In this post I’m sharing two lighter whipped shea butter formulations—Lavender Calendula and Coffee—and I’m sharing the easiest formulation strategy for creating lighter, less greasy body butters. Let’s go!
Today we’re blending up a rich, botanically blessed body cream that is perfect for cold, dry winter days. I developed this formulation with the help of my readers; t’s creamy, scoopable, skin-soothing, and positively decadent. Enjoy!
This formulation is a bit of a sideways Bee Better project. When I published my RODIN-inspired Luxury Facial Serum back in 2016, it didn’t take long for requests for the accompanying hair serum to pop up—and for good reason! Rodin’s Hair Oil is a rather astonishing $70 for 1 fl. oz., and the ingredient list is really quite simple (and inexpensive), making it pretty much the perfect DIY project. That can be said of most of the Rodin line, honestly—they are (or were) clearly fans of using lovely whole oils, herbal infusions, and essential oils. I had intentions of creating and sharing a RODIN-inspired hair oil back in 2016 (this bones of this post have been sitting in my “drafts” folder for nearly 6 years!), but I’m just finally getting around to it now. Let’s dive in!
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The original ingredient list
Here’s the ingredient list for the original:
Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Juniperus Communis (Juniper) Fruit Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Oil, Limonene, Linalool
It’s mostly a blend of five carrier oils, rounded out with a blend of three essential oils, calendula oil, and an antioxidant (tocopherol acetate). Limonene and Linalool are noted independently as they are potential allergens present in the essential oils.
The limits of haircare
Since 2016 I’ve completed the Formula Botanica Diploma in Organic Haircare Formulation (and another 6 years of formulating!), so I know a lot more about formulation than I did when I first considered making this project. Something I think is very important to touch on is the limits of haircare. Hair is dead, so haircare can only do so much. The aim of haircare is generally to keep the hair as healthy as possible so it looks good on our heads for as long as possible. Haircare products can smooth, add shine, improve slip, condition, soften, moisturize, cleanse, perfume, and more—but they cannot heal the hair.
The 1% line
In this product the 1% line is likely between the almond oil and the juniper essential oil, meaning the carrier oil blend is easily upwards of 95% of the formulation. Once we pass the 1% line the ingredients don’t have to appear in order. It’s possible there was more calendula oil than juniper oil. There could be 0.99% of each essential oil. We really don’t know for sure, but given how expensive neroli essential oil is (100mL is currently over $1k at New Directions; roughly 23x the price of juniper essential oil and 50x the price of rosemary essential oil!), I’m going to assume the final ingredients are in roughly the right order.
The scent blend
I read a lot of reviews for this product and people were divided on the scent; some people loved it, and some said it smelled really pine-y (one person said it reminded them of pine-sol!). That pine-y scent would come mostly from the juniper. Rosemary would bring a more herbaceous camphoraceous note, while neroli is sweet and powdery. I’m honestly not a big fan of any of these essential oils; I enjoy a bit of rosemary in the background with mint or lavender at centre stage, but juniper always makes me think of gin and neroli just… doesn’t do much for me. So… I’m changing up the scent blend. I’m allotting 0.3% of this formulation for a fragrance oil of choice (as always, be sure what you choose is ok for leave-on use at that level!). You’re certainly welcome to use essential oils instead, and you can use more if desired (though I’d keep it around 1% total). If I were going to use the original essential oils I’d probably start with 0.4% juniper essential oil, 0.2% rosemary essential oil, and 0.05–0.1% neroli essential oil (reducing one of the carrier oils to keep the formulation balanced).
Calendula & Vitamin E
The calendula in the original is listed as Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil. There’s not a single listing in UL Prospector that matches that. Products sold as Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil are revealed (when you read the product description) to either be an infusion of calendula in a different carrier oil, or a calendula CO2 extract in a carrier oil (the extract alone is Calendula Officinalis (Marigold) Flower Extract). I suspect RODIN used a calendula infusion with one of the carrier oils in the formulation as the solvent—possibly the sweet almond oil as it’s present at the lowest amount.
I will be using Bramble Berry’s oil-soluble calendula extract for this formulation, which is a blend of Caprylic Capric Triglycerides and Calendula Extract. The usage rate is up to 6%, so I’m splitting the different and using 3%. If you don’t have this product, a homemade calendula infusion would also work beautifully—you could use any of the carrier oils in the formulation as your infusion medium. Infuse, strain, and proceed!
I’ll be using tocopherol acetate at 0.5%; you’re welcome to use tocopherol MT-50 instead if that’s what you have.
The oil blend
Having started with the potent, lower-use ingredients, we’ve got 3.8% of the formulation worked out—leaving 96.2% of the formulation for the five carrier oils. From the ingredient list we know there’s more apricot oil than jojoba oil, more jojoba than olive oil, and so on—but we don’t know by how much. This hair oil could be 90% apricot kernel oil, followed by tiny amounts of the following four oils. It could also be 20% apricot kernel oil, followed by slightly diminishing amounts of the remaining four oils. Either way, the ingredient list would look the same.
Let’s hop over to the Science-y Hair Blog and check the levels of hair penetration we can expect from these oils:
- Apricot kernel oil: some
- Jojoba oil: little to none
- Olive oil: some
- Sunflower seed oil: lots
- Sweet almond oil: some
Oils that penetrate the hair help soften it and add pliability, while oils that coat the hair add shine and lubrication (please read the post on the Science-y Hair Blog to learn more!). This list is heavily weighted towards oils that penetrate the hair (4:1). The positive reviews I read for the original product praised it for both softening and boosting shine, so I chose the percentages of these oils to even things out a bit. You are certainly free to adjust the percentages of the oils to suit your hair!
Relevant links & further reading
- Apricot Kernel Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Jojoba Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Olive Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sunflower Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sweet Almond Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Calendula in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Oils – Which Ones Soak In vs. Coat the Hair? from Science-y Hair Blog
- Other hair oil formulas:
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Luxury Hair Oil
12g | 40% apricot kernel oil (USA / Canada)
10.5g | 35% jojoba oil (USA / Canada)
3g | 10% olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada)
2.7g | 9% sunflower seed oil (USA / Canada / UK / NZ)
0.66g | 2.2% sweet almond oil (USA / Canada)
To make this hair oil, simply weigh everything into a beaker and stir to combine.
I recommend packaging this formulation in a bottle with a dropper top so you can dispense it one drop at a time. The instructions for the original recommended spreading two drops across your palms and then working that into your hair as thoroughly as possible. You can find those instructions (and more for adding to conditioner, etc.) here.
If you’d like to lighten the hair oil, simply dilute it with a lightweight, volatile, oil-soluble emollient like cyclomethicone (or other cyclo-siloxanes) or isododecane. 10–30% hair oil and 70–90% volatile diluent will work well! If you prefer all-natural ingredients you can try esters like Coco-Caprylate or products marketed as natural cyclomethicone alternatives (they must be oil soluble), though I have never found them to work terribly well in applications like this as they are nowhere near as light or volatile.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this hair oil 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 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.
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 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 recipe will make 30g (roughly 1 fl oz).
- 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 you’d like to really simplify the carrier oil blend, I’d use 50% apricot kernel, sunflower, or sweet almond oil, and 46.2% jojoba oil.
- You can combine the apricot kernel oil and sweet almond oil amounts and use all of one or the other.
- You can use a different fragrance oil.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
- You can use a homemade calendula-infused oil instead of the extract; I’d infuse the calendula into olive oil and use 13% calendula infused olive oil.
- Tocopherol MT-50 will work instead of tocopherol acetate.
The apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil, and 30mL (1fl oz) bottles the lighter version is packaged in were gifted by YellowBee.
The sunflower oil, fragrance, vitamin E, and calendula extract were gifted by Bramble Berry.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.
Today I’m sharing my first Bee Better 3.0 project; a soft and creamy Shealoe Emulsified Body Butter that’s an evolution on a shea butter and aloe vera heavy formulation I first shared in 2014, and then revised in 2019. This updated 2021 version uses a new emulsifier to create a product that is lighter, softer, smoother, and easier to apply. It’s definitely better, and you should make it 😄
We’re continuing our Ice Palace theme today with this lovely Ice Palace Body Glow Lotion! This one is really neat in the skin feel/consistency department. In regards to viscosity and absorption speed, it’s more like a mid-weight lotion—but the richness is closer to something you’d expect from a rich cream. It’s a lovely hybrid and just the thing for dry winter days!
This silky Hemp & Shea Hand and Body Lotion is another Bee Better project, riffing on and updating the Healing Herbal Hemp & Shea Lotion I shared back in October 2014. This version keeps many of the same ingredients and very much riffs on the same themes of soothing, boosting healing, and moisturizing the skin—things I just can’t get enough of in the winter!