This rich, creamy Soothing Hand Butter is an absolute delight to massage into hands that could use a bit of pampering. It stars some ultra-creamy emollients and beautiful botanical-infused oils to create a stunning, sumptuous skin treat. I’ve used a slightly unorthodox thickening method to ensure the end product isn’t at all a typical salve or balm—it’s a true butter infused with all kinds of goodness, and I think you’ll love it!
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The bulk of this beautiful Soothing Hand Butter is two rich, creamy emollients: lanolin and shea butter. I love both of these ingredients for irritated skin—I find their slow-absorbing, unctuous nature means they stick around for ages to do longer-term battle with dryness and protect my skin. Lanolin is a popular choice with breastfeeding mothers for irritated nipples, and I’ve found shea butter to be one of the simplest and most effective solutions for persistent dry skin. Now, neither of these emollients are what anybody would ever describe as fast-absorbing or lightweight, so you can probably guess that this hand butter is not the sort of thing you should be applying before handling lots of tissue paper (this hand lotion might be, though!).
For a beautiful botanical boost (say that ten times fast!) I’ve included two different herb infused oils—St. John’s Wort & calendula. Both are detailed in the DIY Encyclopedia, so you can learn more about them there, but the general gist of it is that between them they have wonderful anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and soothing properties, making them an excellent choice for this hand butter. You can choose to DIY the infusion (the instructions are in the recipe below) or purchase a pre-made macerated oil. I made my calendula infusion, while the St. John’s Wort macerated oil was a gift from Plant’s Power (thank you!).
I’ve also included a new-to-me carrier oil that I’ve heard no end of good things about: black cumin seed oil. This peppery-scented oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. It is, understandably, very popular in products designed for irritated skin, and has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of eczema and acne. I’d say it absorbs at an average speed, and it has a beautiful rich, velvety skin feel and finish. I find the peppery scent blends nicely with the mustier scents of the lanolin and the slightly nutty, herbal scents of the botanical infused oils. If you need a substitution, check out the encyclopedia entry for some suggestions.
Our thickener is stearic acid, and that is absolutely key here. When I first started working with stearic acid I was really struck by its ability to transform liquid oils into what felt like butters, rather than waxy salves, and I have harnessed that beautiful transformational ability here. Because this hand butter is thickened with stearic acid instead of a wax it has a beautiful rich, creamy feel without any waxiness—and because stearic acid is heavier that something like cetyl alcohol we get an end product with a distinctly rich, slow melting feel that is very indulgent.
I chose not to scent this Soothing Hand Butter, though the incorporation of 0.5% lavender essential oil would be lovely if it appeals to you (simply remove 0.5% from one of the liquid oils to make room for it). I have included a wee bit of bisabolol for added soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. If you are looking to learn more about bisabolol or substitute it out, please read the post on it in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia.
The finished butter is soft, rich, and positively decadent. I am really enjoying massaging it into my hands just before going to sleep at night—something about the slow melting speed and luxurious texture makes for a lovely little self-care moment. You could definitely use this on feet, elbows, knees, or anywhere else that could use a bit of extra love, too. Enjoy!
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Soothing Hand Butter
1.25g | 5% St. John’s Wort infused oil
3.75g | 15% calendula infused olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada)
2.8125g | 11.25% black cumin seed oil
0.125g | 0.50% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.0625g | 0.25% bisabolol (USA / Canada)
To prepare the calendula and/or St. John’s Wort infusion: Weigh 5% dried herb, 0.5% vitamin E, and 94.5% olive oil into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Prepare a water bath by heating about 3cm/1″ of water until warm, but definitely not simmering (we’re aiming for hot-tub type temperatures). Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath for two hours, stirring occasionally. After the infusion is complete, strain the mixture, reserving the infused oil and composting the spent plant matter. To learn more, click here.
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.
Once everything has melted, remove the measuring cup from the heat and set it aside. Add the infused oils and black cumin seed oil one at a time, stirring between additions. Because they are cooler the mixture will start to thicken and become cloudy, so it’s important you keep stirring to ensure everything is uniform.
Once the mixture is cool, thick, and creamy, add the vitamin E and bisabolol, and stir to combine. Transfer to a small jar or tin—I used these adorable 25mL glass jars from Voyaguer. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this hand butter 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.
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 25g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, 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.
- Do not substitute the stearic acid.
- You could try hydrogenated castor oil as an alternative to the lanolin.
- You can use refined or unrefined shea butter—your choice! I used refined to eliminate the scent of shea butter in the end product.
- Another soft butter, like cupuacu or mango, will work instead of the shea butter.
- There is a total of 20% herb-infused oils in this recipe. The herbs I chose were selected for their soothing/healing benefits. If you would like to choose different herbs/use a different blend of herb-infused oils, please keep that in mind.
- Read this if you would like to use an herbal extract instead of an herbal infusion.
- You can use a different liquid oil your skin loves instead of black cumin seed oil.
- Read the encyclopedia post for bisbolol for substitution suggestions.
The St. John’s Wort Macerated Oil and Black Cumin Seed Oil were gifted by Plant’s Power.