Body butter is a many-splendorous thing. It nourishes and moisturizes your skin, softening and supple-ing things up. It can smell great, and I find it’s one of the few things that actually does anything for my stupidly dry feet. Unfortunately, all the wonders of body butter can be offset if you don’t know when to use it, where, and how.
Body butter, by definition, is a combination of different oils and butters. No water-based products—that would make it an emulsion, and therefore a lotion. Body butters can really be any texture, from whipped to practically solid, as long as they’re at least semi-solid and pure fat.
All these great, natural, non-pore-clogging fats can be great news for parched skin. However, like many good things, more is not better. More makes you very slick and oily until your epidermis manages to gulp down that 40-gallon drum of moisturizing power you threw at it. And, unless you’re a stripper, this is probably not a look you’re going for, especially if your body butter stains clothes. I’ve had people complain that “that lotion you gave me makes my hands super greasy!” There’s your problem. It’s not lotion, in the same way a smoothie is not olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada). So, some guidelines, to maximize your powers!
- Apply lightly. Think of it as lip balm for your hands. If you’re the type who is temped to put on lots (ahem, me, cough), add more beeswax to your formula to harden things up.
- Rub it in well when using it on your hands. Think of it as a mini-massage.
- For ninja-style moisturizing power, apply it before bed, and wear a pair of PJ’s your not terribly concerned about. You’ll wake up so smoothy-smoothe you’ll think a ninja gave you a midnight spa treatment.
- For super-dry, ridiculously rough spots, exfoliate after a nice pre-bedtime soak in the tub. Then apply your body butter (and possibly a pair of socks), and go to bed.
- Don’t use it on your hands directly before handling anything oil-sensitive, like tracing paper, books, or delicate fabric.
I like this shea-based body butter for daily use. It’s pretty firm, so if you’re not sure if you like hard body butters, use less beeswax to start with. You can always gently re-melt the butter and add more beeswax. For the olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada), I prefer to use calendula-infused for the added (supposed) healing benefits. Just put a handful or two of dried calendula flowers into a clean 500mL (16oz) mason jar, and fill with olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada). Let it steep in a sunny spot for at least two weeks before using. You can, of course, use a different oil if you want.
Basic Shea Body Butter
115g | 4.05oz unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada)
50g | 1.76oz olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada)
12g | 0.42oz beeswax (USA / Canada)
3g | 0.1oz Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
Essential oils (I used grapefruit and cardamom)
Melt the fats and Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada) together over medium-low heat. Stir in the essential oils, and then pour into tins. Move to the fridge to set up, as a fast chilling time will keep the unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada) from going grainy.
I have read a few of your recipes and blog posts and I find your “Matter-of-Fact” attitude very refreshing. I love your recipes for home made lotions and balms as well. I am fairly new to making my own body products as I have been trying to use up the store bought ‘crap’ that I have accumulated.
Thank you for taking the time to experiment and put these recipes out there for everyone who wants to learn how to make their own products. Be blessed in your endeavors.
Thanks, Tracy 🙂 I just try and tell it like it is… ish… in my life… without being rude or belligerent about it 😛 Let me know how your forays into DIY go, and be sure to keep those containers from all your store bought stuff, you’ll want to re-use them soon, I promise 😉 Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!
I was wondering If I could replace the olive oil with coconut oil.
Unless you live somewhere with an average temperature above 24°C, no. Read more about carrier oil substitutions here 🙂
You have inspired me! I want to learn how to do it all!
Yay! I love hearing that I’ve inspired people to try things 🙂 Let me know how it goes and feel free to get in touch if you need any help.
what is the difference in a body butter and a salve? they look the same.
Salves have healing properties, while body butters are generally just for moisture. So, a salve can be a body butter (albeit a more expensive, complicated one), but a body butter cannot be a salve.
Hi! I made your naked lip balm and peppermint lip balms in the past with fabulous results. I think I’m going to try this and maybe some of the body butter bars next.
Do you have any recipes for a cuticle oil or balm? I’m hooked on Lush’s Lemomy flutter but was thinking I there must be a way to replicate the lovely moisture of that cream without the overpowering lemony smell. Any thoughts?
Thanks again for the great blog!!
Fantastic! I love those two lip balms, I’ve been carrying the peppermint one around in my pocket for months now. And, you’re in luck with the cuticle balm, I just made some today! The recipe won’t go up for a while, though—right now I have it penciled in for February 16, 2014. It’s based on Lemony flutter, but with fewer ingredients and less fragrance. I think you’ll love it! Thanks for reading & DIYing with me 🙂
That sounds like I is just what I am looking for!!! Can’t wait! 🙂 Feel free to give me any hints as to what sort of ingredients I’ll need….right now I really only have what I used for the lip balm, but I’m thinking to place another order soon. I want to try your headache eraser and some shea butter for some body butter and lip balm.
I’d probably grab some shea butter, veg. glycerin, and a thicker carrier oil, like avocado 🙂 Shea butter is so great at this time of year (assuming you’re in the Northern Hemisphere 😉 ) as it’s just fantastic on dry, chapped skin. I also love shea butter in soap. Ooh! Have you tried argan oil and French green clay? Both are on my eternal list of must-haves 🙂 I use argan oil every day, and masks made with French green clay 1–2x a week.
Wow – thanks for the super fast reply! I’m in Southern Ontario – under a huge winter storm right now, fun fun. Thanks for the hints – I’ll probably place an order from Saffire Blue or New Directions soon, I will definitely add these things to my ever-growing list 🙂
Och—how’s that “polar votex”? I lived in Toronto for a few years and found everybody there made a really big deal about -12°C weather. Being from Calgary, I felt like a champ, lol. We generally hit temps below -40°C with windchill several times a winter, and while I HATE it, at least it gives me bragging rights… right? Ugh, winter, lol.
OMG I am in heaven reading your blog, you are super talented.
I want to try them all and now have to try and narrow down what to try first.
I am in Australia and was wondering where you would find the nice little tins?
I have Googled and found some but postage is exuberant to OZ.
looking forward to your cuticle cream, mine are dreadful
Hey Kim! I’m so glad you found my wee corner of the internet 🙂 The only Australian supplier I know of is New Directions Australia—the link is in the big grey box above the comments, and in the left hand sidebar. Hopefully they will have something similar as I got those tins from Saffire Blue and I doubt it’s worth it to have them ship to Aus 🙁 Enjoy your wonderful summer weather, though—I’m super jealous. I lived in Aus for a while (Penrith) and I dream of moving back one day and never seeing snow again 😀
Hi Marie, I am going to make your recipe Basic Shea Body Butter, looks lovely, but you don’t say anything about preserving it or I didn’t see anything do you use it?
When things are 100% oil based preservatives aren’t really necessary as you aren’t worried about mould, just rancidity. I have a batch of body butter that’s going on 3 years old and it’s still perfectly fine 🙂
First off, great website. It is my go to when it comes to DYI.
I am fairly new to the whole business and after several (frustrating) failed attempts at making lotion, I researched into what wasn’t working and realized that I had accidently boughten Emulsifying Wax O. Apprently this wax needs another emulsifyer in order to work. I don’t want it to go to waste! Any ideas how I could use it?
Hi Kelsie! Thanks for reading & DIYing with me 🙂 So, from my research, Emulsifying Wax O is horribly named. It should be called “thickening/viscosity management wax” as it sounds like it has almost no emulsifying properties despite its very misleading name 🙁 I would recommend combining it with something like Polawax or Emulsimulse (both of which are complete emulsifiers on their own) and using it as a way to achieve thicker lotions and creams. But hey, at least you figured out the problem, and it wasn’t you 🙂 This is an easy thing to fix, and you’ll be making lotions in no time!
Another question for that wonderful mentoring Marie…what would be your opinion on swapping out the shea butter/olive oil with the same measurements of hemp butter/hemp oil or avocado butter/avocado oil?
Thanks in advance!
Well, my initial thoughts on hemp and avocado butters is that they are weird—they aren’t real butters. That is, the oils from those plants are not naturally solid at room temperature. Such “butters” are generally created by hydrogenating the oils, or blending the oil with another cheap hydrogenated oil to get a butter-like substance. The same way margarine is made, basically (or was, before we figured out the trans fat thing).
Something else to keep in mind is the scent of unrefined hemp oil, lol! I tried a lip balm with it a couple months ago and it tasted like fish and smelled worse :/ That recipe definitely needs some tweaking lol 😛
Beyond those considerations, your other consideration is texture and melting point. The liquid oil in an easy swap (though both hemp & avocado are much thicker than olive oil, so they’ll result in a heavier/greasier final product). Shea butter has an abnormally high melting point for a soft butter (~37°C—cocoa butter melts at 34°C despite being much harder), so if the butters have a lower melting point, the butter will have a different texture. You can read more about carrier oil swaps here 🙂
Personally, I would probably leave the shea butter and beeswax, and then play with the liquid oil swaps 🙂
Thanks again! I had read the article re: oil swaps (great resource) so will put aside the “butter” swap and play with the oils as I have become a huge fan of avocado oil.
Let me know how your experiments turn out—with the avocado and shea you should have a very heavy, luxurious butter. I bet it will be extra awesome for dry feet.
Hi Marie! I love this body butter, but I don’t know how I feel about the smell of the shea. Do you have any suggestions for making a butter with this texture but using cocoa butter or mango butter instead? Since the cocoa butter is much firmer, could I increase the amount of liquid oil or decrease the beeswax to get a similar result?
I have some mango butter too, but it seems to be quite grainy – not sure how that would work in this type of butter, but any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated!!
Yeah, shea butter can be an acquired scent 😉 I love the stuff I have from NDA right now—it’s the Ghana stuff, and it’s wonderfully smokey. Mmmm.
For this body butter mango would definitely be the better swap. Cocoa butter, while much firmer, actually has a lower melting point, so you’d have to do loads of monkeying with it—I’d recommend trying my Cocoa-Coco body butter 🙂 The melting point of mango butter is a few degrees lower than shea butter, but it’s closer in texture. I’d start with a 1 to 1 swap, leaving out the essential oils so you can re-melt and add more beeswax if needed, and then adding the EOs once you’ve got the ratio down 🙂
Swift Craft Monkey has a good overview of why butters can go grainy, and a few ways to fix it here. Your mango butter doesn’t have to be grainy in the final product 🙂
Thank you for so much wonderful information! I bought three oils, shea, coconut, and cauacu and want to make a body butter. Can you suggest proportions, or point me to a recipe you’ve already posted that would help? I’m excited to give it a try!
Also, on another site I read that you can grind a vanilla bean and add it directly to the butter. What are your thoughts on this as a way of adding fragrance?
Hmm. Well, I usually start by mixing equal parts and seeing how that goes, and then adding a bit more of this or that to tweak. Just be sure to start small (~10g each) so you don’t end up with a kilo of the stuff by accident!
I probably wouldn’t add ground vanilla beans to your body butter—they’d be gritty, and in my experience nobody likes gritty body butter 🙁 I’ve tried lol. If you infused it and strained out the solids, though, that would probably work beautifully!
Hi there Marie
Just found your site and I’m in luuurrrvvvv. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I’m from South Africa and a fairly new hand at being a ‘scientist’ like my kids put it.
I have a couple of questions that I would appreciate your input on:
Was wondering if I could swopout the bees wax and use a 60:30:10 (sheaButter, then either coconut or cocoa butter and liquid carrier oil either sweet almond or rosehip)ratio as the body butter base for 100g batches?
Also would you share your thoughts on using arrowroot powder to assist the oil absorb more quicker into the skin?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the ‘African Sun’ its strong year round so I’m a bit confused about using my homemade body/face butters on our skins (children included) during the day. Would you recommend a sunscreen over the face and or body? Should I make a homemade sunscreen….soo many questions but would really appreciate your input.
Ps would Indian skin be any different when it comes to making or using body and face butters?
Hi Lee! Thanks so much for reading 🙂 The changes you’re proposing are big enough that I’d have to go try it to give you any good answer. I made something similar as a base for a recent deodorant recipe that you should check out. It is a bit firm for body butter, but a good place to start.
I don’t add powders of any kind to my body butters, it always just seemed sort of silly. There are lots of different types of oils and butters out there—if I want something that absorbs faster, I’ll choose an oil or butter that does that naturally, or I’ll use a lotion.
I would definitely recommend sunscreen, but I absolutely 100% never recommend homemade sunscreen, and here’s why.
Not having much experience with skin other than my own I’m afraid I can’t really comment on Indian skin when it comes to body butters—I imagine there is as much variation in skin types as there is anywhere else?
Can I leave out the Vitamin E in the basic shea butter recipe? For some reason my body doesn’t like it 🙁
Thanks for sharing your knowledge! I just found your site and love the detail you provide. I’ll be making this body butter in the next few days.
Thanks, Wendy! Have fun with it 🙂
i made a whipped body lotion and it has a few flakes in it from the beeswax I think. I was wondering if and how i would be able to reheat the lotion to melt whatever it is that is leaving the flakes on my body.
I dont even know if this is possible. can you please help me
Thank you ps I love your recipes and websites
Hi Debbie! Did you make a lotion (an emulsion with water) or a body butter (100% oils, butters, and waxes)? This is a very important distinction. If it is a body butter you can re-melt and re-whip it, but if it is a lotion, re-heating it will destroy the emulsion and you’ll have to chuck it out.
Thank you for such a quick response
I made my lotion with water so I guess I will be living with the little flakes.
Call it a lesson learned—I have many 🙂
This may sound like a stupid question, but I’m going to ask it anyway??.. if you melt cocoa butter with jojoba oil, would you need to add any beeswax?? I guess what I’m asking is.. Wouldn’t the jojoba soften the cocoa butter all on its own.??? Im just wondering why the beeswax is needed if you are just looking for a softer version of cocoa butter. I hope I made sense.
I did an entire set of experiments on this—read about them here.
Could you please give me the U.S. measurement? Recipe sounds like the one I’ve been looking for, but am not familiar with your measurements. Thanks
Please read this and this 🙂
Hi Lovely! I hope this message find you well. I was wondering about how much time are these babies good to use? Taking into consideration that they’re super natural -YAY!!! 😀 – and have no additives whatsoever.
Thanks for sharing all your recipes, you are the best!
Hi Jimena! You’ll find your answer in the FAQ 🙂
Hi Marie! Just wondering about the supplies (pots, pans) that you use to make all your cool stuff. Do you have specific pots and pans that you use only to cook, and other ones to make your butters and balms in? I’m wondering if my pans will still be food-safe after if give it a good wash. Thanks!
Hi Helena! You can definitely use the same pots as you use in your kitchen 🙂 Just be sure to give ’em a good scrub after the fact.
Hello. I was curious how the body butter needs to be stored..fridge? Room temp? And what is the key to making a more firm body butter? I prefer not to make a whipped butter…
Check out the FAQs for info on shelf life—there’s a few articles in there that should answer your first question.
More wax is the fastest way to make a firmer body butter, but too much can make for a body butter that sits on the skin for longer. Read this for a basic overview 🙂
Thanks so much for the detailed response. I will definitely be trying your recipes for gift giving and also for our daily home use! You are so crafty!!
Loving this site! What would you advise if swapping the Shea for cocoa butter? Can I do a straight swap? And since there is already a scent from the cocoa butter how many drops of EO would you suggest? Any ideas on which EOs would work?
Hi Jenn! Read this on the swap (short answer: definite no). And read this and this on EOs 🙂 With body butter you’re generally just scenting to your preferred scent level, and the amount of EO you will want will vary by the EO and your nose, so it’s hard to recommend.
Hi again. Do you know of a way to get the body butter consistency to replicate body shops body butter? I’m not sure if you have used their products before? It’s thick creamy and not oily…hope you can help!
Hi Jenn! The “body butters” from The Body Shop are actually lotions—check the label and you’ll find there’s more water in their “body butter” than anything else. So, if you want something like their product, I recommend checking out my lotion recipes instead. This one is pretty thick and luxurious (and you can totally use it on your hands instead of/in addition to your hair) 🙂
hey! i looked into your recipe…hmmm is there possibly an easier recipe i could use to make the body body type consistency? im new at all this..:)
If you want it to be that absorbent in similar quantities—no. You need a bunch of water in there for that to happen, oils are just too… oily 😛 It really is easier than it looks, though! Have you checked out my DIY for Beginners article? It’s got all kinds of awesome links to guide you through making your own stuff 🙂
Can you use soy wax instead of bees wax?
Hi Danielle! You likely could, though I have no experience with soy wax so I’m afraid I can’t offer any guidance there. The ratios would likely change, as would the texture. of the final product.
This is going to sound very odd, but is it possible to make body butter using only liquid oils and beeswax? Either plain or whipped? I ask because I have multiple sensitivities to (naturally occuring) chemicals, so shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil etc. are out. Any advice?
Definitely—I have LOADS of recipes for such things! Like this 🙂
Any ideas for whipped body butter packaging that won’t expose the product to water if kept on the bathroom counter? I think mine went moldy after a month because of this. I like to put my body butter on right after the shower! I know I can just put a preservative in it but figured I’d rack your brain first! Thanks!!
The issue here would more likely be wet hands than storage on your bathroom counter, so perhaps try making sure your hands are super dry, or scooping it out with a popsicle stick?
Do you have any suggestions on ratios of candelila wax, olive oil, and coconut oil to make a balm?
I’d start with these experiments 🙂
I’ve just stumbled across your site…..I think I’m in love…lol
Lots of helpful info, thanks for sharing all you knowledge I’ve been reading for a few hours so far….One can never read too much!
I’m looking to make a lip scrub. I didn’t see one, I may have over looked it tho. Can you point me in the right direction Or can I just use a lip balm recipe and add sugar?
There are quite a few if you type “lip scrub” into the search box; there’s one in the sidebar of every page, one in the footer, and one in the main menu 🙂 Happy making!
I’m afraid my memory is nowhere near that good—I’m pretty sure I made this nearly seven years ago!
I have a very small farm where we produce extra virgin olive oil. I want to start offering body butter, so I have been searching for a simple formula. This one looks like it may work for me. I already ordered shea butter and cera bellina. Do you think cera bellina can be substituted for the beeswax in this formula?
I am enjoying your articles very much! Thank you!
It likely could, though you’ll want to do plenty of experiments to make sure you’re happy with your product before offering it for sale 🙂 I’ve written an entire post on selling things that is worth reading if you’re new 🙂
I actually want to start making body butters for business. But i have heard that sometimes when shipped they melt. Is there some ingredient that could prevent it from melting ?
Anything that will raise the melting point of a product will also impact its consistency. For instance, you could add a bunch of wax, but then you will have a very waxy body butter, which isn’t great! I know some shops in warmer places only ship some products in the winter—that may be the best solution for you.
I didn’t realise the difference between lotions and body butters before i found your content, and now I’m looking at my “body butter” from The Body Shop and seeing that the first ingredient is water… :/ I got ripped off.
I suspect The Body Shop makes their “body butters” that way so the consistency never changes—they won’t melt if left in a sunbeam like a body butter could. Additionally, people tend to prefer lighter things for their skin. That said, water is a wonderful thing for skin, so while you definitely could make a similar product for far less money, water isn’t a bad thing 🙂
Greetings from the Netherlands. Love your site! Would it be possible to add some scrubs in the lotionbars? Like the scrubee from Lush?
I don’t recommend it; I’ve tried it, and you end up with a lot of wax left on the skin after showering, which is incredibly sticky and unpleasant. Check out this recipe instead 🙂
Ah thank you!
No worries—happy making!
I have a body butter mystery on my hands, and I thought maybe just maybe you might know what is going on. I’m more than a bit stumped and it’s driving me crazy.
I haven’t been able to find any troubleshooting help on the internet, so if you have an answer this would make a good blog post for you.
I have made a lovely body butter for years, and I am using the exact same percentages of my ingredients. BUT while I have always had some favorite batches (they just felt less greasy and adsorb better) these differences in batches has been very, very slight. They all set up at room temperature eventually.
Recently my last two batches I scaled up the batch size. Same percentages. And they won’t set! I always thought body butter was pretty forgiving so I haven’t kept to a specific detailed process in terms of temperature heated to / held at / timing. I usually heat in a 170F oven the wax, and butters – let the residual heat melt the coconut oil and then when cooler add my delicate oils and scent.
I’ll tell you my basic solid to oils ratios, and maybe you’ll tell me, “ahah! You need more solid butters.” To which I could only say, yes, perhaps, but then why do I have a tin of the same ratios on my bathroom counter that is totally solid and the most perfect body butter ever? I could reformulate, but what about the mystery? Why did this WORK so many times only to stop working now?
It’s the cooler time of year now, so it’s not like I am making a big batch in unusual heat. Anyway, remember that tin I have from an old batch on my counter? If it was the ambient temperature, that would be soft too!
Can you destroy oils by overheating or heating too long, somehow raising their melting point?
I use 61% coconut oil, so I have been utterly confused by why my remaining jar of coconut oil is MORE SOLID than this entire batch.
32.5% solid butters (mostly kokum and grass fed tallow)
2.5% cera bellina
4% other assortment of liquid oils (always the same ones in same ratios)
This last batch was the second liquidy one so I tried to save it (thinking, okay, these ingredients probably have some natural variation to their fatty acid profiles and melting points) by adding Cetyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid and more solid ingredients. It helped some, but I can still sink a finger into this easier than the plain coconut oil.
54% coconut oil
31% solid butters (kokum/ tallow)
2.6% cera bellina
4% other liquid oil
4% cetyl alcohol
6.5% stearic acid
This seems to be more than enough thickening agents to account for natural fluctuations in the melting point of my ingredients and it STIL isn’t as solid as that old tin on the counter.
Ahhhh. Well. I know you are busy. If you have any ideas that I haven’t thought of I would love to hear em, but if not, no need to reply. I know it’s a long shot.
Hmm. Ok I just read a blog that says whipping the butter is important and help keep it from melting. I didn’t whip my first melty batch so I made sure to whip this one. It’s still unaccountably soft….
Hmm. I don’t have a certain answer for you, but I can tell you that I’ve found the cooling method can drastically impact how butters like this set up. I would recommend cooling this to trace in an ice bath and then chilling in the fridge (click the link for instructions), and seeing if that happens. I’ve had some butters be positively soupy if left to cool entirely at room temperature, but if traced + chilled they’d be brilliant! Fingers crossed that fixes it!
Hi, Marie: how many drops of cardamon and grapefruit essential oils did you use?
I’m afraid I have no idea anymore—it’s been about 8 years. The notes you see here are all I’ve got!