Body butter bars—also called lotion bars—are a great beginner-friendly DIY. Today I’m going to share a chocolate-y body butter bar formulation that employs two of my top strategies for making expensive-feeling body butter bars that will impress your friends and make fabulous gifts. Let’s dive in!
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
The star ingredient
It’s cocoa butter! This fabulous firm, smooth butter forms the bulk of this formulation. It not only provides the majority of the structure to the bars, but it also gives them their mouthwatering chocolatey scent.
This beautiful butter melts right around 34°C; a few degrees cooler than body temperature. This means it starts to melt relatively quickly when massaged into the skin, transforming into a velvety oil.
Because cocoa butter forms the bulk of these bars—by a wide margin—two things are very important. The first is that you don’t substitute it out. Using refined instead of unrefined is ok, but please know that I made many versions of this formulation to balance everything and create exactly the finished bar I wanted. Changing 70% of a formulation will change it, even if you’re swapping it for a different brittle butter.
The second thing; if you don’t like the feel of cocoa butter on your skin, you probably won’t like this body butter bar. Try rubbing a wee nugget of cocoa butter on your skin and see what you think. If it’s not for you then you just learned a valuable lesson without wasting any time ☺️ And if you adore it and don’t see a reason to complicate things, don’t! Straight-up cocoa butter makes a fabulous body butter bar on its own.
A few other special ingredients
I’ve included some cationic BTMS-50 for its fabulous cationic wonderfulness, improving skin feel, adding rinse-off resistance, and generally feeling delightful. This is what will have you touching your skin over and over because it’s just so dang soft and silky and you can’t believe it 😄
I ended up incorporating some soft, creamy mango butter after a few iterations that went from solid to unpleasantly oily moments after being picked up. That could be good for massage, but I didn’t love it for a body butter bar. Including a fat that melts more slowly helps counter that too-fast solid-to-liquid transition.
Mango butter on its own wasn’t enough to slow the solid-to-liquid transition, so around iteration #5 I incorporated a dedicated fatty thickener. The BTMS-50 contributes about 4% cetyl alcohol to the overall formulation, but that clearly wasn’t doing the trick. I needed something that would slow down the melt speed, giving us more of a buttery feel than an almost instant solid-to-oil feel.
I tried cetearyl alcohol first. This was a huge improvement, but did make the bars a wee bit waxier than I wanted, so I decided to try C10-18 Triglycerides (Butter Pearls) instead. I liked that a lot! The final amount still needed to be tweaked, but I was on the right track 😄
The cooling process
In order to create a firm, smooth bar, we’ve got a two-step cooling process.
Begin by using an ice bath to cool the butter to a medium-thick trace. It should be like thick, like runny honey.
Pour that mixture into a mould, tap it on the counter to settle everything down, and then pop it in your freezer (or, if it’s freezing where you are, your porch… that’s what I’ve been doing 🤣).
Once the bars have solidified, unmould them and let them come to room temperature inside.
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
How long all of this will take will depend on several factors: how large your batch is (larger batches will cool more slowly), how quickly the vessel you’re working in cools down (thick glass will cool more slowly than thin plastic), and how big each individual bar is (larger bars will take longer to cool than smaller ones).
I set a new record for graininess with an earlier version of this formulation when I let it set up at room temperature after bringing it to trace. It went grainy in an hour! I was amazed. But also… that’s not exactly what we want 🤣
Will these melt in hot weather?
Definitely. These bars are designed to melt just below body temperature, which is approximately 37°C (98.6°F). If these bars get warmer than ~30°C they will soften and eventually liquify. So… don’t do that. Store these bars the same way you’d store a chocolate bar; don’t leave them in a hot car or in top of an operating toaster oven.
If you need something that’s heat stable I’d recommend an emulsion instead, like my Hot Chocolate Natural Body Butter.
How should I package these bars?
This formulation will work well in a push-up tube (there are plastic and paperboard options), or as stand-alone bars.
If you do decide to go the stand-alone route I recommend gifting and storing the bar in a tin or jar; body butter bars do a wonderful job of picking up lint and hair throughout their life, and that quickly makes them look really quite disgusting.
Relevant links & further reading
- Cocoa Butter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Mango Butter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- BTMS-50 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Isoamyl laurate in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Why is my body butter melting?
- Why is my body butter grainy?
- Why is my body butter greasy?
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Other body butter bar formulations:
Hot Chocolate Body Butter Bars
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a beaker or some sort of other vessel you can heat directly—we’ll need direct heat to get the BTMS-50 to melt with any sort of speed.
I used my Hot Plate with a borisillicate beaker. You could also use a beaker on glass-top stove on the lowest setting, or put your beakers (or other oven-safe vessel) on a cookie sheet and put them in an oven set to approximately 80°C (176F). A third option—a small saucepan on the stovetop. I do recommend choosing something glass if you can, though—the higher heat capacity of glass (vs metal or plastic) makes the cooling process less stressful as things don’t move as quickly.
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.
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. Set the measuring cup on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything.
Stir the mixture constantly until it becomes cloudy—that’s the BTMS-50 cooling down. Weigh in the cool down phase and stir to incorporated.
Now it’s time to cool the mixture to trace. Place the beaker into the ice bath and cool, stirring constantly. I like to move the beaker in and out of the ice bath, stirring all the while, so nothing happens too quickly.
Continue stirring the mixture in the ice bath until you reach a medium-heavy “trace”—the mixture should have enough viscosity that a small amount drizzled over the surface of the mixture leaves a 3D “trace” for an instant. 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 the container nicely, so be careful and make sure your packing is standing by.
Once you reach trace you can now pour the product into its container and transfer it to your porch (or your freezer if you don’t live somewhere cold) to set up. I divided this batch between three jumbo lip balm tubes and three free-standing 15-ish gram bars using my silicone honeycomb mold (USA / Canada).
When the bars have solidified you can bring them inside and let them come to room temperature. That’s it!
Use these bars as you’d use any body butter; glide them over the skin and massage in. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this product does not contain any water, 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 formulation, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this formulation 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 formulation will make 90g. I used this batch size to fill three jumbo lip balm tubes and make three 15-ish gram bars.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, 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.
- This simple formulation is carefully balanced, so please know that making any changes will noticeably impact this formulation and may require re-development.
- You can use refined cocoa butter if you don’t want these bars to smell like chocolate.
- You could try a different soft butter, like Shea Butter or Murumuru Butter. I recommend choosing refined versions for this formulation.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the BTMS-50. If you have to use BTMS-25 instead that can work, but it’s a more potent hardener than BTMS-50 so you will need to re-develop the formulation to ensure the melting point is just right.
- Cetearyl alcohol technically works instead of butter pearls, but it does give this formulation a much more ‘waxy’ feel.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The mango butter, jumbo lip balm tubes, and brown mica were gifted by YellowBee.
The cocoa butter was gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.
The C10-18 Triglycerides was gifted by Simply Ingredients.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.