We’ve all seen or heard about body butter; a thick, creamy substance that you smooth on to your skin to help keep it supple, moisturized, and looking great. But what exactly is body butter? How is it different from regular lotion? How do you use it? Most importantly, how do you make it?
What is body butter?
You can track the popularization of body butter to 1992. It was originally released by the Body Shop and became very popular. But body butter is just a product name and a brand component. So what is body butter, really?
Butters in the personal care space are plant-based fats that are solid at room temperature. This includes things like cocoa butter, mango butter, and shea butter. In fact, it appears that shea butter was the inspiration for the popular body butter.
Shea butter has been used for centuries by folks in African nations (like Ghana) to care for both hair and skin. In fact, it was used in ancient Egypt to moisturize and condition both hair and skin.
While shea may have been the original body butter, there are also other excellent butters that can be used. You can even use a mix of butters, or a combination of butters and oils. But we’ll get into that in a little more detail later.
What’s the difference between lotion and body butter?
Lotion and body butter are both moisturizing products, so what’s the difference? Do you need both?
Lotion and other cream moisturizers are generally an emulsion between water and oil phases. That means that they contain both oils and a large quantity of water. The water hydrates the outer layer of your skin, and the oil component acts as an emollient, smoothing skin, and supports your own natural lipid barrier.
Body butter, on the other hand, is usually anhydrous, which means that it doesn’t have a water phase. It’s entirely fats, potentially with some additives that add fragrance, color, and improve texture. While lotions tend to be semi-fluid, body butters are much more solid, though still spreadable.
So does lotion’s water content make it more effective than body butter? Not really. Lotion and body butter are different products with different uses.
You know that feeling when you get out of the shower or bath and your skin feels and looks awesome? The outer layer of your skin, the stratum corneum, soaks up moisture while you’re bathing, and as a result your skin looks and feels plumper, softer, and healthier. At this point, your skin doesn’t need more water. But that feeling fades as the moisture evaporates from the skin.
Rubbing some body butter on your skin helps to keep that moisture in, but using body butter after a bath or shower can take a little time. It’s an indulgent practice so it’s well worth it, but it’s not something you grab for a quick bit of moisture.
On the other hand, lotion is great to have on hand to quickly ease dry skin. It absorbs fast and the water content hydrates that outer layer of skin.
What ingredients go in body butter?
All kinds of different butters and oils can be included in body butter. Shea butter, murumuru butter, mango butter, even cocoa butter. Coconut oil can also be used, but it has a lower melting point than other solid oils so it’s more likely to melt. That means you may want to pair it with a very firm butter, like mango or cocoa butter.
Some body butters do contain water, and this influences the texture of the finished product. It does allow for water soluble ingredients to be used in the butter, like glycerin and water soluble plant extracts, but these are going to be more like a very thick lotion than a traditional body butter.
Body butter can be unscented, or it can have colors and fragrances added. Body butter may also have a stabilizer added to keep whipped butters from collapsing. Our whipped body butter recipes incorporate arrowroot powder as a natural stabilizer.
How to use body butter
Anhydrous body butters are typically used right after a bath or shower, once you’ve towel-dried.. You scoop a little out of your jar or tub with your fingers and then apply it to your skin. These butters melt on contact with warm skin, which makes them easy to rub in.
Massage the butter into your skin. The body butter is going to spread pretty thin, so a little will go further than you think. The thick butter will also spread out and melt enough on your skin that you won’t be able to see any streaks of white or offwhite.
Then, take a few minutes to let the butter soak in. This might be a great time to read a book, or to detangle your freshly washed hair. It takes this heavier moisturizing product a little longer to absorb into your skin than lotion, so give it time, and make those few minutes a treat.
Making your own body butter
This the best part. Learning how to make your very own homemade body butter.
There are some big advantages to making your own body butter. Depending on what ingredients you use, you can save money. You know what ingredients you’re putting on your skin, and you get to customize the body butter to your needs and preferences. Most of all, it’s fun. DIY body butter also makes a great gift for any occasion.
You can use just about any oil or butter in your homemade body butter. Very hard butters, like cocoa butter, should be combined with softer butters or even liquid oils to make sure you get that spreadable texture.
You can add in oil based extracts, too. Calendula extract is great for your skin. You can also include whatever fragrance you like, whether it’s a fragrance oil or an essential oil. Powdered colorants also work great for coloring your body butter. Micas are a very versatile colorant and look great in lotions and butters.
If you’re going to make a whipped body butter, which has a lighter and softer texture, you’ll want a stabilizer to keep your whipped butter from “falling,” or losing that light and airy texture. We love arrowroot as an effective natural stabilizer.
Now for very hard butters, like cocoa butter, you may want to melt it, mix in your other ingredients, and then allow it to cool. For soft butters, you can start whipping it right away.
Use a stand mixer or a hand mixer to whip the butter with a whisk attachment until it’s smooth. Add in your arrowroot or other stabilizer, and beat until fluffy. Spoon into reusable jars and it’s ready to use. Store it in a cool spot to keep it from melting.
Are you ready to start making your own body butter? We have some great projects for you to try. Our Natural Whipped Shea Butter Project and our Vanilla Whipped Body Butter Project are great places to start. Or, to make things even easier, check out our Pink Peony Body Butter Kit. It comes with everything you need in one convenient box.