Cupuaçu Butter

What is it? A firm soft butter, made by cold pressing the seeds of the Cupuaçu tree, which is native to Brazil.
Appearance The unrefined variety has a super cool, bead-like appearance; wee cream coloured blobs roughly the size of seed beads all clumped together. Once it’s been melted and re-solidified it looks just like any other cream coloured butter. The refined variety is white from being bleached, and pretty much just looks like fat.
Texture A bit stiff at first, but as it melts into your skin it’s wonderfully smooth and silky.
Scent The unrefined stuff smells like… chocolate combined with something tangy like passionfruit or yogurt. I don’t hate it, but it isn’t amazing. That fades quickly once it’s on your skin or diluted with other ingredients, but most people prefer the refined version.
Absorbency Speed Quite fast, especially for a butter! A small amount will spread over the skin beautifully and leave a satiny, non-greasy finish in no time.
Approximate Melting Point 34°C/93°F
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? I love the finish cupuaçu butter has—it’s incredibly silky, and almost silicone-like. I tend to love it in hand products and cosmetics, where I want a fast-absorbing, silky product, but perhaps without, or with less wax, than I’d need if I used entirely liquid oils. It’s also less likely to go grainy than shea butter is.
Do you need it? I love it, and I’d say so, but you can get away with shea or mango butter in most formulations that call for cupuaçu butter. Everyone I’ve talked into purchasing cupuaçu butter has fallen in love with it!
Refined or unrefined? I’ve worked with both, and while the unrefined stuff is really neat, its smell can be… not great. I’d probably go with refined.
Strengths Amazing, silky, almost silicone-like finish on the skin. Fantastically moisturizing and smooth. Not greasy, even when used directly on the skin (in small amounts, at least!).
Weaknesses It’s one of the more expensive butters, and can be harder to source.
Alternatives & Substitutions Mango and shea butter are both ok swaps, with mango being the better choice of the two.
How to Work with It I love it in anything where I’d like the thickness and richness of shea butter without the greasy feeling. I tend to especially love cupuaçu butter in hand lotions and facial products (like cosmetics).
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, capuacu butter should last at least two or three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Because it absorbs into the skin so quickly and is super hydrating, I love to put a bit in a small tin (15mL/0.5oz) and carry it around in my purse.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Cupuaçu Butter

Coconut Oil

What is it? The oil pressed from the meat of coconuts. Depending on the ambient temperature where you live/store your coconut oil it can be either liquid (in temperatures above ~24°C/75°F) or solid (in temperatures below ~24°C/75°F).

You can also purchase fractionated coconut oil, which is coconut oil that has been modified so that it’s always liquid, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Fractionated coconut oil and coconut oil are not interchangeable.

Coconut oil contains ~48% lauric acid; this saturated fatty acid is a big part of what gives coconut oil its gorgeous slip. Lauric acid melts around 43°C (109°F) and feels quite thin and slippy on the skin, while palmitic acid melts around 63°C (145°F) and stearic acid melts around 70°C (158°F), and both of those feel much more substantial and buttery (you’ll find high concentrations of these buttery fatty acids in Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter). That high lauric acid composition is why coconut oil so readily tips between solid and liquid, melting around 25°C (77°F), and why we call it an oil rather than a butter.

INCI Cocos Nucifera Oil
Appearance When solid, coconut oil is a chunky white fat.

When coconut oil has melted, it’s a clear liquid.

Texture Coconut oil is a solid soft white oil that quickly liquifies on contact with skin. If you live somewhere with an ambient temperature above 24°C/75°F then it’ll be a liquid oil. Once melted it’s an extremely smooth oil with excellent slip/lubrication properties.
Scent Delicious! The virgin stuff smells like piña coladas and will leave you thinking you’re on a tropical vacation. It smells incredible. The RBD (refined/bleached/deodorized) variety smells like nothing.
Absorbency Speed Average
Why do we use it in formulations? In soap coconut oil contributes incredible bubbly lather that’s nearly impossible to get with other oils, which is why coconut oil is in nearly every single soap recipe you’ll find.

In body products I love to use it for its incredible scent and for its glide; coconut oil is so slippery that it pairs beautifully with stiffer, slower-melting fats (like shea butter). It’s also lovely in lip products for great slip.

Approximate Melting Point 24°C/75°F
Do you need it? Yeah! It’s super versatile and smells amazing.
Refined or unrefined? I have both; I use the refined/bleached/deodorized stuff for soap (it’s much cheaper), and the virgin variety for everything else.
Strengths Delicious scent, great slip on the skin thanks to its high lauric acid content.
Weaknesses It’s a bit thin to be a great moisturizer in very dry climates, and too much take a product from feeling pleasantly “slippy” to oily.
Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll want an oil that is high in lauric acid and not too high in palmitic or stearic acid. Babassu oil and palm seed/kernel (not fruit!) oils both fit this bill 🙂
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, coconut oil should last at least two years; its high saturated fat content makes coconut oil quite resistant to going rancid. If you live somewhere temperatures can fluctuate above and below 24°F (75°F) I recommend storing your coconut a wide-mouthed tub (rather than a narrow-mouthed har) so you can still get to it if it solidifies.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Virgin coconut oil is one of a few ingredients that will scent a final product; it smells amazing when paired with honey-scented golden beeswax and chocolatey unrefined cocoa butter!
Recommended starter amount 250mL (8fl oz) unless you’re using it for soap, in which case I would get at least 1L (34fl oz) of the refined & bleached variety.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier; my favourite coconut oil is the “traditional” coconut oil sold by Baraka.

Some Formulations that Use Coconut Oil

Shea Butter

What is shea butter? Shea butter is a rich, thick, soft butter made from the seed of the shea fruit. Most shea butter we use is from Ghana or Burkina Faso.

Learn more about where shea is from and how it’s made with this video.

Appearance Thick and solid. The unrefined stuff comes in soft chunks and is beige to a pale yellow in colours. The refined stuff is pure white and can come in chunks or as a solid from being poured into its container while melted. If you live somewhere quite hot your shea might never be in chunks when it arrives if it melts during shipping and then re-solidifies.
Texture Thick and a bit tacky or sticky. You can spread a very thick layer of it on your skin, unlike thinner oils like coconut oil.
Scent Unrefined shea butter has a distinctive smokey scent that some people love and others loathe. The refined stuff doesn’t smell like much.
Absorbency Speed Slow. Shea butter is thick, rich, and heavy.
Approximate Melting Point 37°C/99°F
Solubility Shea butter is oil soluble.
Polarity High
Why do we use it in formulations? It brings great staying power and creaminess to formulations and is fantastic for dry skin.
Do you need it? I’d say so; it was one of the first ingredients I purchased and I use it all the time.
Refined or unrefined? I have both; I use the unrefined stuff in soap, and will often choose the refined variety for body butters and lip balms where I don’t want a shea scent.
Strengths Shea butter is a great moisturizer, especially for irritated skin.
Weaknesses It is really greasy and heavy, and the unrefined version can smell a bit funny. I also find it is extra prone to going grainy in projects. Learn about how to prevent greasiness here.
Alternatives & Substitutions Mango butter is a good alternative in terms of also being a soft oil, though it does absorb into the skin much faster than shea butter does.
How to Work with It Melt it gently in a water bath to incorporate it into recipes.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, shea should last at least 1–2 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Try applying it straight to dry, irritated skin—it’s especially good for eczema.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. I love Baraka Shea Butter!

Some Formulations that Use Shea Butter