Shea butter is a nourishing skin product made of oils from the shea nut tree. It is creamy and good for the skin, especially dry skin. Commercial products often include artificial ingredients, but unrefined shea butter is hard and is not easily applied to the skin. Creating homemade shea butter ensures a mix of quality ingredients that absorb quickly into the skin. The best tips for creating homemade shea creams include: melting the butter properly, measuring by weight instead of volume, adding the correct smoothing agents, and cooling the butter slowly while mixing.
The first key to successfully making homemade shea butter is measuring the ingredients by weight and not by volume. Shea butter will only absorb a certain amount of additional oil because it is already so saturated with its own volume of it. These concentrated ingredients also fluff up when whipped, providing the maker with about half again the original volume of material.
A food scale topped with a heat-safe measuring cup or bowl is typically the perfect stage for making homemade shea butter. The maker can then perfectly portion out four parts shea butter to one part jojoba, sweet almond, olive, or grapeseed oil. One could also combine these oils by dividing the ingredients to combine them — for example, by adding one-fourth part of each or one-half part of two of the aforementioned oils. These carrier oils make scents more intense and help soften and smooth the shea butter. To enhance fragrances, a maximum of about 10 drops of a chosen essential oil may be added right after the carrier oils are mixed in.
Melting the shea butter before adding the oils is recommended, but not required. It is important not boil the shea butter. If this happens, the butter will not return to solid form and any creations will remain liquid. Heating the butter in a double boiler, over simmering water, or in 30-second increments in a microwave should ensure that it never overheats. The butter may have a few solid pieces left in it after melting, but this is fine because the point is only to soften it for whipping.
Smoothing agents are powders that absorb some of the oils in homemade shea butter to keep it from separating. They also give the lotion a very creamy, light consistency. Choices include cornstarch, rice powder, silica powder, and bora nitrite powder. If choosing just one of these powders, add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of either rice powder or cornstarch to a pound (450 g) of lotion. When adding silica powder or bora nitrite, only 1 teaspoon (5 ml) is necessary.
Mixing powders can sometimes be beneficial because they absorb oils at different rates and add different levels of smoothness. Combining all four powders typically requires only one-quarter of the normal measurement for each; while combining two powders requires one-half the measurement. Silica powder and bora nitrite are generally the most oil-absorbent.
Stirring the powders into the homemade shea butter before whipping usually helps to combine everything evenly. A whisk or fork generally works better than a spoon. After mixing, the shea butter must be cooled during the whipping process to help it come together in a semi-solid form. A shallow ice bath in a sturdy bowl typically does the trick. An electric hand-mixer set to the lowest speed should bring the homemade shea butter to the perfect consistency after two to five minutes of whipping.
Homemade shea butter doesn’t usually contain preservatives and therefore should be refrigerated. An airtight plastic container or glass jar and cool temperatures should keep it fresh for several weeks. Those that find themselves with an overabundance can gift it to others in pretty packaging.