Formulating on a budget: Using cucumber in our products

This is why I love comments from you, my lovely readers! In this post on cucumber hydrosol, Allison noted: This sounds absolutely lovely, but $7.85/ounce for hydrosol?!?! Wow….it is times like these that I sometimes think that I have chosen the wrong hobby, especially given my limited means…. 🙁

We have definitely chosen a more expensive hobby, but there are ways we can save money while making awesome products. Let’s start with the series on cucumbers we’ve been making this week, then brainstorm a few other ideas. (Please share your thoughts in the comments!)

I admit I get a lot of things for free, and a lot at a serious discount, so I often forget how much things cost. I know, first world problems and all that, but it means I’m not keeping my eye on how expensive something can get. It’s something for me to really think about it when formulating for this blog.

When it comes to what we’ve been making this week, we have our choice of powdered cucumber extract, liquid extracts, hydrosol, or seed oil. The hydrosol and the seed oil are not inexpensive ingredients, so if we’re making products that contain water, we could turn to our extracts.


Powdered cucumber peel extract is super inexpensive – I pay $2.05 for 10 grams at Voyageur Soap & Candle, so if I add 0.5 grams to 100 grams of product, this means I can make 2 kilograms of toner, lotions, or cleaners with this tiny package! It’s standardized 10:1, meaning 1 gram of cucumber powder equals 10 grams of cucumber. Adding 0.5% works out to ¢10.25 to add to a product, which is the least expensive way to use cucumber!

The down side is that this definitely doesn’t smell like cucumbers, and can turn your product a slightly beige-green colour. But that’s not a bad thing if you’re looking for all the lovely goodness cucumber extract brings,

I use the water soluble liquid cucumber extract G from Formulator Sample Shop, which runs $7.50 for 2 ounces or 60 grams. (INCI: Water & Glycerin & Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract) The suggested usage rate is 1% to 10%, which means in 100 grams of product, we could have 1 gram to 10 grams. If we’re buying 60 grams for $7.50, then means 1 gram = ¢12.5 per gram. If we use 1 gram in the bottle, we’ve spent ¢12.5, if we use 10 grams, we’re using $1.25. This one also doesn’t smell distinctly of cucumber.

You can also get an oil soluble cucumber extract at Brambleberry (INCI: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract) with a suggested usage rate of 3%. I haven’t used this one, but I’ve used many others from them, and my suggestion is to use it as you would an oil in any product you like. It works out to 1 ounce or 30 ml for $2.50, which means 1 ml = ¢8.3 or 3% = ¢25 (rounded up) which is very affordable.

Both these extracts give us what we want in our products as they contain a whole lotta awesome stuff! We find tons of polyphenols in cucumber in the form of gallic acid, coumaric acid, caffeic acid, and trans-cinnamic acid, amongst others. As we know, all of these are fabulous anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. Gallic acid also offers speedier wound and burn healing. Coumaric acid offers anti-bacterial and anti-fungal features, as well as possible UV protection. Caffeic acid offers fungicidal and post-sun exposure properties. Cinnamic acid good post-sun exposure and possible AHA-like properties. We also find p-hydroxybenzoic acid, which is very closely related to salicylic acid, and behaves like a very effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic.

Cucumber extract contains triterpene glucosides called cucurbitacins. These are found in squashes like pumpkins and melons. These glucosides are amongst the most bitter substances found in the world, but they have been bred out of a lot of these fruits. Cucurbitacins are highly oxygenated triterpenoid compounds that might cause some sensitivity to some people. The one found most commonly in cucumbers is cucurbitacin C. It behaves as a very effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic.


Let’s say you just want the lovely fragrance of cucumber in a product. As I mentioned in the post on making an anhydrous body butter, there are all kinds of fragrance oils you could use for that bright, green cucumber-y scent! I have this Phytoscents cucumber and Phytoscents cucumber & mint, from Formulator Sample Shop and they are amazing! Both smell like you’re chopping a cucumber! I’d use those starting at 0.5% and move up to 1% if you want it to be stronger. Neither of these are inexpensive at $32 an ounce (30 ml), so using 0.5 grams in 100 grams of product would be ¢53.3.

I have Crafters’ Choice cucumber and fresh mint (from Windy Point Soap or Wholesale Supplies Plus), which smells amazing! And I love this cucumber cool fragrance from Voyageur Soap & Candle, which is so crisp and clean, and if you wanted to add a titch of peppermint essential oil – let’s say 0.1% to 1% fragrance oil – you’d have something really green and amazing! I hate it when cucumbers smell more like melons as I hate melons so much, and these fragrances do not smell like melons! (Okay, I’ve said melon way too much now.)

At $3.95 for 30 ml, you’ll be using 0.5 grams to 1 gram in 100 grams of product. This works out to ¢6.6 for 0.5% or ¢13.2 at 1%. You aren’t getting all the cucumber-y goodness, like the cucurbitacins or polysaccharide, but it will smell amazing!


To save money, make products that don’t need packaging in bottles or jars. Make shampoo bars, conditioner bars, foot or body scrub bars, or lotion bars in molds and leave out the packaging or put them in inexpensive cello bags with a cute ribbon on top if you’re giving them away or selling.

I love using things like chocolate foils for my lotion bars, but make sure you write in large, dark letters, “THIS IS NOT A CHOCOLATE BAR! IT LOOKS LIKE ONE AND SMELLS LIKE ONE, BUT IT’S NOT FOR EATING. I MEAN, IF YOU EAT IT, IT’S SAFE AND YOU WON’T DIE, BUT IT’S JUST A REALLY BAD IDEA.” I’ve learned this one from experience! 

If you wanted to make a cucumber-y lotion bar, you could use cucumber oil or the oil soluble extract as part or all of the liquid oil phase, or you could add the cucumber fragrance oil to make it smell all lovely. You can’t use the powdered or liquid extracts as they are water soluble, and a lotion bar is all about the oils.

Here are two example formulas using the oils suggested in the original horrible recipe. Feel free to alter them as you wish.

Related posts:

Can we make substitutions in a lotion bar? Yes! 

Newbie Tuesday: Let’s make lotion bars!


30% beeswax

30% shea butter (refined or ultra refined)

10% coconut oil

25% sweet almond oil

5% cucumber seed oil or oil soluble cucumber extract

Melt everything in the double boiler until liquid. Pour into molds or containers, and let sit until hardened. I would put it in the fridge or freezer, but it’s okay at room temperature.


30% beeswax

30% shea butter (refined or ultra refined)

10% coconut oil

30% sweet almond oil

0.5% to 1% cucumber fragrance oil

Melt everything in the double boiler until liquid. Remove from the heat and add the cucumber fragrance oil. Pour into molds or containers, and let sit until hardened. I would put it in the fridge or freezer, but it’s okay at room temperature.

Related posts:

Is it cheaper to make your own products, part one?

Is it cheaper to make your own products, part two?

Cheaper lotions – comparing dollar store lotions

Which products are worth making at home? (Spoiler alert: All of them!)

Formulating on a budget: Introduction

Formulating on a budget: Buying ingredients

Formulating on a budget: Buying equipment

Formulating on a budget: What ingredients to buy for anhydrous products?

Formulating on a budget: A tester formula

Member exclusive: How do you decide what form of an ingredient to use?

What do you think? Share your thoughts! We’ll be doing more of these in the near future as it’s super fun!