I’ve been playing with lots of more complex DIYs lately, and I was itching to get back to something a bit simpler. Something made with wonderful plant-sourced oils and butters that are accented with essential oils. The sort of thing that isn’t intimidating, and really lets some of my favourite ingredients shine. That’s how we ended up here! This simple, rich Lavender Patchouli Body Butter combines a few lovely ingredients in carefully crafted amounts to create something indulgently creamy and moisturizing from some stuff you probably already have.
The bulk of this body butter is shea butter—I recommend using refined so the scent of the unrefined stuff doesn’t compete with your end product. At such a high usage rate you’re certain to notice that characteristic smokey scent when you’re done. The shea butter is our only hardening ingredient, so the end product melts beautifully and absorbs into the skin decadently, with no waxiness since there is no wax in the formula.
I’ve softened the shea butter with a few things. Lightweight apricot kernel oil and squalane not only help soften the shea and smooth it out, but they also help speed up the absorption speed. Shea butter is a pretty darn heavy, slow absorbing, slightly sticky butter, so pairing it with some lightweight, silky oils makes a ton of sense.
The beautiful custardy-yellow hue comes from the inclusion of some rich soy lecithin. Lecithin is a humectant, antioxidant, and emollient—a wonderful thing to include in our concoctions! It helps make this body butter extra moisturizing, which is never a bad thing, and I find it lends a beautiful richness to concoctions that is quite unique.
Our essential oil blend is a soft mixture of lavender, peppermint, and dark patchouli. I’ve kept the dark patchouli amount very low as it still dominates the blend, but it is mellowed and sweetened by the lavender, and brightened with the peppermint. You certainly don’t have to use this blend if you don’t want to—if you hate patchouli you can simply drop it, or you can use something else all together.
We’ll be making this body butter in a few stages to reduce the chances of the shea butter going grainy on us (my first go at this recipe dates to February and it’s still silky smooth!). Step one is just barely melting the shea and lecithin together. From there we’ll jump start the cooling process by stirring in the liquid oils at room temperature, and then cool the whole lot to trace in an ice bath, stirring in the cool down phase ingredients as we go. The trace trick is one I’ve learned as part of my coursework for Formula Botanica’s Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation. Many of you have been asking and no… I’m still not done, so I still don’t have a full review for you. The not-done thing is 100% my fault as I’ve been bogged down with so many other things, but I fully intend to finish it, and I will be at their sold-out annual conference in London this coming November!
Ok—let’s get our crunchy on with this richly moisturizing body butter!
Lavender Patchouli 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 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. We’re aiming to just melt everything through, so keep a close eye on the mixture and remove it from the heat as soon as it has liquified.
While the heated phase is melting, weigh the cool down phase ingredients into a small beaker or dish. I chose a lightweight beaker so I could use a scale precise to 0.01g—heavier containers are too much for my precise scale to handle.
Prepare an ice bath in a bowl that will accommodate your heated measuring cup—you’ll want a handful of ice cubes and some cold water.
Once the heated phase ingredients have melted remove the measuring cup from the hot water bath and add the post-heated phase ingredients—keeping these cool simply helps the whole mixture cool faster. Up next, place the whole container in the ice bath. Stir constantly with a flexible silicone spatula, being sure to scrape down the sides frequently. After a minute, stir in the cool down phase ingredients.
Continue stirring the mixture in the ice bath until you reach “trace”—the mixture should have enough viscosity that a small amount drizzled over the surface of the mixture leaves a “trace” for an instant. If you’re a soap maker you’ll be familiar with this—we’re looking for a rather light trace. Refer to the video to see it in action! If in doubt, stir and chill longer, giving it more time to obviously thicken up, otherwise it may not set up properly.
At that point pour the mixture into a 60mL/2oz tin. I used this 50g plastic jar from YellowBee. Leave it to set up for at least an hour before using—it should appear solid. The set-up time will vary depending on ambient temperature (if you’re somewhere quite hot, popping it in the fridge would be a good idea).
Because this salve 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.
Substitutions & Notes
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 40g (1.41oz).
- The structure of this recipe comes entirely from shea butter, which melts around 37°C/98°F. Given it is diluted with some liquid oils, the melting point of this butter will be lower than that. If you live somewhere with ambient temperature close to 37°C/98°F, this recipe may not be for you. It was approximately 27°C/80°F in my house the day I made this for the blog, and that was fine.
- You can use unrefined shea if you prefer. You could also try mango butter or cupuacu butter, though this will impact the consistency; they have similar consistencies, but given the butter is the only thickening agent in this recipe, changing it will impact the end product.
- You can use sunflower lecithin in place of soy, but I would recommend staying with liquid lecithin rather than trying to use the solid granules.
- A different lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed will work well instead of apricot kernel oil and/or squalane.
- You can use a different blend of essential oils