Today’s creation is an ultra-crunchy, five-ingredient Kombo Shea Butter Balm. I decided to call it a “butter balm” because it’s got the skin feel of a body butter, but an in-the-tin feel that’s much closer to that of a balm. It’s a rich brown colour thanks to molasses-y kombo butter, and is richly perfect for cooler fall days. Making this butter balm is a simple melt-trace-pour. Let’s get started!

Kombo Shea Butter Balm

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The bulk of this formulation is a blend of two beautiful West African butters from Baraka Shea Butter; rich unrefined raw shea butter, and new-to-me deep brown Kombo butter [both gifted].

 

When Baraka sent me a bag of Kombo butter earlier this year I was quite intrigued; Kombo butter is perhaps what you’d get if blackstrap molasses was a butter. It is deep brown, soft, and glossy, with a strong earthy scent that is a bit reminiscent of blackstrap molasses. It’s made from the seeds of the “African nutmeg”, Pycnanthus angolensis. Kombo butter is primarily comprised of myristic acid (~61.5%) and myristoleic acid (~ 23.6%) (source) and is said to be anti-inflammatory and to help with muscle and joint pain. If you’d like to learn more, I enjoyed this post from Plant Use.

Because Kombo butter is very dark and fairly strongly scented, I opted to blend it with shea butter, and I think it’s a lovely combination. The shea butter means the butter isn’t really, really brown on the skin—it’s a soft caramelly colour instead. Scent-wise, the molasses-y scent of Kombo butter pairs really nicely with the nutty, smokey scent of shea butter. Shea butter is also firmer than Kombo butter, giving us a firmer balmy consistency.

Save 10% on shea butter and everything else at Baraka Shea Butter with coupon code HUMBLEBEE

I’ve employed two strategies to keep this Kombo Shea Butter Balm from feeling too greasy. Strategy one: I’ve made it quite firm so it’s pretty darn hard to apply large amounts of product in one go. You’re forced to apply small amounts, which can easily be spread over larger areas of skin so it doesn’t feel greasy. Strategy two: I’ve included 10% cornstarch to reduce feelings of oiliness. If you don’t have cornstarch you could use a different sort of starch like arrowroot, tapioca, wheat, or rice.

Let’s loop back to the scent of this butter balm; both Kombo butter and raw shea butter have their own scents, and they absolutely come through in the finished product. It’s a rich, earthy, smokey scent. In my experience, attempting to cover up the scent of raw ingredients doesn’t work. You just get the scent of the raw ingredient plus the scent of your essential oils or fragrance oils. It’s always best to work with the scent of the ingredients rather than try to fight it. To that end, I’ve included 0.5% dark patchouli essential oil. Its spicy, earthy, dry scent works beautifully with the butters. If you don’t like the smell of patchouli you don’t have to use it, but please choose an alternative essential oil carefully. I recommend opening a bottle of whatever you’re thinking of using along with some Kombo and shea and doing some wafting to get an idea for how the scents will blend. If it smells like a fight, choose something else.

We’ll melt the butters together with the starch, cool in an ice bath, add our cool down phase, and bring the mixture to a thick trace before pouring. This Kombo Shea Butter Balm is very firm once it sets, so I recommend a wide-mouthed tin or jar. I used a 1 oz paperboard container from YellowBee [gifted], which seemed very fitting for this very crunchy, all-natural formulation. Let’s get making!

Relevant links & further reading

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Kombo Shea Butter Balm

Heated phase
7.5g | 30% kombo butter (USA / Canada)
14.75g | 59% unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 10% corn starch

Cool down phase
0.125g | 0.5% dark patchouli essential oil (USA / Canada)
0.125g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)

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.

Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.

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.

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 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 leave it on the counter to set up. If you are using a paperboard container take care to avoid getting any product onto the raw edge of the container as that will bleed and won’t look very nice.

When the butter balm has set up, you’d all done! Use as you’d use any sort of moisturizing balm or body butter—I like to massage small amounts of the butter balm into my elbows and knees to soften ’em up. 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.

Substitutions

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 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 recipe will make 25g, which fills a 30mL (1fl oz) container nicely.
  • 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.
  • I don’t recommend substituting the shea or Kombo butters; they compromise 89.5% of this formulation. You could try refined shea butter instead of raw shea butter, but if you change more than that you will almost certainly be in re-development territory.
  • You can use a different starch like arrowroot, rice, wheat, tapioca, etc.
  • If you’d like to incorporate a different essential oil, please read this. Please remember that the Kombo butter has a distinct scent to it, and you are definitely better off trying to work with it rather than fight with it.
  • If you’d like to use a fragrance oil instead of the essential oil, please read this. Please remember that the Kombo butter has a distinct scent to it, and you are definitely better off trying to work with it rather than fight with it.

Gifting Disclosure

The 1 oz paperboard jar was gifted by YellowBee.
The shea butter and kombo butter were gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.

 

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