Today we’re kicking off our holiday 2022 making with a silky, decadent Hot Chocolate Natural Body Butter 🍫 This formulation is part of our first theme—Hot Chocolate! This is a bit of a “Bee Better” of a theme I very briefly touched on back in 2013. It was just a soap, and I wanted to do the theme justice with a few more decadent formulations 😋
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
General formulation overview
This Hot Chocolate Natural Body Butter is a rich emulsion that stars fragrant cocoa butter and relatively lightweight apricot kernel oil. It’s emulsified with Ritamulse SCG used at the lower end of the recommended range (more on this further down!), and thickened to the perfect silky, decadent consistency with expensive-feeling cetyl alcohol.
The water phase includes some great humectants (Sodium Lactate and Propanediol 1,3) and skin-soothing actives (panthenol (Vitamin B5), allantoin) to help moisturize, hydrate, and soothe the skin. Brilliant for winter!
As a new maker, I gifted a lot of really rich (usually shea & cocoa based) body butters to friends and family. I noticed they rarely got used—I’d see them on a shelf months (or even years) later, untouched. Whenever I asked, the giftee would admit that the butter was simply too greasy for their tastes, so they found themselves reaching for a Lubriderm or St. Ives lotion instead. As I’ve grown as a formulator I’ve learned how to make emulsified body butters that have a lot of the decadence of a traditional body butter, but are lighter and more familiar to people who primarily use emulsions to moisturize.
As an added bonus, emulsions are typically cheaper to make than anhydrous body butters since distilled water is cheaper than any oil or butter!
What is an emulsified body butter?
Emulsified body butters are like a hybrid between anhydrous body butters (body butters make with no water) and lotions (emulsions of oil and water). Like an anhydrous body butter, they’re rich, thick, and creamy—but the emulsified part introduces lightweight, hydrating water, making emulsified body butters substantially lighter than their anhydrous counterparts. The inclusion of a water phase also means emulsified body butters can contain water soluble awesome-for-skin ingredients like panthenol (Vitamin B5), allantoin, hydrolyzed oat protein, vegetable glycerin, and many many more! This means emulsified body butters are often a better skincare choice for those who struggle with dehydrated skin.
When compared to a lotion, an emulsified body butter will have a larger oil phase, and will likely contain fatty thickeners and/or butters to create a rich, buttery consistency.
Ritamulse SCG in an emulsified body butter
In the past I’ve used non-thickening emulsifying waxes like Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate to make emulsified body butters, rather than thickening emulsifying waxes like Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse). This is because they don’t thicken our emulsions, meaning even large oil phase emulsions can be quite thin. As I worked on the simple natural lotion series I’ve been sharing this autumn, I started experimenting with lower usage rates of Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse) and was thrilled to find that I could create stable (and fluid!) emulsions with far less emulsifier than I’d been using in the past. I shared several ultra-light emulsions using this bit of learning about a month ago, and now I’m sharing a rich emulsion taking advantage of the lower emulsifier rate!
Why is emulsifier rate important?
First off, we need to make sure we’re using enough emulsifier to actually emulsify the formulation! If it splits, nothing else really matters.
Emulsifiers have recommended usage ranges, with the precise amount of emulsifier increasing with the size of the oil phase. When those emulsifiers also contain thickeners that contribute to the viscosity of our emulsions, using the emulsifier at the lower end of the range will result in a thinner emulsion, and using it at the higher end of the range will result in a thicker emulsion.
Since we’re aiming to make a thick, rich product you might think it makes sense to use the emulsifier at the higher end of the range. This isn’t the case, though! Because our emulsified body butter has a large oil phase, using the emulsifier at the higher end of its usage range ends up being quite a lot of emulsifier, and oodles of emulsifying wax in a formulation can start to feel waxy. Using the higher end of the range with a smaller oil phase formulation can be an easy, pleasant way to boost viscosity without adding an additional ingredient—this is because the higher usage rate still isn’t all that much in the overall formulation. Double or triple the size of the oil phase, though, and now your formulation contains a lot of emulsifier. It’ll be thick, but it can also be waxy and stiff. So! We use the lower end of the emulsifier range and control how we get our viscosity with fatty thickeners (I used cetyl alcohol in this formulation for its glorious slip) and butters (cocoa butter for this formulation, of course!).
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
How are we scenting this formulation?
Our star scent ingredient is unrefined cocoa butter (mine is from Baraka and it smells divine). Even at 8% it imparts a noticeable scent to the formulation. It can be tempting to add more cocoa butter, but I don’t recommend it—I’ve found emulsions that contain high concentrations of cocoa butter tend to get hard and sort of spongey over time.
I’ve left room in the cool down phase to further boost the chocolatey scent of this Hot Chocolate-themed formulation. For a natural option, cocoa absolute works a treat. Unfortunately, even at 0.2%, cocoa absolute ends up being the most expensive ingredient in this formulation (depending on where you purchase your cocoa absolute, you could end up using over $3 of it in this 300g batch!). So, for a cheaper option, consider a chocolate-y fragrance oil. Brambleberry has some beautiful ones!
The cocoa absolute is also a very rich brown, so if you use that, your final formulation will be a deeper caramel-y colour. Absolute vs. fragrance oil is the reason for the colour difference you can see between the wider and narrower pots in the photos in this post.
You can also leave out the scenting ingredient entirely, replacing it with more distilled water and letting the cocoa butter be the sole scenting ingredient.
How can I make it look really chocolate-y?
I recommend adding a chocolate-y brown mica to the cool down phase at about 1%, reducing the distilled water to make room for it. Refer to this formulation to see how that can look. Keep in mind that this can leave brown streaks/smudges on the skin, especially if you use too much.
How much does this formulation cost?
Unscented, this formulation is approximately $5USD/150g, though of course this can vary a ton depending on where you live, where you shop, and the quantities you purchase. These variables are why I rarely give a cost for making anything… it’s just not terribly relevant to a global audience.
The fragrance oil adds about $0.15/300g, while the absolute adds about $3.30/300g. Packaging can vary a lot depending on what you get and how much you buy; I’d budget at least $1USD per 100–150g container.
Would you prefer something lighter?
I created a Hot Chocolate Body Milk formulation as a patron exclusive; it uses the same ingredients, but is ultralight and fluid! This formulation is available now to my $10 and up patrons at https://patreon.com/marierayma.
Relevant links & further reading
- Distilled water in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sodium Lactate in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Panthenol (Vitamin B5) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Propanediol 1,3 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Apricot Kernel Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cocoa Butter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cetyl Alcohol in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Euxyl™ k 903 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Allantoin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Stop Believing These 6 Lotion Myths
- Why didn’t my lotion emulsify? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- More on natural lotion formulation:
- Easy Natural Lotion for Beginners
- How to gently scent lotions with natural ingredients (+2 free formulas!)
- How to naturally scent lotions with essential oils and natural fragrance oils
- How to make your lotions thicker
- How to make your lotion richer
- How to make your lotion lighter
- How to add actives and other ingredients to your lotions
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- pH meter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- pH measurement in cosmetic lab: why we dilute samples? from Skin Chakra
- How to adjust the pH of your cosmetic products from Skin Chakra
- Why do you create a 10% dilution of a formulation before measuring the pH? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
Hot Chocolate Natural Body Butter
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.
Weigh the heated oil phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup.
Place both measuring cups in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
After about 20–30 minutes the oil part should be completely melted and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved.
Remove the water bath from the heat and weigh the water phase. Add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating, and then pour the water part into the oil part. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.
Grab your immersion blender and begin blending the lotion, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid lotion doesn’t whirl up and spray everywhere.
- Blend for about 3 minutes
- Hand stir constantly until you notice some thick bits coming up on the spatula (another minute or two)
- Blend for another 20–30 seconds; the body butter should be noticeably thicker after this second blending.
- Hand stir occasionally until the outside of the glass measuring cup is just warm to the touch (40°C or cooler, if you have a thermometer).
Now it’s time to incorporate our cool down phase. Weigh the cool down phase into a small dish, add a scoop or two of body butter, and then stir to thoroughly incorporate. Once that lotion/preservative mixture is smooth and uniform, stir it into the master batch of body butter. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
The last step before packaging the body butter is testing the pH to ensure it’s in a good range for our skin, our preservative, and our emulsifier. A range of 4.5–5.5 is good. To test and adjust the pH: create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why we create a dilution to check the pH?). Check the pH with your pH meter. Depending on the shape of your bowl/beaker you may need to tilt it in order to fully submerge the sensor on your pH meter. The pH should fall in the 5.1–5.5 range. If it is lower than 4.5 you’ll want to raise it; if it’s higher than 6, you’ll want to lower it. Please read this article from Skin Chakra to learn more about pH adjusting.
Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package up your Hot Chocolate Natural Body Butter! I recommend using a wide-mouthed tub or jar for this formulation; it’s far too thick for a pump-top bottle. I used two 150mL screw-top plastic jars from YellowBee (gifted).
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this formula contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. With good manufacturing practice and proper preservation, this formulation should last at least a year. Even with a preservative, this project may eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
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 300g. This will fill two 150mL jars or 3 100mL jars.
- 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.
- Vegetable glycerin (or more propanediol 1,3) will work as an alternative to sodium lactate, though the final pH tends to be a bit more acidic (closer to 5).
- You could replace the Propanediol 1,3 with Vegetable Glycerin.
- For the Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse):
- You’ll need a different complete, self-thickening emulsifying wax.
- Olivem 1000 and Montanov 68 will work, though both soap much more than Ritamulse SCG does.
- I don’t recommend PolyAquol-2W due to its sensitivity to electrolytes (sodium lactate contains electrolytes).
- Plantasens® HE20 should work, though my experience with this emulsifier is quite limited.
- Emulsifying Wax NF and Polawax will work, though they are not natural.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of apricot kernel oil.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the cocoa butter as it’s a core part of the theme, though you could use refined/deodorized cocoa butter if you’d prefer to scent the formulation differently.
- Kokum butter or tucuma butter will also work in a pinch.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the Cetyl Alcohol. I tried a version with cetearyl alcohol and it didn’t feel anywhere near as lovely.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- You can replace the vitamin E with more water.
- You can use a chocolate-y fragrance oil or more water instead of the cocoa absolute.
- You can replace the allantoin with more distilled water or more panthenol (Vitamin B5).
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
The cetyl alcohol, apricot kernel oil, and plastic jars were gifted by YellowBee.
The cocoa butter was gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.
The allantoin and panthenol were gifted by Essential Wholesale.
The Euxyl™ k 903 was gifted by Formulator Sample Shop.
The sodium lactate and chocolate fragrance oil were gifted by Bramble Berry.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.