Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Make Your Own Powerfully Fragrant Body Butter

I got my first reader request, and it was for homemade body butter! But saying “body butter” out loud makes me feel kind of gross because it’s like butter made out of a body? Or like a bodily fluid that you put on toast? I tried to think of an alternate name, but “thick lotion thingio” wasn’t a whole lot better, so “body butter” it is!

Why would you want to make your own body butter? Store-bought body butter (pictured) has usually gone through a refining process in a factory, which can diminish its moisturizing properties and add potentially irritating chemicals. So if you have dry or sensitive skin, homemade body butter may work better for you than the stuff you get at Bath and Body Works. Or maybe you just like making DIY stuff that smells good.

In any case, you’ll need the following ingredients (adapted from here with some changes):

1 and 1/3 cups shea butter
1/2 cup olive oil (I bet other oils like grapeseed or sunflower would work too)
1 tsp vitamin E oil
1 tsp (or less!) of an essential oil of your choice

That greasy hunk of yellow Play-Doh in the foreground is one pound of pure unrefined shea butter. I bought it on Amazon and subsequently found out two important facts about it:

  • It might not actually be shea butter. After watching this YouTube video and doing some additional research, I learned that yellow “African butter” or “kpangnan butter” is similar to off-white shea butter but comes from a different tree. But sometimes shea butter turns out yellow-ish because the nuts were harvested in a different season, or it was cooked at a different temperature, or people dyed it yellow, so who knows?
  • I may have exploited West African women by buying it. They’re typically the ones who harvest and prepare the shea nuts, but they tend to see only a tiny fraction of the profits when corporations buy shea butter and make skin creams out of it. To avoid my mistake, you can buy fair trade shea butter here, but of course it costs a bit more.

Now that we’re all psyched up about deceptive selling practices and economic injustice, on to the recipe!

1. Heat the shea butter in a pot. It melts into a translucent brown liquid.

2. Mix in the olive oil.

3. Let it cool for 30 minutes. (I don’t know why you’re supposed to do this here instead of after adding all the ingredients. Is this step…some scrambled-up bullshit?)

4. Add vitamin E oil and essential oil. Keep in mind that if you add like one drop too much of essential oil, you and your whole house and everyone in your family will smell like jasmine or lavender or whatever every time you use your body butter.

5. When the mixture is cool enough to be handled safely, pour it into the container(s) you’re going to store it in.

6. Stick it in the refrigerator overnight to set. Once it has set, you can store it wherever you want. If you accidentally added too much essential oil, an ideal storage area is under the passenger’s seat of an enemy’s car.

7. Try to wash the pot and measuring cups that had shea butter in them. Try again. Try again.

8. Try again. You got this.

And now you have homemade body butter!

It’s a little thicker and takes a little longer to sink into your skin, but otherwise it’s pretty much just like store-bought body butter. I know this because I tested it out for a week, putting my homemade butter on my left leg and some Tree Hut butter on my right leg. My legs are exactly the same as each other, except that now one permanently smells like jasmine. Guess which one.

Ultimately, I think the only scenario where it’s really worth it to make your own body butter is giving a thoughtful handmade gift to a friend who likes lotion-y stuff. Unlike many DIY projects, this one won’t save you money unless you’re making it in bulk, and the quality isn’t any better than you’d find in a store (at least, mine wasn’t). Unless you have extraordinarily sensitive skin — and maybe even then — you’re probably better off buying body butter from a fair-trade source like Alaffia or Shea Yeleen.

Previously: Pleasant-Smelling Natural Insect Repellent.

Lauren O'Neal grew up near Berkeley, California, but didn't become a dirty hippie until after moving to Texas.

Top photo via Flickr

35 Comments / Post A Comment


you make it sound like body butter just comes out of a tree and then gets refined like crude oil!


Ahh! Shea Yeleen! It's run/organized by my old roommate's friends from Peace Corps! So glad to see it's made the Hairpin! Shea Yeleen, everyone!!


I would like to thank @wee_ramekin for cleaning her entire kitchen just so these photos would look better and then taking obsessive photos because what if it looks classier with a potted plant or a white drapery in the background, just try it, you don't have to use it.


@Lauren_O'Neal Look, ALL I'M SAYING IS...it did look classier with a potted plant in the background.


@Lauren_O'Neal I was going to ask if you cleaned the stove. That is one clean stove!


This is not to say that I had previously seen the stove and it was dirty! No one think that.


@theharpoon HA! :-)

And no, you haven't seen the stove because you keep not coming over to my house and refusing to be my friend. But whatever. It's whatevs. It's not like I even care at all. AT ALL.


@wee_ramekin That's not true you never even invited me to your house!!! You should invite me to your house after... after August 16. I am sorry my schedule is ridiculous. Actually I am sorry I have a schedule, I wish I didn't.


@theharpoon @wee_ramekin I'm waiting for y'all to hurry up and become BFFs in real life. Come on.


@Xora We hung out once! We did!


How long does it keep?


@D.@twitter As long as you have it in a container with a lid, a long time. All the ingredients are things you store at room temperature indefinitely, so it can probably last foreverishly.


Has anyone ever tried rubbing a literal stick of butter all over their body? Anyone willing to give it a shot and file a report? You could use, like, organic unsalted butter and mash it up with some vanilla extract if you wanted to be fancy. I am just curious what would happen is all.



Butter turns rancid when left out in the heat and doesn't really sink into skin all that well, so extrapolating from that, someone who was rubbed down with butter would be greasy and smell like an old cheese/spoiled milk.


@queenofbithynia Also, don't you remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer decides that butter gives him a superior shave to shaving cream and ends up taking it a bit too far by using it as suntan lotion? The butter cooks Kramer's skin, making him smell like a roasted turkey. Newman is reading "Alive" at the time, and hallucinates that Kramer's head is a turkey and considers cannibalism. We all know that Seinfeld was a reality show pioneer, so please take that episode as truth.


@City_Dater Well, maybe they could apply the coat of butter and then go sit in a refrigerator? I am trying to think outside the box here.


@queenofbithynia I've only seen this done on the Kardashians when Kourtney burns her crotch with wax and Khloe takes a butter knife and tries to butter her scorched labia. So, yeah...probably not a good idea.


@queenofbithynia You should talk to Offred from The Handmaid's Tale. For some reason I remember really powerfully the part where she says that the Handmaidens steal butter and rub it into their skin since they aren't allowed any cosmetics. Seemed like that worked out really well for her, so...

Heidi Holland

@queenofbithynia I have a friend who did this-- rubbed melted/recongealed butter all over himself-- after an extended cocktail time and an offer of $20 for his efforts. It was about 10:00 pm, so I can't comment on the possible sunburn accelerating properties of butter, but even after bathing with dishsoap (the only thing we could find to cut through it), his skin was still delightfully soft. And he can't really tolerate the sight of butter anymore, so maybe it's a good idea for people with high cholesterol?


Ask a Character from a Margaret Atwood novel.


Letting the mix cool for 30 minutes in step 3 is totally correct! The efficacy of the vitamin e and essential oils would be compromised if they got too hot, plus much of the scent of the essential oil would be diffused to quickly and your whole house would be overwhelmed with the scent (which apparently is hard on your cat's liver!)

Also!! Floracopeia has the best, best, best essential oils ever. Like once you experience them everything else smells like garbage, plus they are super reputable in not exploiting anyone or over harvesting. http://www.floracopeia.com/


@sox I was just pointed to Floracopeia last week! Also Mountain Rose Herbs is a good source for shea butter when they are not out of stock http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/


"But saying “body butter” out loud makes me feel kind of gross because it’s like butter made out of a body? "

Hee, yeah, like goat milk.

Hey, I have that exact same measuring cup except mine has a red rubbery ring around the bottom that keeps me from smashing it to pieces in the sink and I loves it.


@spiralbetty I have the same reaction to "baby powder."

miss lonelyhearts

"If you accidentally added too much essential oil, an ideal storage area is under the passenger’s seat of an enemy’s car."

Noted! Filing this under "recipes for revenge."


I prefer to just make my own body scrub. Which is just putting olive oil (there is probably a cheaper/better oil to use, but I always have olive oil), some brown sugar and some white sugar, some honey, and maybe a few drops of vanilla extract into a jar and stirring it all up. Moisturizing, exfoliating, gets rid of those little bumps on my arms, and everything comes straight from the kitchen.


@thebestjasmine I also do this but add old coffee grounds instead of white sugar. Makes a hell of a mess in the shower if you're not careful but smells delightful!

Bianca Gosling@facebook

This sounds delicious! But is it like, greasy? I have relatively dry skin so I want that extra moisture, but in the last picture it looks kind of too-greasy. :/ Thoughts?


@Bianca Gosling@facebook Well, I've only made the one batch, but judging from that one batch, it takes a little longer to sink in than regular body butter, but the stuff that is left absorbing on your skin is less greasy than regular body butter, if that makes any sense. I notice that on store-bought stuff, the first ingredient is always water, so maybe you could experiment with adding some water to the recipe. Then again, the water might not mix with the oils if you don't have some of the other ingredients that go into store-bought stuff.


@Bianca Gosling@facebook I tried some of the body butter from this recipe, and I was actually really surprised at how not-greasy it was on my skin (though my skin is not super-dry, so...). For me, it was greasy for about the first two minutes, and then once it sank in, I actually marveled over how grease-less it was.


-Something unexpected surprise--

Hello. My friend


Dedi cated service, the new style, believing you will love it



thank you


Great to make homemade body butter! You can also try the natural and unrefined shea butter from Asili. I've been using it for over 1 month and it's excellent for skin, hair and lips! This is their website: http://www.asilicosmetics.com/


Yeah, this recipe does look pretty neat. FYI it is safe to let the heated shea butter cool just a bit before you add essential oils because essential oils can vaporize at high temperatures.
I've also made my own shea butter creams and it was fun. When I dont have time to make them I just buy from Turtle Creek Store. They seem to have the same priorities I do as far as using organic shea butter and keepin things natural and they even add more oils than just olive oil... http://turtlecreekstore.weebly.com/skin-creams.html#skinsheacream

Anyways oil based shea butter creams can be greasier than water based lotions, but for super dry skin an oil based shea butter cream is where its at! I love how it helps my dry skin!

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account