoba oil mimics the natural oils in human skin (sebum) and is an excellent ingredient to support skin health. The oil helps to maintain moisture, and its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe various skin ailments. Despite the name, jojoba oil is a liquid plant wax and is considered non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t clog pores. You can sub jojoba oil with another liquid plant oil if preferred.
- Phytoelastin (optional), a plant version of elastin, helps to moisturize, revitalize, and nourish the skin and improve fine lines and wrinkles.
- Glycerin is a moisturizer and pulls water into the skin. It also helps to dissolve the xanthan gum.
- Xanthan gum helps to thicken and stabilize the formula.
- Montanov 68 is the emulsifier and ensures that the oil and water phases bind and stay together. The ingredient also creates luxurious creaminess, reduces transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and has excellent refatting qualities.
- Sucrose Cocoate is an ultra-mild, ECOCERT-approved surfactant and refatting agent made from sugar beets and coconut oil. The ingredient provides a gentle cleansing action and has an emollient effect.
- Lactic acid is required to adjust the pH of the cleanser. The pH of this DIY cleansing milk ranges between 4.5 to 5.5, which is in harmony with the pH of our skin.
- Preservative: We need a preservative to protect our water-based cleansing milk from mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms. I used Preservative Eco (Geogard ECT), which is an eco-friendly preservative.
Herb-infused jojoba oil
If you want to further increase the skincare benefits of the cleanser, infuse the jojoba oil with herbs. Try one of these ideas:
- cornflower infused oil
- elderflower infused oil
- lavender-infused oil
- dandelion infused oil (from Everything Pretty)
- calendula infused oil (via A Life Adjacent)
- plantain infused oil (by Soap Deli News)
As I mentioned, you may substitute the jojoba oil for any other liquid oil you like or have available.
What is PhytoElastin?
Elastin is one of the most abundant proteins in the skin and body. It provides structure, and elasticity, making the skin looking youthful and plump. Unfortunately, elastin decreases with age, which reduces elasticity and leads to fine lines and wrinkles.
Including products with elastin in your skincare can help to lessen and delay signs of premature skin aging.
Elastin is often sourced from fish. You can use regular elastin if your cleansing milk doesn’t need to be vegan or vegetarian.
In case you prefer vegan cleansing milk, try this plant-based elastin (PhytoElastin), which is derived from yeast.
Another idea is to prepare the cleansing milk with hydrolyzed oat protein, which helps retain moisture and imparts a soft, velvety skin feel. Rich in amino acids, it also replenishes your skin with essential nutrients.
Of course, you can also skip this ingredient – the cleansing milk will still turn out beautifully.
Where to buy sucrose cocoate
Sucrose cocoate is sometimes called Sanfttensid and available at the following shops:
- US: Making Cosmetics and Formulator Sample Shop
- Europe: Alexmo Cosmetics, Skin Chakra
- Australia: Escentials of Australia
How to make cleansing milk
Making an emulsion can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but the process is easier than you might think. I’ve broken it down step by step to ensure your DIY cleansing milk turns out perfect.
Step 1: Cooldown phase
- Add the glycerin into a small beaker or glass.
- Sprinkle the xanthan gum overtop and incorporate with a milk frother or until the xanthan gum has completely dissolved. The mixture will look cloudy, and no traces of dry powder should be visible.
- Add the PhytoElastin/elastin (if using) and incorporate. Set aside.
Step 2: Water phase
- Add the distilled water and sucrose cocoate into a heatproof glass beaker or glass jar.
Step 3: Oil phase
- Add the jojoba oil and Montanov 68 into a separate glass beaker or jar.
Step 4: Warm the oil and water phases
- In a large pot, bring water to a mild simmer (barely any bubbles or steam). Maintain the soft simmer and reduce the heat if necessary (the water must not be boiling).
- Place both beakers into the water bath and heat until the Montanov 68 has melted. Stir occasionally to help along the melting process.
Step 5: Create the emulsion
- Once the emulsifier is liquid, take both phases out of the water and place on a kitchen towel to catch moisture outside the beakers. Wear kitchen gloves when handling the beakers, and be mindful of hot steam.
- Using a milk frother or mini mixer, start mixing the oil phase. VERY SLOWLY pour in the water phase while continuously mixing. The mixture will triple or quadruple in volume and will become cream-colored, opaque, and thick.
Step 6: Finish the milk cleanser
- Once the emulsion has cooled to room temperature, add the cooling phase from step 1 and incorporate well.
- Add the preservative and lactic acid and give the cleansing milk a good stir.
- Transfer the cleansing milk into a glass pump bottle.
Tips for the best cleansing milk
- The water and oil phases must have the same temperature to form an emulsion. If one is cooler than the other, they will not bind together. To ensure the same temperature, we heat the water and oil phase together in a water bath.
- Montanov 68 performs best at 167°F / 75°C, which you can check with an infrared thermometer. A few degrees below this temperature are fine, but if you remain under this temp by a larger margin, your cleansing milk might turn out grainy.
- Mix for at least 5 minutes to ensure both phases are thoroughly combined. You may see some separation initially, but that’s perfectly normal. Simply keeping whisking until the mixture looks homogenous and feels silky.
- Let the cleansing milk cool to room temperature before adding the cooldown phase ingredients. A too hot emulsion will impact the effectiveness of the preservative and actives.
How to use cleansing milk
Now that you know how to make cleansing milk at home, it’s time to learn how to use cleansing milk in your skincare routine. This is what you do:
- Tuck your hair away, so it doesn’t get in the way of your face. I usually pin my hair back with clips or tie it into a ponytail.
- Next, wash your hands, so you have clean hands before you apply your homemade skincare products.
- Pump 2 to 3 spritzes onto the palm of your hand and put both hands together to warm the product.
- Using the palm of your hands and light pressure, tap the cleansing milk on the skin until your entire face is covered. You can apply cleansing milk to dry or slightly damp skin and also include the neck.
- Gently massage the cleanser into your skin, using light, circular motions. Avoid rubbing or pulling your skin as this can cause irritation.
- Pay special attention to the sides of your nose, hairline, and the area under your brows where makeup and dirt are easily trapped.
- Now it’s time to take the cleansing milk off. Rinse your face with warm water and remove any excess cleanser from your face.
- Using a washcloth soaked in warm water, take off any residual cleanser. This step is optional, but it ensures that the cleanser is removed entirely as milk cleansers can leave a residue.
- Once your face is clean, continue with the remainder of your skincare routine and apply toner, serum, and moisturizer.
How much milk cleanser do I need?
2 to 3 pumps should be enough for the entire face.
Can I use cleansing milk daily?
Yes, you can use cleansing milk daily. The mild formula is gentle enough to be part of your everyday cleansing ritual. The nourishing ingredients feel very luxurious and hydrating.
Do I use cleansing milk in the morning or at night?
Whether you use DIY cleansing milk at the start or end of the day depends on your personal preference and skin type. If you have dry, sensitive, or mature skin, cleansing milk in the morning and evening is very gentle, and your skin won’t feel stripped or dried out.
A milk cleanser can be too heave to be used twice a day for those with oily or acne-prone skin. Instead, make the milk cleanser part of your evening routine and use it in conjunction with a mild face wash.
Can I use cleansing milk to double cleanse?
Yes, you can combine this cleansing milk with a face wash – if your skin tolerates both. You should only double cleanse at night. In the morning, one face cleanser is enough.
Use the cleansing milk as the first step in your skincare routine to remove makeup, sunscreen, and the dirt of the day. Then go in with your face wash to give your pores a deep clean and provide your face with a refreshed feel.
Can I use cleansing milk to remove eye makeup?
Yes, you can use cleansing milk to take off eye makeup. Here’s what you do:
- Apply a little DIY milk cleanser to a damp cotton round or washcloth.
- Gently swipe across the eye, moving from the inner corner to the outside.
- Rinse with warm water.
Cleansing milk FAQ
How to package cleansing milk?
I recommend a glass pump bottle for storing and using your milk cleanser recipe. The pump makes it easy to portion and apply the cleansing milk. The bottle will also protect the product from mold-causing moisture and contamination since you won’t touch the product directly.
Can cleansing milk remove makeup and sunscreen?
Yes, but it depends on the products you have on. I had no problem removing light make up and my SPF. You may need to use the natural cleanser twice in case of waterproof mascara, super thick sunscreen, or heavy makeup.
Is cleansing milk the same as face wash?
No, cleansing milk and face wash are different products. Cleansing milk contains nourishing oils and doesn’t foam, whereas face wash can be oil-free and is often foamy.
Is DIY cleansing milk made with real milk?
No, cleansing milk doesn’t contain any dairy milk or coconut milk. The product is called milk because the texture and look resemble milk.
It might be possible to create a powdered cleanser with milk powder, but adding fresh milk to a recipe is not a good idea. Milk will spoil quickly and ruin the skincare recipe it was added to.
Can I make DIY cleansing milk with essential oils?
Yes, but with reservations. I didn’t include any essential oils in the formula because essential oil can be irritating, especially on delicate facial skin. I also find it a bit wasteful to use expensive essential oils in a wash-off product.
However, if your skin reacts well to certain essential oils, feel free to include them. Don’t add more than 0.5 g / 0.02 oz / 20 drops and stir them in with your cooling phase ingredients. Try these ideas:
- Skin-soothing (cleansing milk for sensitive skin): Blue tansy and chamomile essential oil contain azulenes, which are compounds that soothe and calm skin irritation and redness.
- Anti-aging (cleansing milk for dry skin and mature skin): Myrrh essential oil is rich in antioxidants and can help to increase circulation and refine skin texture.
- Sebum control (cleansing milk for oily skin): Clary sage essential oil is said to help balance sebum production and is a good addition if you have oily skin.
- Anti-acne (cleansing milk for acne): Tea tree and bergamot essential oil have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which are helpful to reduce inflammatory acne.
Homemade cleansing milk storage instructions
Store your homemade cleansing milk in a dry place at room temperature. A cabinet or drawer is a good place.
Be sure to keep the facial cleanser out of direct sunlight and away from heat. Sunlight degrades ingredients, and heat can break the emulsion, so we want to avoid them.
And please don’t freeze your DIY face cleanser, as freezing temperatures will make the emulsion unstable.
How long this cleansing milk last?
Stored correctly, your cleansing milk can be kept for 6 months. Discard the homemade cleanser if you notice any changes in smell or color.