Body butters are no stranger to Live Simply. Together we’ve made a couple of body butters before, although I didn’t call them “butters.”
First, we made this ultra-moisturizing lotion, which is really a body butter, but I used it as a body lotion–hence the name. Then, just last week, we returned to the kitchen to make a quick and simple shea butter cream moisturizer, which is also a body butter–or a face butter since that’s my preferred way to use it.
Think of today’s post as a crash course in body butter. My goal is to give you practical and simple tools to create a homemade body butter that works for your skin, budget, and scent preferences.
What is Body Butter?
I had never heard of body butter until just a few years ago, when a friend introduced me to her favorite skincare butter. I remember thinking, Body butter? Why in the world would you want to slather butter on your body? My curiosity was piqued, so I began to research this new-to-me product.
After some research, I discovered that body butter is a rich and moisturizing skincare product that’s generally made with skincare butters, like shea butter and cocoa butter. Body butter can be used as an alternative to lotion, since its primary job is to moisturize the skin.
So why not call this product “lotion”? Well, that’s all about a few technicalities…
Lotion is made with water and oil (and possibly butters) so it’s light and silky smooth. Body butter, on the other hand, is made exclusively with butter(s) and oil(s), so it’s very thick. The final products are used in the same way, to moisturize the skin, but they’re made with different ingredients, using different methods.
From a do-it-yourself standpoint, homemade body butter will last for months without the use of a preservative. Homemade lotion needs to be used within a short time frame or a preservative should be used (thanks to the water), and it requires an emulsifier to properly blend the oil and water together.
Technically, body butter is recommended for folks who need intense moisture, but I’ve personally found that it’s a great lotion alternative–no super dry skin needed.
Body Butter Basics
The beauty of body butter is that once you have a simple formula/recipe, it’s easy to customize a butter to your liking.
Main Ingredient: Butter
Homemade body butter starts with butter. I’ve found that shea butter is the perfect base butter, since it’s soft and easy to work with. My homemade formula calls for a 1/4 cup of shea butter as the base butter.
From there, it’s up to you, the maker, to customize the body butter. You’ll need a total of 1/2 cup butter, so you can either double the shea (for a total of 1/2 cup), or mix the shea with a different butter: 1/4 cup of cocoa butter or 1/4 cup of mango butter.
Let’s take a look at each butter…
Shea Butter: Shea butter comes from the “nut” (or pit) of the fruit found on the Karite Tree. It has a strong scent when it’s purchased in an unrefined state. I use unrefined/crude shea butter in recipes (including body butter), but if you don’t care for the (natural) fragrance, I recommend using refined shea butter. Since shea butter is naturally soft, it can be used as the main ingredient in body butter, or it may be combined with another butter–cocoa or mango butter–to create a custom body butter.
Cocoa Butter: Cocoa butter comes from the cocoa bean, so it smells like chocolate. Cocoa butter is hard, at room temperature, and it melts easily. I don’t recommend making a 100% cocoa butter body butter because you’ll end up with a final product that’s solid as a rock. Cocoa butter must be mixed with a softer butter, like shea or mango butter, to yield a soft and spreadable final product.
Mango Butter: Mango butter comes from the seed of mango fruit. It’s a soft butter, similar to shea butter, that can have a bit of a gritty texture before it’s melted down to create body butter. If you don’t want to use shea butter to make body butter, then mango butter is the best replacement. Mango butter may be combined with shea or cocoa butter to create a custom body butter.
Main Ingredient: Carrier Oil
Oil is the second main ingredient used to make body butter. The oils used in skincare recipes are typically referred to as carrier oils, although I usually call them nourishing oils.
The oil used is completely up to you. For my body, I usually stick with almond or jojoba oil, and just started playing around with grapeseed oil. Virgin coconut oil may also be used; it’s just not my personal preference.
Another option is to use a carrier oil blend. I particularly like this option for making a butter used on my face. I’ve been using Clear Complex with shea butter (find the recipe here), and absolutely love it. Other carrier oil blends, include: Near Perfection and Younger Glo.
Optional Ingredients: Arrowroot and Essential Oils
Some folks find that body butter is a bit too greasy to apply all over the body. The good news is that there’s a simple solution for this issue…arrowroot flour/starch. A small amount of arrowroot flour/starch may be added to the liquid oil before pouring the oil into the melted butter(s).
Finally, an essential oil may be added for scent and additional skincare benefits. At the moment, my personal favorites are: lavender, geranium, and frankincense (Carteri).
I use a 1% dilution in my body butter. Before using any essential oil, I recommend reading the back of the bottle for specific dilution recommendations–just to be safe.
Now that we’ve touched on the basics of body butter, let’s take a look at my formula for making your own custom body butter.
Homemade Body Butter
- Place a glass bowl on top of a saucepan partially filled with water over medium heat. Place the butters in the glass bowl, and allow them to fully melt.
- If you're planning to use arrowroot flour in your body butter, in a small bowl, whisk the flour into the carrier oil. Set the mixture aside. If you're not using arrowroot flour, skip this step.
- Carefully remove the bowl (and melted butters) from the heat source. Add the oil (with the arrowroot flour, if using), and stir to combine the ingredients.
- At this point, the oil mixture should be cooler (along with the bowl). If not, allow it to rest for a few minutes. Then place the mixture in the fridge and allow it to solidify (about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on location in the fridge and fridge temperature).
- Once the mixture is opaque and a bit firm (not solid as a rock), remove the bowl from the fridge. Add the essential oil of choice, if desired.
- If you used cocoa butter in your body butter, then whisk the mixture with a fork until it appears "whipped." If you used shea and/or mango butters in your body butter, then you can use the same technique with a fork, or use a stand mixer to "whip" the mixture.
- Scoop the body butter into a jar with a lid. Place the lid on the jar. Store the body butter at room temperature (out of sunlight). This mixture should last about six months, if bacteria isn't introduced to the mixture via dirty hands.
- After bathing, apply a small amount of body butter to your fingertips, and then massage the butter on your skin/body. Apply as needed.