How To Make My DIY Gel Cleanser At Home

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Let’s chat about gel cleansers. If you’re versed in DIY skincare, you may know that these are similar to micellar waters. You may have learned about them from my post best homemade facial cleansers.

However, I’ve found that a DIY gel cleanser is much easier to use. Micellar waters really need a cotton pad to smooth onto the skin, but gel cleansers aren’t as finicky.

diy gel cleanser

Last week I showed you how to make a DIY foaming cleanser for clear skin. A foaming cleanser can be a little harsh on the skin, but only because it’s so good at cleansing. If you want something that works a little more gently, this homemade gel cleanser could be the one for you!

Why Make This Gel Cleanser?

The inclusion of xanthan gum thickens the mixture considerably, which means it’ll sit in your hand rather than running through your fingers. I’ll use a gel cleanser a bit like I would an emulsion, squeezing some into my hand and then working it into the skin of my face with my fingers.

Great For Travelling

By all means, you can still use a cotton pad. But when I’m travelling, I like to keep my skincare routine simple, with only a few key essentials that I can fit in my carry on luggage. So this is my go-to when I’m travelling, camping or for whatever reason have to work with a smaller wash and makeup bag.

Great For Oily Skin

However, there is a big but here. Anyone with dry skin may want to consider another option. While a gel cleanser will easily remove daily makeup, it will also cut through the oil on your face. I’ve seen people say things like gel cleansers and micellar waters are great for dry skin, but without careful formulation that’s just not true.

We know that water can be drying on the skin. In the winter, lips can become chapped very easily when you lick your lips. As water evaporates, it takes with it the naturally occurring oils that moisturise our skin. This is why we use a lip balm during the colder months.

If balms interest you, take a look at my vegan lip balm without beeswax, it’s fantastic! This principle is the same for gel cleansers and micellar waters, removing the oils that our skin needs in order to remain hydrated, supple and youthful.

Nevertheless, if you do have normal or oily skin types, a gel cleanser can work well as a two in one cleanser and toner. Using a toner right after a gel cleanser can be a little too drying, so you may find skipping to the moisturising stage to quite beneficial, but also very efficient.

To learn more about toners, my DIY face toners with hydrosols, essential oils and botanicals post has absolutely everything you need to know about toners. On the flip side, if moisturising interests you, my post how to make effective homemade moisturizers with natural ingredients is a wealth of information at your fingertips.

So, ultimately I would recommend this cleanser DIY Gel Cleanser for anyone who doesn’t have dry skin. It’s a great go-to cleanser, especially when you live a busy, hectic lifestyle and convenience is always on your mind.

Now, let’s look at the ingredients for this gel cleanser recipe, and how they make this gel cleanser special.

Step 9: Your cleanser should last about 6 months

DIY Gel Cleanser Ingredients

This should produce roughly 100g of product, and you will need a bottle that can accommodate this much. I recommend a PET plastic bottle with a flip lid. The bottle should be able to be squeezed, for ease of use.

Hydrosols and Water

I’ve included only one hydrosol in this recipe. Cleansers aren’t the best products to include your most expensive and luxurious hydrosol blends, as it’s a product we will usually wash off or remove. Because of this, nearly half the liquid included in this recipe is plain old distilled water.

But distilled water can happily replace any hydrosol in almost any recipe (with the exception of toners). While it won’t impart any lovely benefits for your skin, it does offer the functional benefits of hydrosols. For instance, distilled water is a cheap alternative to hydrosol in your favourite emulsion.

The hydrosol I’ve chosen for this recipe is blood orange. It’s wonderful for clarifying the skin, but I also find it’s great for uplifting the mind at the same time. It has some antibacterial and antiviral properties as well, which will help with ridding pores of bacteria and other microbial nasties.

Essential Oil

I’m using just one essential oil in this homemade gel cleanser recipe, for the same reason I only used the only hydrosol. Like the blood orange hydrosol, it has great benefits for keeping microbial growth at bay. On this skin, this can promote healthier and clearer pores.

I’ve also found lime essential oil to be quite good for balancing skin complexion and reducing the visible signs of hyperpigmentation. If this is a big issue for you, why not take a look at my post how to make my diy hyperpigmentation cream, it’s a wonderful emulsion for anyone who suffers from this debilitating skin condition.

Furthermore, and I know this is a concern for many of you, the aroma of lime essential oil blends heavenly with blood orange hydrosol. Its key to remember that a good smell product is an important aspect of the overall skincare experience. A great aroma blend can uplift the mind, inspire creativity and even renew energy. I find this blend does all of those things for me!


Coco glucoside is a surfactant, which is the main cleansing component of this DIY gel cleanser. Without it, it wouldn’t do a great job of breaking up makeup, cutting through unwanted oil and ensuring our pores are clean and free of daily grime.

While many may be concerned about the inclusion of a surfactant, as they can be quite rough on sensitive skin, coco glucoside is a natural ingredient that is widely accepted in natural skincare.

I always try to avoid unnatural surfactants if I can’t. Something like SLS (a common ingredient in foaming cleansers) would sound alarm bells in my head, as it’s totally synthetic and can cause significant irritation of the skin. Coco glucoside, on the other hand, is much more gentle and you shouldn’t have much issue with it.

Functional Ingredients

The xanthan gum is our main functional ingredient here. This is our gelling agent and will turn our mixture of hydrosol, distilled water and essential oils into a lovely gel. Without it, we would just have liquid.

I love working with xanthan gum. While there are many cosmetic gums you could try your hand at, xanthan is cheap and very easy to get your hands on. While I have found them to make products a little cloudy, it’s a small price to pay for a great product that doesn’t cost the earth.

The other functional ingredient I’ve included in this recipe is the preservative. As this product contains both water and a little bit of oil (in the form of an essential oil) a preservative is 100% required. Without it, we create a breeding ground for a whole host of nasty bacteria.

Poorly preserved products can wreak havoc on our skin. If you’re in the know, you’ll have heard horror stories of people developing awful skin conditions from products that aren’t preserved. I’ve even read about people being permanently blinded by them. So do yourself a solid and preserve your products properly.

While preservatives are never 100% natural, you can still make good, natural choices. Preservative Eco is a great option for anyone who is concerned about including too many unnatural ingredients in these skincare products. It’s also universally accepted in natural skincare. I definitely recommend you give it a try.

How To Make A Gel Cleanser

Step 1: In a beaker, weigh out your hydrosol and distilled water. Set to one side.

Step 2: In a separate, smaller vessel, combine your glycerine and xanthan gum. Mix until you reach a smooth consistency. This is what I refer to as our gelling mixture.

how to make diy gel cleanser step 2: In a different vessel, pour your glycerine

Step 3: Add the xanthan gum

step 4: mix together with a spoon

Step 3: Combine the gelling mixture with the hydrosol and distilled water. I find it best to spoon the gelling mixture into the water.

step 5: spoon the glycerine/gum mixture into the hydrosol and distilled water

If you have a lot of gelling mixture left over in the small vessel, you can pour in some of the hydrosol/water, mix with a spoon and then pour back into the main beaker. This should help combine any of the left over.

Step 4: Using a spoon or glass rod, stir the mixture thoroughly. Continue until it has fulled gelled and is no longer lumpy.

Step 6: stir thoroughly

I’ve found sometimes this can take a bit of time. Don’t panic and don’t give up, it will combine eventually.

Step 5: Add the coco glucoside and mix with a spoon or glass rod until fully combined. Be careful when you mix this! As coco glucoside is a surfactant, if you mix quickly and forcefully you will agitate it and excessive bubbles to form.

step 7: pour in the surfactant

You want to stir slowly and gently until the mixture is homogeneous. Again, this can take time to do, but it’s important to get this right.

Step 6: Finally, add the essential oil and preservative, mixing slowly and gently once more.

Now we can go ahead and transfer to our chosen bottle. I like to use a squeezy, PET plastic bottle with a flip lid. This will make getting the last bits out of the bottle much easier when you’re coming to the end of the product.

step 8: Using a funnel, transfer to your bottle

I always find using a funnel can help immensely. It will also slow down transfer, so prevent any agitation of the surfactant.

Step 8b: Using a funnel makes the job easier

If you’ve properly preserved your DIY gel cleanser, it should last for about 6 months. Although if you use it like I do, you’ll have used it all up long before then!

Step 9: Your cleanser should last about 6 months


Discussion (12 Comments)

    • Hi there,

      You add the glycerine (once you’ve combined it with the xanthan gum) in stage 3, with the hydrosol and distilled water.

      Hope this helps

    • Hi Dlvya,

      Yes you can check the PH level, and it is good practice to do do this, but this should be done before adding your preservative. The reason for this is that preservatives have certain PH tolerance ranges.

  1. Hello i have three boys 26, 16 and 8 yrs old. Does this DIY skin care gel work well for men and if yes would each of my boys be able to use it ? What are the frequency of use recommendations? Thx and BE WELL!!!~ john

    • Hi John,

      Your 26 and 16-year-old will should be absolutely fine with this recipe as is. However, I do worry that the lime essential oil could irritate your 8-year old’s skin. I would swap this out for lavender or just exclude essential oils completely. But no matter our age, sometimes we find certain ingredients that just don’t agree with us. So if you or your sons have any problems after using this cleanser, discontinue using it and change either the hydrosol and/or essential oils (as these will likely be the culprit).

      Hope this helps!


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