I can’t remember if shea butter was the third or the fifth ingredient I discovered. I know it was somewhere after argan oil and beeswax, but well before mango butter and pumpkin seed oil. I got my first wee tub at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market. Meredith and I split a $20 container (that might’ve been 120mL/4oz—ouch!) on a cold December day just before Christmas break. That shea butter was unrefined, and had been melted down so it could be poured into its container, and had gone grainy sometime between that pour and our purchase. High price point and graininess aside, I was smitten. I took my half tub back to dry Calgary for Christmas and positively slathered myself in the stuff. If you’re familiar with shea butter than you can probably guess that I was very… slippery… for most of that Christmas season. But I was also free from itchy winter skin, so I was pretty darn happy. And there begins my shea butter love affair.
I quickly realized I needed to find a cheaper shea supplier, which led me to the internet, where shea butter is closer to $8/kilo (a far cry from the ~$200/kilo the stuff at the market sold for!). With that lower price point, shea butter started making itself into loads of my concoctions. Body butters, soaps, lip balms, and applied straight out of the tub—shea butter and I were becoming fast friends. In the years since I first got started I’ve discovered many other butters, but shea butter remains an old standby. ‘Cause it’s awesome.
Shea butter is the thick, creamy, slightly tacky butter from the shea nut. It absorbs into the skin quite slowly, and is very rich. Check out this blog post to learn more about a few different kinds of shea butter. It melts around 37°C (99°F), which is higher than both coconut oil (24°C/75°F) and cocoa butter (34°C/93°F). I made a video showing how those three oils are different, you should check it out! Shea butter has a tendency to turn grainy in 100% oil based products, you can learn more about that here. It’s fantastic for dry, irritated skin—it can work wonders on eczema all on its own.
You can purchase both refined shea butter and unrefined shea butter, and most of it comes from either Ghana or Burkina Faso. The varieties from Burkina Faso tend to be more expensive, and they are usually nicer, with a fainter scent and a smoother melt. The unrefined versions tend to have a characteristic smokey sort of scent, and the unrefined versions smell faintly of fat—nothing very distinctive. Unsurprisingly, the refined stuff is pure white and a bit clumpy, while the raw/unrefined versions are greyish, sometimes marbled, and come in lumps of varying sizes.
Anyhow! After all this rhapsodizing, let’s get into the recipes:
I adore shea butter in my soap, and you’ll find it in the vast majority of my soap recipes. This one is loaded with clay, making it extra creamy and luxurious. I love it!
This is one of my earliest recipes, but it’s still fantastic for sore noses—you know, the one you get when you’ve been blowing your nose lots and even the softest tissues feel like sandpaper. Pop some on before bed and enjoy your much happier schnoz the following morning!
This super-simple recipe has earned some rave reviews from readers. Angela shared this:
“My 2 year old had a bad case of eczema on the back of his legs that he would scratch at uncontrollably, esp. throughout the night. We applied coconut oil three times a day for months… MONTHS. (•_•) It alleviated some of itch so that it was manageable, but didn’t address the eczema.
I whipped up this easy to make salve and within the week the eczema was gone! No more itching, no redness & no scars. He just turned 3 and I haven’t seen any signs of it returning, even in the middle of our cold, dry winter days. I’m sold!”
I designed this lotion to help combat eczema, including two strong eczema battling oils (hemp oil and shea butter) and healing, soothing herbs like calendula and marshmallow root. It has a lovely grassy/oaty/smokey scent that works well with the unrefined shea butter scent, and is brilliant for dry, winter skin that needs added water as well as oils to trap it in.
This creamy lipstick is perfect for fall, and you can really vary the colour by applying a little or a lot. It also makes a fantastic cream blush 😉 Shea butter makes this lipstick extra rich and lovely for some beautiful fall hydration. I’ve also made a video of this recipe, if you’d like to watch it instead of read it!
This salve is like the love child of calamine lotion and diaper cream, making it perfect for all kinds of itchy, irritated skin. Shea butter brings its awesome soothing, hydrating properties to this zinc-spiked herbal infusion for an all-around awesome salve.
Celebrate Oktoberfest with this oat and hops infused lotion. It’s rich and creamy, and you can watch a video how-to if lotion making intimidates you.
Spoil your lips with this rich blend of hydrating oils like shea butter, hemp seed oil, tamanu oil, and jojoba oil. A blend of lavender, cardamom, and bergamot essential oils makes this lip balm a really unique lip treat!
If you follow natural hair care, you’ll know you need an acidic rinse. This awesome conditioner combines your acidic rinse with conditioner for one fewer bottle in your shower, and it leaves your hair unbelievably soft and hydrated. Sweet! This recipe also has a video 😉
This vegan deodorant is a bit unique in that it relies on shea butter for some of its structure, along with cocoa butter. This gives it a low melting point, and also removes the need for wax in the formula, giving us a deodorant that melts to a thin liquid easily on contact with the skin.
Well, those are my top picks! What do you love to make with shea butter?