Sunday Night Spotlight: Shea Butter

Skin-loving, luxurious and downright decadent, top product formulators can’t get enough of Shea Butter! Over the last few years  Shea Butter has grown in popularity in the bath & beauty product scene. With its versatility in soap, lotion and lip balm, it’s easy to see why.

Bramble Berry Shea Butter is a soft solid with an off-white to ivory color, and has a faint odor. It contains 4 – 9% unsaponifiables (additional components in the fats and oils that can’t be fully converted into soap), which means it’s an excellent skin-loving ingredient in cold process soap. It’s a popular additive in salves and lotions given its emollient and moisturizing qualities. Shea butter may even provide some medical benefits too, as some of its components are reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.

In soap, Shea Butter does not contribute to lather or hardness (so it’s basically a super luxe additive), and the recommended usage rate is typically 10% or less. However, you can use up to 100% Shea Butter in balms and salves.

From top left, clockwise: Easy Whipped Shea Butter, Shea Butter Cold Process Cupcakes,  Calendula Infused Lip BalmLoofah Cold Process Soap, Lotion Bar Love

These are just a small snapshot of what you can do with shea butter. You can add it to nearly any recipe to give your products a little boost of skin-softening power!

What are your favorite products to make with this wonderful butter?

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28 Comments

  1. says

    Hi Carolyn,
    Thanks for your comment and would love to help you out.
    I would try using Tapioca Powder at one tabel spoon per pound. You can use cornstarch but really feel that the tapioca powder will be better.
    I did find a talk forum about Tapioca Powder that might be of some help for you.
    http://www.teachsoap.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=10681

    In regards to the coconut oil, we do’t recommend melting the shea butter since by doing that directly can cause a graininess to it. We suggest melting the coconut oil and pour that over the shea butter to melt it. I do hope that this helps.
    Best of luck on your soaping adventures.
    ~Kevin with Bramble Berry

  2. says

    Hi, I love your recipes! I want to know if I can use cornstarch in your body butter recipe to cut down on the greasy feel and how much to use? Also I have on hand some Tapioca flour, can that be used to cut the greasy feel and if so how much to use? Or should I order the Tapioca powder? And finally, do I melt the coconut oil (how to melt it) and add it to the shea butter? In reading some of the comments I’m confused, the recipe does not say to melt the coconut oil first. Thank you so much for all that you do, I just started soaping it’s been a year and I’m so inspired by you and your team!!!

  3. Heather says

    Does unrefined shea butter add anything to the CP soap that is not in the refined shea? I prefer to use the refined shea butter since most customers complain about the smell of unrefined shea, but I wonder if the unrefined would add something more to soap.

    • says

      Refined Shea Butter has been through additional processes that filters out anything still left in the butter, like fragments of nut shells and most natural odors. Some soapers prefer the more natural texture and odor of unrefined shea butter, while others prefer the smoother and lower-odor refined butter. The refining process that Bramble Berry’s shea butter uses is meant to retain all the natural properties of the butter, and to only remove debris and odor. I hope this helps! =)

      -Kristen with Bramble Berry

      • Heather says

        Thank you!!! I’ve seen so much conflicting info on-line saying that refining shea butter removes the important vitamins, but every site saying this states that shea is refined through a chemical process not diatomaceous earth refining process used by BB. So I had my doubts on whether this was even relevant to the shea I was using. I’ve tried raw and unrefined shea butter, and my customers just didn’t like it. They said it stunk, and I had a hard time selling lotion bars and whipped butters that contained the unrefined shea. The smell didn’t carry over into the soap, but I don’t really want to have two different kinds of shea(just takes up too much room in my fridge). So it’s good to know I can use the refined butter and still have all the good vitamins for the skin. Thanks for all info!!!

  4. Karen says

    Anne Watson (of the Smart Soapmaking books) has a signature recipe that she used when she was a professional soapmaker, which is 30% shea. (The rest is just olive and coconut – very simple recipe.) It’s one of my favorites, when I can spring for shea butter.

    I also got a kick one time when I got some “Shea Butter” soap at a hotel. Shea was on the ingredient list, at the very end, after fragrance.

      • Margene Crane says

        I started making cold-pressed soap and use Anne L. Watson’s shea butter recipe. It is the only recipe I use. 10.5 0z coconut oil, 10.5 Oz olive oil and 9 Oz of shea butter (as well as water and lye). I have made many of your tutorial creations using only this recipe. I can not keep soap on the shelves. It is so moisturizing. The bar is hard at 3 weeks too!

        • Kelsey says

          Hi Margene!

          That sounds like an awesome recipe! Once you find your perfect combination of oils it’s great to be able to use it over and over again.

          Thanks for sharing. :)

          -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  5. Cathey says

    Hello Brambleberry!

    I too have noticed that it contributes to the hardness of soap, have used it at 15% in most of my recipes; I have added up to 25% and it’s still great soap but I have noticed that the soap batter traces a little quicker at these higher amounts.

    I also use it 1/2 and 1/2 with Olive oil for a whipped body butter that feels fantastic on the skin.

    Thanks for all you do for us!

  6. Sarah says

    From my understanding Shea Butter has a relatively high Stearic Acid content which can contribute to a hard bar of soap. I use it in place of Palm in my recipes at well over 20% and I have a nice hard bar.

    Give it a shot at higher percentages, it’s worth it. Especially if you are cutting out Palm Oil for environmental reasons.

    • says

      Another commenter mentioned that too; I’m going to do some testing at 5%, 20% and 50% and see what happens. I have done a 100% Shea Bar and the lather was awwwwwful and the hardness was fine. It wasn’t particularly hard or soft … but now you have me thinking!

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