If you’re looking to make your body butters stand out—make them feel more expensive, lighter, and lovelier—here are four of my top tips to do just that! These tips can be used for all kinds of body butter formulations—whipped body butters, body balms, body butter bars, hard body butters, soft and scoopable body butters, and more! I’ve included formulation guidelines and sample formulations for each tip so you know where to start. Let’s dive in!
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What is body butter?
If you set out to purchase a body butter you’ll find a pretty wide variety of products, but for the purposes of these tips, I am defining body butter as an anhydrous product (anhydrous = no water) that is mostly comprised of butters. Body butter is designed to be applied to the skin to soften and moisturize it.
The butters used in body butter can either be plant-derived butters (like cupuaçu butter or mango butter) or pseudo-butters made with hydrogenation (or a blend!). Depending on the formulation and the ambient temperature where you live, your body butter formulations may also include a hardening wax like beeswax or candelilla wax. You can also make emulsified body butters, which are lovely, but not what we’re talking about today 😄
Add a starch or a clay
Incorporating a silky starch or soft clay can really transform a body butter formulation. Starch examples include cornstarch, arrowroot starch, and rice starch/flour; white kaolin clay is generally the best choice of clay as it won’t leave any colour on your skin, but you could also experiment with some of the paler clays like French green or zeolite. I don’t recommend heavier, more sandy clays like rhassoul or bentonite if you’re looking for a soft, smooth body butter, but if you love those clays, try it and see what you think!
One of the biggest complaints that comes up in regards to body butter is that it’s too greasy, and clays and starches can really help with this in the 10–20% range. Past the 20% line, these ingredients start to impart a powdery finish that feels very luxurious. Once we start to get into the 40% range with starches, they add skin-perfecting and mattifying properties to our formulations. These benefits are cumulative, too, so a 40% starch formulation will be mattifying and non-greasy!
And, since clays and starches won’t melt, higher concentrations of them can help boost the thermal stability of your body butters.
I highly recommend experimenting with different concentrations of silky clays and starches to see for yourself how they can seriously upgrade your formulations!
- Super Simple Whipped Shea Butter
- Mango Rosehip Solid Facial Oil
- Sea Buckthorn Mattifying Moisturizer
Swap in an ester
If you’re looking to give an expensive feel to your body butters that will make them stand out, try swapping some of the liquid oil in the formulation for a lightweight liquid ester.
Like liquid oils, esters are oil-soluble emollients, but their skin feel and slip is lighter and more luxurious. Isopropyl Myristate (IPM) is a popular choice, but there are lots of other lovely options to choose from! I love C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Coco-Caprylate, and Isoamyl laurate for their fast-absorbing skin feel and silicone-like slip. There are lots of lovely natural and non-natural options to choose from, and I know you’ll be delighted by how much of a difference a 15–30% swap can make! Not only will they improve slip and skin feel, but they’ll also lighten the feel of the formulation on the skin.
- White Chocolate Peppermint Body Butter Bars
- Whipped Cupuaçu Passionfruit Body Butter
- Cocoa Butter Shimmer Bars
Make it positive
One of my favourite ways to add some magic to a body butter (or any formulation, anhydrous or otherwise!) is to add something positively charged (or cationic). Cationic ingredients give our products the most indulgent, substantial, silky skin feel. I never feel like I can adequately describe the rather enchanting beauty that cationic ingredients have. They’re fabulous, and I highly recommend getting something cationic if you don’t already have one (or twelve) in your panty.
In anhydrous formulations we’re choosing from oil-soluble cationic ingredients; examples include BTMS-25, BTMS-50, and Behentrimonium Chloride. There are some natural options, like Varisoft® EQ 65, but I haven’t been impressed with any that I’ve tried—they lack the wonderfulness of the synthetic options. Formulating to include 2–3% of the active ingredient is generally enough, but do let the scent of the specific ingredient you’ve got guide you. Some of them can be pretty stinky, and that can come through in the final formulation.
- Frosted Cranberry Butter Balm
- Pemberley Conditioning Body Butter
- Sugar Plum Conditioning Body Butter
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Experiment with different cooling methods
The specific method used to cool a body butter can be just as important as the blend of ingredients, and can be the difference between a smooth, amazing body butter and one that is grainy and sad.
If you’ve ever looked at a body butter formulation and thought “there’s no way there’s enough hardener in that formulation for it to be the consistency it is”, that’s probably a specific cooling method at play! Two great examples of expensive products with ingredient lists that seem to defy hardening logic are May Lindstrom’s Blue Cocoon and Kate McLeod’s “stones”. I remember taking a stab at Blue Cocoon before I learned about bringing body butters to trace; I ended up with fragrant slop rather than a firm balm 🤣 I tried again a few years later after learning about trace in my Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation coursework, and voila! That worked.
Other changes that can make a big difference: cold processing a formulation vs. hot processing it, freezing vs. refrigerating vs. room-temperature setting, and the precise level of trace you bring a product to. Experiment with them all! It’s amazing what you can achieve.
Relevant links & further reading
- Why is my body butter greasy?
- Why is my body butter melting?
- Why is my body butter grainy?
- Why is my body butter not whipping?