Homemade skin care products
By Carly Egger
Issue #145 • January/February, 2014
When you think of skin care products that soften, moisturize, and nourish the skin, do the words extravagant, unnecessary, and expensive come to mind? The skin is the largest organ of the body, but is often neglected when the main focus of healthy living is based on our internal organs, and the foods we put into our bodies. However, nourishment for our skin can become a healthy, relatively inexpensive addition to everyday life when we choose to make the products in our own kitchens. Two amazing products that can easily be made and customized at home, without the use of any preservatives, are body butters and shower scrubs.
What are these products?
First off, we need to understand what the products are, and what they will do for our skin. Body butter is a fluffy, whipped, cream-like substance containing plant-based butters and oils. It is applied to the skin directly after bathing or showering. This method locks in moisture and prevents water loss from occurring in the skin, yet it does not provide any water itself. The reason body butters do not contain water is because the moment water is added to a natural body product, a preservative is needed as well, and the process becomes more complicated. By using body butter as soon as you exit a bath or shower, water and preservatives are unnecessary.
Shower scrubs are basically body butters taken to the next level — an exfoliating agent is added. Shower scrubs contain salts to help get rid of dead skin, but like a body butter they also contain butters and oils to hydrate and condition the layer of skin freshly exposed by exfoliation. The finished product looks and feels like buttercream frosting. You can use these amazing products while standing in the shower, simply by rubbing generous amounts in a circular motion on all areas of the body, except the face, and then rinsing thoroughly.
The ingredients and equipment needed to make
your own body butters and scrubs are basic.
What do I need?
The ingredients needed to make your own body butters and scrubs are basic, and can be purchased in bulk to lower the overall cost. Butters, oils, and salts are the only necessities, but essential oils can also be added for enjoyment and aromatherapy purposes. All of these materials can be purchased at health food stores, but online sources also abound. A few of the top online bulk retailers in North America are: Mountain Rose Herbs, Voyageur Soap and Candle Co. (specializing in Canadian orders), and From Nature with Love. Of course, these are only a small percentage of the many retailers in business. You will need to select one according to your preferences and location.
The main butters I use in skin care recipes include shea butter, cocoa butter, and mango butter, but other varieties are also available. The basic oils used to soften the butters and make them usable include olive oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, castor oil, sweet almond oil, and coconut oil. The salts I use in scrubs are basic sea salts (both fine and coarse textures) rather than specialty salts, because they are primarily being used to scrub away dead skin.
To combine and whip your butters and scrubs you will need a kitchen mixer — the stronger the better. Although a handheld mixer will combine the ingredients, it will not provide the fluffy texture and cloud-like softness in your products that a KitchenAid, Bosch Kitchen Machine, or other powerful mixer will. A double boiler is needed to melt the solid ingredients, but I often use a stainless steel bowl set on top of a saucepan filled with water. In addition, a simple kitchen scale is useful for weighing ingredients. Spatulas, jars, and labels are also necessities, but we will discuss more about packaging later.
Choosing your ingredients
The first step in making a body butter or shower scrub is choosing your ingredients, and to do this you need to know their characteristics and how they will benefit your skin. I will share with you a few of my favorites, but you can easily find the health benefits of many different butters and oils online, or from your favorite retailer.
Shea butter is one of the best cosmetic butters for skin care, as it provides healing to damaged skin and emollient benefits to all skin types. In addition, shea contains vitamins A and E, and can help protect against UV rays. This butter is solid at room temperature and is thick and creamy in texture, with a strong, earthy aroma when unrefined.
Cocoa butter is an extremely hard butter, best used in a combination of other butters or with a high percentage of oils. Cocoa butter is a good addition if you are making a summertime body butter, to prevent it from melting in very hot weather. As the name implies, this butter is produced from cocoa pods and smells like chocolate. This butter is safe for sensitive skin, and acts as a protective moisture sealant.
Mango butter is similar to shea in texture and use, and provides emollient benefits while enhancing skin elasticity. It tends to be clumpy in texture, however, making it best for use in blends with other butters and oils. Mango butter is also said to regenerate skin cells and to help heal wounds.
The addition of oil to body butters and scrubs provides extra nourishment to the skin, but also softens the butter ingredients into a texture that is enjoyable to use. The various oils often have similar benefits, including skin conditioning, anti-inflammatory assistance, and healing for damaged skin.
If you want a lighter butter that soaks into the skin quickly, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and sweet almond oil are good choices. When formulating a heavier, healing butter for use on especially dry or damaged areas of the skin, jojoba oil, castor oil, and avocado oil are excellent additions.
Making your first batches
While it is a good idea to start out simply at first, you will soon be using all of the amazing butters and oils to customize your own products for the personal use of your family. Many different oils and butters can be combined in one recipe, simply by following the basic guidelines of solid to liquid amounts. To get started, however, we will use a very basic combination.
Above: The shea butter turns clear as it melts.
Below: Then, after mixing, the ingredients become light and fluffy.
For our sample recipe, we are going to make a medium-consistency body butter that will provide the many nourishing qualities of shea butter, yet be light enough for frequent use. Obviously, shea will be our first ingredient choice. If we want our product to penetrate the skin quickly, an oil with a light to medium consistency should be our next ingredient. We will stay very basic and use olive oil, which you may already have in your kitchen (just make sure it is a high-quality oil). For a basic body butter, these are the only two ingredients necessary. Both are naturally yellowish in color, and will make the finished butter a cheery shade of sunshine.
The ratios of butter to oil will vary with the ingredients themselves, the temperature of your house, and your projected use of the product. A good starting point, however, is two parts solid butter to one part oil. Both ingredients are easily measured by weight.
For our basic body butter, this will be our recipe:
4 oz. shea butter
2 oz. olive oil
Measure ingredients, setting the oil aside. Place the shea butter in a double boiler, and set the stove to medium heat. Allow the butter to melt completely, and then remove from the heat.
Leave the shea butter to cool until it begins to turn cloudy, which shows it is nearly at room temperature. You can speed up this process by setting the bowl of shea inside a larger bowl or sink filled with ice water. Be careful not to splash any water into the shea butter.
Add the olive oil to the shea. This will cool it down completely, making it ready to whip.
Pour mixture into your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and begin mixing on medium-high. If you are adding essential oils, pour them in now.
It may take several minutes, but continue mixing until your body butter becomes light and fluffy, resembling whipped cream or meringue.
Working quickly as it continues to thicken, scoop the finished body butter into clean jars. If the butter was whipped long enough, the full jar should feel very light in weight.
That’s it! You have completed your first batch of body butter. It is ready to use the next time you step out of a bath or shower.
Scrubs are actually easier to craft because the butters do not need to be melted first, and the large amount of salt helps to make a more stable and consistent texture in the finished product. When choosing the ingredients, a soft butter is needed, such as shea or mango. Cocoa butter can also be used, but will need to be softened with oil first by melting the butter, adding oil, and then letting it harden again. For a basic recipe, we will use shea because it is the perfect consistency already. For the oil portion of body scrubs, I often use coconut oil. The ratios are changeable, and you will need to adjust them yourself based on various ingredients, preferences, etc. For the salt, I use half fine-ground and half coarse-ground. If you like a harsher scrub, you can use more coarse salt, and if you have sensitive skin you can use all fine salt.
For our basic shower scrub, this will be our recipe:
4 oz. shea butter
3 oz. coconut oil
4 cups sea salt
Measure all ingredients, setting the salt aside. Place the shea butter and coconut oil in your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix until combined and no longer clumpy.
Begin adding the salts one cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. If using any essential oils, add them as well.
After all the salt has been added, mix for another minute or so, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is combined. The texture at this point should be similar to buttercream frosting.
Scoop the finished body scrub into clean jars.
That’s it! You have crafted your own shower scrub, which is ready for use in your next shower.
Shea butter and coconut oil before mixing.
Tips and troubleshooting
It is best not to use the body butter and shower scrubs during the same shower session, as this will provide too many oils for your skin to soak up, and will feel very greasy.
If you have any cuts or broken skin, the salt content of shower scrubs is likely to sting. Therefore it is best to heal the damaged areas with body butter first, before exfoliating.
After any variation to your recipe, no matter how small, be sure to write it down. Taking notes of successful and unsuccessful batches is also helpful.
Many people find that a heavy body butter is perfect for use just before bed, when they can wear long pajamas to give the body butter time to soak into the skin. It is also great to use on your hands after frequent washing throughout the day.
If your shea or other soft butter is very firm due to cooler temperatures or variation in products, you will need to melt and cool it before making a shower scrub.
In general, body butters and shower scrubs are not meant to be used on the face. The density of the products tends to clog the pores of facial skin, potentially causing breakouts.
If your body butters are not firm enough, try adding a small amount of cocoa butter during the melting step. Likewise, if the butter is too firm, use a little more oil next time.
If a batch of body butter does not turn out as planned, it is possible to re-melt the finished product and start again. However, it is often best to wait several hours before deciding to re-batch because the product will continue to change as it sets up.
After all the salt has been added to the shea butter
and coconut oil, mix for another minute or so.
I prefer to use plastic containers for body products because they are not easily broken if dropped in the shower or bath. Four-ounce jars are a good starting size for body butters, and six- or eight-ounce jars are convenient for shower scrubs. The important thing is to ensure the product is completely used before it goes bad from contamination of water in the shower or from bacteria on our fingers. On average, body butters and shower scrubs will last 12-14 months if unopened, but only 3-4 months after being opened.
As you continue to gain experience working with butters, oils, and salts, you will soon have the ability to customize your own recipes based on the preferences of family and friends. These products make excellent, thoughtful gifts that are sure to be enjoyed by a variety of people. When packaging gifts, I like to add pictures or decorative designs to the labels using a desktop computer program, and then I print them in color. It is surprising how much visual appeal this adds to each little jar.
When labeling your products, it is a good idea to include the date it was made, ingredients used, and basic directions for use. With body butter, include the importance of using right after bathing. For shower scrubs, mention that they are ideally rubbed onto the skin using a circular motion. If your label is large enough, you might also include a few of the benefits of the product.
If you do not have any stick-on labels of the right size, (like me) you can use clear packing tape to attach paper labels to the jar, simply by cutting the tape slightly larger than the paper. This also semi-protects the paper from moisture.
Essential oils also increase the appeal of the products, especially when used in gifts. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of aromatherapy, the retailers you purchase your supplies from are likely to have ready-made blends of essential oils. These blends are suitable for many different uses, such as energizing in the morning and relaxing at night.
After mixing, scoop the scrub into clean jars.
By crafting your own body butters and shower scrubs at home, not only will each ingredient benefit your skin in amazing ways, it is very cost effective as well. To make a basic body butter using shea butter and olive oil, you will spend approximately $6. This cost is based on purchasing only enough ingredients for a single six-ounce batch — buying in bulk will increase your savings even more. With homemade shower scrubs consisting of shea butter, coconut oil, and sea salt, your cost to fill a six-ounce jar is approximately $4. It is important to note that some oils and butters are more expensive than others, meaning these estimated costs are a starting point and will go up if you decide to specialize your products by using higher-priced ingredients.
When purchasing ready-made body products, we naturally pay according to ingredient quality. With body butter, the lower end of the price-range begins at $10 for a six-ounce jar. These products are usually not organic and contain many preservatives and other ingredients with names you cannot pronounce, as well as large amounts of low-costing water. For a high-quality body butter containing only natural and organic butters and oils — similar to what you can make at home — the price jumps dramatically, starting at $25 per jar. Body scrubs with salt as the exfoliant are a little less pricey than butters due to the low cost of sea salt, and range from $7 to more than $20 for a six-ounce jar, depending on ingredient quality. Clearly, your price savings in crafting body products at home is significant, and an added benefit to what your skin will gain from the use of preservative-free products containing only pure ingredients.
A final word
I wish you the best of luck as you continue on your homemade skin care journey. Perhaps this will even become the basis for a home-business venture.
Mountain Rose Herbs
PO Box 50220
Eugene, OR 97405
International Calls (541) 741-7307
Voyageur Soap and Candle Co.
Unit 14 – 19257 Enterprise Way
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
From Nature With Love
Natural Sourcing, LLC
341 Christian Street
Oxford, CT 06478