Today’s project is another back-to-basics post—we’re making an all-natural Super Simple Whipped Shea Butter! You’ll need just four basic ingredients to create this decadent body butter. It’s not greasy, you don’t need to heat anything up, and half of the ingredients are easily substituted. If you’ve never made a whipped body butter before, or you just want to understand how they work a bit better, this post is a brilliant place to start. In the post, I’ll be going over the essential elements of this body butter and explaining why we use each ingredient, while the video focusses more on the making technique. Let’s dive in!
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What is whipped body butter?
We’ll start with a brief overview of what a whipped body butter is. Basically, it’s a soft butter that has been further softened with just enough liquid oil that it can be whipped up, and will stay soft and whippy throughout its life. If it’s too firm, the butter will seize after whipping and won’t be soft and scoopy. If it’s too soft, it’ll melt readily and won’t remain light and airy. Make sure you watch the video for a bit of a show-and-tell featuring different consisitencies! Once you have that basic soft butter and oil blend down, you can incorporate other ingredients to customize the formulation (depending on what you’re incorporating, this may require adjusting the oil and butter ratios). Have fun experimenting!
This is a very simple body butter formulation, and that’s the point. If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, you can find all my body butter formulations here!
The shea butter in this formulation is the star ingredient—there’s more shea butter in this formulation than anything else. I’ve selected shea butter for this formulation because it’s very popular and easy to get. It’s also lovely on the skin! If I have dry, irritated skin, you’ll find me slathering myself in shea butter.
Shea butter provides the structure of the formulation; because it’s soft (rather than brittle, like cocoa butter), it provides a great base for a body butter that will be soft when it’s done.
The shea I’m using today is from Baraka Shea Butter. This lovely shea butter is raw and unrefined, meaning it is slightly beige-y/yellow in colour and has what is generally described as a “characteristic” odour. It’s a bit smokey and nutty, and very distinctly “shea butter” to anyone familiar with shea butter. Some people love the way raw shea butter smells, some people hate it, and some are indifferent. I’d say I’m on the indifferent-to-positive side of things.
Whenever you use raw shea butter as the star ingredient in a formulation, its scent will come through in the end product. In my experience, attempts to cover it up are fairly futile (the shea note always ends up coming through, often leading people to add more and more essential oils until they end up with a product that contains so much essential oil that you shouldn’t use it on the skin… and there will still be a base note of shea!). You’ll either want to work with that natural shea scent, choosing essential oils that complement it (I really like grapefruit and cardamom for this!), or you’ll want to use a refined shea butter so you can scent it as desired.
Since we are cold processing this body butter, your shea butter needs to smooth from the get-go. Massage a bit between your fingers—if you feel any sand-like beads or lumps that are slow to melt, that’s not a shea butter you’ll want to use for this formulation.
If you live somewhere very hot, you’ll need to use more shea butter and less liquid oil to get the end consistency just right (also, please read this, tropical folks!). If you live somewhere quite cold, it’s just the opposite. You’ll want to combine, whip, and wait—at least 5 hours for a 40–50g batch, but overnight sure is easy. That resting time will give you the opportunity to see if the butter softens into something mostly liquid, hardens too much, or stays just right.
When you’re formulating whipped body butters you can work with all kinds of soft butters like mango butter, murumuru butter, and cupuacu butter—just keep in mind that different butters will require different butter-to-oil ratios (this is often true when comparing refined and raw versions of butters as well).
We’re using sunflower oil to soften the shea to that just-right consistency, so it can be whipped up nicely and stay soft and beautiful. You could use any liquid oil (or blend of liquid oils & emollients) for instead of sunflower oil, but I do recommend choosing something that is relatively fast absorbing and has a nice skin feel (castor oil, for instance, would not be a great choice!). Good options include safflower oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, and jojoba oil. You could also try other liquid emollients like isopropyl myristate (IPM) or C12-15 alkyl benzoate.
For all of shea butter’s strengths, it is a very slow absorbing butter, meaning products made with a lot of it can feel greasy and heavy on the skin. That’s where corn starch comes in! The starch counters the greasiness, making for a much lighter feeling finished product. If you don’t have corn starch you could easily use a different starch like arrowroot starch.
We include a small amount of vitamin E as an antioxidant, to extend the shelf life of the body butter by delaying the onset of rancidity. Because this formulation does not contain any water, no broad-spectrum preservative (like Liquid Germall Plus [INCI: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate]) is required.
Helpful Resources & Further Reading
- Video: 5 Common Questions on Body Butter (Will this melt in hot weather?, How can I make this less greasy?, and more)
- Will this melt in hot weather?
- Shelf life questions
- Encyclopedia: Shea butter
- How much essential oil can I add to this recipe?
- How can I make this thicker/harder/firmer?
- How can I make this thinner/softer/less viscous?
- How can I incorporate X ingredient into a formulation?
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Super Simple Whipped Shea Butter
22g | 55% shea butter
Weigh the shea butter into a small bowl that’s deep and large enough for whipping in. You’ll need an electric mixer fitted with one beater for batches 100g (3.5oz) and smaller (as written here). Start by mashing the shea butter up a bit with the beater to get it into smallish clumps, and then fire up your electric mixer and whip the shea until it is smooth and uniform.
Add the corn starch, sunflower seed oil, and vitamin E. Stir/mash the mixture around a bit to roughly combine, and then whip away! You’re looking for the mixture to be whippy and smooth, and it will noticeably lighten in colour. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl and beater a few times to ensure a thorough, even blend.
Once the butter is lightweight and whippy, gently scoop it into a wide-mouthed tub or jar, and that’s it! I used a 50mL (1.69fl oz) black jar from YellowBee for my 40g batch, and that worked beautifully.
To use, smooth a small amount over skin that could use some TLC. Take care not to over-apply as it is quite rich!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this body 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 or two 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 & Troubleshooting
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.
- Please read the blog post; alternatives for the three main ingredients are discussed very clearly.
- 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.
- If your body butter is too hard, reduce the amount of shea butter and increase the liquid oil.
- If your body butter is too soft, reduce the amount of liquid oil and increase the shea butter.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil or fragrance oil, reduce the liquid oil by 0.5% to make room for 0.5% essential oil of choice. Be sure to watch maximum usage rates for the specific essential oil(s) you are using.