I had a lot of fun creating these deceptively simple Cinnamon Cocoa Massage Bars. They’re silky smooth, cocoa and cinnamon-scented body butter bars that liquify readily on the skin, transforming into massage oil. Inspired by a LUSH product, I had a lot of fun experimenting with different ratios and techniques, as well as testing the bars to make sure they transformed into a gorgeous, slippy, long-lasting massage oil. The technique is really important with this DIY, so make sure you’re taking your time and watching the video so you get it right!
The base of these bars is a blend of fragrant cocoa butter, creamy shea butter, and silky jojoba oil. Just three anhydrous ingredients seems simple enough, no? The work was in getting the right ratios and technique to create a silky smooth end product with just the right melting point.
The bulk of these bars is cocoa butter; it is brittle at room temperature (much like a dark chocolate bar) and melts at 34°C (93°F)—well above room temperature, and slightly below body temperature. That base is softened a wee bit with the inclusion of some creamy shea butter (melt point 37°C/99°F) and liquid jojoba oil.
While the blend of the base ingredients is important, the making technique has to be bang on in order to get a successful end product. We’ll be bringing the melted fats to quite a thick trace before pouring the mixture into our moulds and letting the bars set up at room temperature. I found that too thin of a trace means the bars won’t set up, and putting them in the fridge results in a horribly grainy/mealy end product. For silky smooth, solid bars you need a heavy trace and room temperature setting up—please make sure you’re watching the video so you can see what you’re aiming for! Thankfully, if you don’t nail it the first time it’s easy enough to re-melt the bars and try again—they melt at such a low temperature the fragrance/essential oil shouldn’t be compromised assuming you use a water bath and don’t heat the mixture for longer than necessary.
Our scent comes from two places; the delicious chocolatey goodness of the unrefined cocoa butter, and some just-like-cinnamon-buns mouthwatering yumminess from a Cinnamon Swirl Fragrance Oil. You could easily use a different cocoa-compatible essential oil or fragrance oil as well—sweet orange, peppermint, and vanilla-like benzoin all come to mind as delicious alternatives! Just be sure you are taking maximum usage rates into account. Cinnamon bark essential oil is limited to 0.07% due to potential skin irritation, so it’s not a great alternative to the cinnamony fragrance oil.
When it comes to storing these bars, I’d recommend a wide-mouthed shallow tin or jar, or even a waxed paper bag (that’s how LUSH sells theirs). If you live somewhere with ambient temperatures above 30°C (86°F) I’d recommend storing these bars in your fridge (after they’ve set up!) so they stay solid. Enjoy!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
Cinnamon Cocoa Massage Bars
Cool down phase
0.125g | 0.25% Cinnamon Swirl Fragrance Oil
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
While the heated phase melts, prepare an ice bath. Take a bowl that is large enough to accommodate the container the heated phase is melting in, and fill it about halfway with ice cubes and cold water. You’ll also want to set out your moulds or your tubes and set them on a plate or something else that can be easily transferred to the fridge (make sure there’s room for it to sit flat, too!).
After about 20–30 minutes everything should be completely melted through. Remove the water bath from the heat, remove the measuring cup from the water bath, and dry it off with a dishtowel. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.
Place the measuring cup containing the heated phase into the ice bath and cool, stirring constantly, for about thirty seconds—until you start to notice some building viscosity. Remove the container from the water bath and add the cool down phase. Stir to incorporate.
Continue stirring the mixture in the ice bath until you reach a fairly thick “trace”—the mixture should have enough viscosity that a small amount drizzled over the surface of the mixture leaves a 3D “trace” for a moment. The mixture should appear opaque. Refer to the video to see it in action! This part can be a bit tricky as too much viscosity will mean the batter won’t pour into molds nicely, so be careful and make sure your moulds/tubes are standing by.
Once you reach trace you can now pour the massage bar into a silicone mould (or moulds) leave it on the counter to set up. Be certain the batter has traced well—if it hasn’t, the bars won’t set up. If they haven’t set solid after an hour, freeze the mould to firm the bars up for easy removal, and then gently re-melt them and try again. I did try light trace + fridge set up for these bars and they ended up extremely grainy.
When the massage bars have fully set up (give it an hour or so), remove them from their moulds. That’s it! To use, smooth the massage bar over skin until it is slippery and slidey enough for a massage, and then set the bar aside and get to work. Enjoy!
Because this body butter is 100% oil based, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 50g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- I don’t recommend substituting the cocoa butter or shea butter. You can use refined or unrefined, but if you change either of those ingredients you may need to re-develop the formulation.
- You can use a different mid-weight liquid oil instead of jojoba.
- For the fragrance:
- You can use a different fragrance oil or essential oil.
- You can also leave it out, replacing it with more liquid oil.
- You can increase the amount (I wouldn’t go past 1%), removing jojoba oil to make room for more fragrance.
- Live somewhere hot? Please read this.
The Cinnamon Swirl Fragrance Oil was gifted by Brambleberry.