I’m pretty excited about this simple yet perfectly pillowy whipped shea butter! This two-ingredient formulation came about as part of my work on last spring’s Why is my body butter not whipping? video. I needed lots of b-roll of different body butters being whipped—successfully and otherwise—to round out that video. I mixed up this formulation expecting it to be my too-soft flop example… but it was perfect 😍. It quickly because my most favourite-est whipped shea butter, earning a coveted spot in my desk drawer for frequent application—to my hands! Me + body butter + hands is a rare combo, so you know this is something special. Decadent, scoopy, creamy, lightweight—divine.
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Let’s dive in!
The biggest challenge
Whipped body butters are lovely, and are a fabulous beginner-friendly DIY, but they have one huge weakness that makes them challenging to make, store for extended periods of time, and ship.
That weakness? Compared to products like lotions, lip balms, and emulsified body butters, whipped anhydrous body butters are incredibly sensitive to fluctuations in ambient temperature. If a whipped body butter gets too warm (a shift of 5–10°C [41–50°] can easily be enough) it will soften and potentially liquify. When it eventually re-solidifies, it won’t be the same—all that whippy-ness will be gone and there’s a non-zero chance it’ll go grainy from not cooling properly.
If a whipped body butter gets too cold it’ll get harder than it’s supposed to be; it won’t be (as) soft and scoopy anymore. Depending on how cold it gets that could be anything from being semi-firm and a bit spongy to rock hard.
Temperature fluctuations that can cause huge changes to your product can happen in so many ways: being left in a hot car or delivery van, caught through a window by a slow-moving sunbeam, left near a furnace vent or in a bathroom while someone takes an extra-long hot shower, the A/C works too well (or not well enough)… yeah. Even seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of your home can make a big difference.
I believe this fundamental challenge is why whipped anhydrous body butters aren’t a product you really see on on the shelves of bigger stores. Given the temperature sensitivity, brands simply can’t guarantee a good experience for the consumer throughout the life of the product. If a customer purchases the body butter in the summer and leave it in the car for a quick errand on the way home it could be ruined before the customer ever gets to use it, and that’s obviously not going to make for a very happy customer!
Summer vs. Winter
I’m sharing two versions of this formulation today: one that worked for the Canadian summer (inside!), and one that’s working for my Canadian winter (definitely inside!).
My ambient summer temperature was around 23°C (73°F), and my current wintery ambient temperature is around 19°C (66°F).
After using the summer version of this formulation for most of 2022 I knew I had to share it—but when I went to use it in December it became apparent that the drop in temperature in my home was taking a toll on this formulation. It had gotten harder and a bit spongey—still nice, but not all marshmallowy like it was back in June.
So, I developed a winter version of this formulation that shifted the butter/oil blend by 5% to make a slightly softer version that is suited to lower ambient temperatures.
If your ambient temperatures are different than mine, you’ll probably need to shift the butter/oil balance as well. More on that later!
Strategies for dealing with that big challenge
- Make small batches—roughly what you can finish in the same season you made it.
- Adjust the fat blend for summer and winter: finish your winter formulation while it’s cold out and make a new batch with a slightly different blend for warmer days.
- Make sure any gift recipients know the product is temperature sensitive so they don’t accidentally ruin it.
- Consider switching to emulsified body butter formulations; they’re stable across a much wider range of temperatures.
What’s different about this formulation
In the past, I’ve formulated whipped body butters with this “design brief”: a soft butter with just enough oil to make it soft. This whipped body butter is structured the opposite way: a liquid oil with just enough soft butter to make it a soft, decadent semi-solid. Approaching things from the other side has created a much lighter, softer finished product that is (surprisingly!) predominantly liquid oil. Being softer also means this formulation is more sensitive to hot weather than a firmer one would be.
This has an additional benefit of making the formulation lighter on the skin as most liquid oils are noticeably lighter than shea butter is.
Our star ingredient—the thing that lets this body butter be whippy, creamy, soft, and decadent. It’s refined shea butter! I chose shea butter because it’s a rich, decadent, and very popular butter. I chose refined shea butter so this whippy body butter is as bare bones as possible, leaving lots of room for customization. If you like the scent of unrefined shea butter you’re certainly welcome to try it here.
I do not recommend choosing a different soft butter (Mango Butter, Cupuacu Butter, Murumuru Butter, etc.) for this formulation unless you are open to doing some re-development work. Just because a different butter is soft and has a similar melting point doesn’t mean the ratios I’ve shared here will work beautifully; you’ll have to try and see!
Our second ingredient teams up with rich, creamy shea butter to create soft, pillowy fabulousness 😍 It’s a liquid oil. I’ve used Apricot Kernel Oil, but you could use any relatively lightweight, relatively inexpensive liquid oil (or blend of oils!).
Other options include Safflower Oil, Sunflower Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, and Grapeseed Oil. If you’re looking at an oil and wondering “can I use that?” ask yourself: “Is it liquid? Do I like how it feels on my skin? Was it inexpensive enough that I won’t cry if I have to replace it?”. If the answer to all three questions is “yes”, then you can use it! Don’t over-think it 😉
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It’s too soft 😔
If you’ve made this formulation as written and it’s too soft, that’s because the ambient temperature wherever you are is higher (warmer) than the ambient temperature where I am.
If this is the case, you’ll need to incorporate more shea butter: melt in a bit more, re-freeze, and re-whip. Take careful notes so you can re-calculate the percentages once you’ve got a blend that works.
For a 50g (1.76oz) batch I’d try adding 2–5g shea butter, depending on how soft it is. If it’s just a bit too soft, go with the lower end. If it’s sloshing around, go with the higher end. If it’s completely liquid (meaning it isn’t even opaque) you’ll probably want to start over with some drastically different ratios rather than try to slowly add enough shea butter to get it to work. I’d probably start around 50/50 and see how that goes.
It’s too hard 😖
If you’ve made this formulation as written and it’s too hard, that’s because the ambient temperature wherever you are is lower (colder) than the ambient temperature where I am. Brr!
If this is the case, you’ll need to incorporate more liquid oil. If the butter is hard but still pliable you can likely just whip in an extra 2–4g of liquid oil, but if it’s so hard that it’s chunky I’d re-melt/re-freeze/re-whip. Take careful notes so you can re-calculate the percentages once you’ve got a blend that works.
The 35/65 ratio works well around 19°C (66°F), while the 40/60 ratio works well around 23°C (73°F). I haven’t had the opportunity to test variations on this formulation in wider range of temperatures—these are my inside winter and inside summer temperatures, generally speaking.
If your home is around 16–17°C (61°–63°F) I’d probably try a 30/70 blend of shea butter to liquid oil.
Will this melt in hot weather?
Absolutely. This whipped shea butter will enthusiastically liquify if exposed to temperatures at or above its relatively low melting point. If it’s melting please refer to the advice in the “It’s too soft” section above.
Is this body butter greasy?
This formulation is pure fat—butters + oils—so it is (inevitably) pretty rich. It is way richer than any lotion or emulsified body butter will be as those contain water (usually at least 50%), and water is a whole lot lighter than oil.
If you want this whipped body butter to be as light as possible, make sure you’re choosing a relatively lightweight, absorbing liquid carrier oil to pair with the shea butter.
I also recommend applying less than you think you need as a little goes a long way. Resist the urge to help yourself to a big, indulgent scoop of body butter—that’s a recipe for a human oil slick!
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Hot vs. Cold Process
This formulation can be hot processed or cold processed, but the cold process method is a bit more than just not melting the shea butter. I’ve made a patron exclusive video about how to do this; please consider becoming a $10USD/month Patron to check out that video and help support Humblebee & Me!
Relevant links & further reading
- Shea Butter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Apricot Kernel Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- A Guide to Carrier Oil Substitutions
- Why is my body butter not whipping?
- 6 body butter mistakes most newbies make
- 4 tips to make your body butters feel expensive
- What can I make with shea butter? (interview with Gifty of Baraka Shea Butter about how shea butter is made)
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Can I add a fragrance oil or flavour oil to this formulation? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- How much essential oil can I add to this recipe? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Other simple whipped shea DIYs:
Perfectly Pillowy Whipped Shea Butter
The timing mentioned in these instructions is for a 50g (1.76oz) batch; if you change the batch size significantly, the times required for melting, chilling, whipping, etc. will also change. I’ve provided descriptions of what you’re looking for at each stage, so go by those rather than the mentioned times if you’re making a different batch size.
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 shea butter and apricot kernel oil into a small bowl that you can heat and whip the butter in later. Place the bowl in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
I’m often asked about the little stainless steel bowls I use for small batches of whipped body butters—they’re Kirkland (Costco) brand. I picked them up at a thrift shop years ago, so I have no idea when Costco sold them.
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. Place the bowl in the freezer for 15–20 minutes; the mixture should be a soft solid and the top should be ‘frozen’ over. A gooey centre is ok, but if it’s still liquid in the middle and sloshes about when you tip the bowl, give it a few more minutes in the freezer.
Grab your electric beaters; you’ll want the attachments you’d use to cream butter and sugar together if you were making cookies or a cake (the whisk attachment will work if yours is sturdy; mine is pretty squishy). Depending on the size of your bowl you might just need one beater rather than both of them.
Whip away for about three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once the body butter starts to soften and collapse a bit, pop it back into the freezer for another five minutes.
Whip again for another three-ish minutes, until the body butter is light (both in consistency and colour) and makes soft, marshmallowy folds when you stir it.
Leave it to fully come to room temperature. If you’re making this for the first time, l recommend leaving it overnight.
Once it’s settled at room temperature, give it a poke and make sure you’re still happy with the consistency—that it hasn’t melted into a puddle or anything unpleasant (If you live somewhere quite hot, please read this). If it’s too hard, whip in a bit more liquid oil and wait. If it’s too soft, add more shea butter, re-melt, and re-whip. If you make any changes, make sure you wait to ensure it stays soft at least overnight before packaging it up.
When you’re happy with the consistency of your whipped butter, it’s time to package it up! I gently scooped mine into a 2-oz tin from YellowBee (gifted). Be careful not to crush the butter and ruin its whippy gorgeousness—do not pack it into your jar or tin.
Use as you’d use any body butter or lotion, remembering that a little goes a long way. 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.
Do not store this body butter anywhere it’ll get hot or cold.
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 50g.
- 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 butter. Unrefined will likely work, though.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of apricot kernel oil.
- Please read the blog post for more details, but there’s no need to complicate this ingredient.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The pink tins, refined shea butter, and apricot kernel oil were gifted by YellowBee.
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