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Making Things: Shea Butter Lotion

December 11, 2009

A couple years ago I decided to try and not put anything ON my body that I wouldn’t put IN my body. Thus, the quest that led to ditching commercially made soaps and shampoos, and only using organic oils on my skin. It’s been a dream – I’ve made my own soap and shampoo and they’re a hit with everyone who’s used them. My skin is better than it’s ever been.

But my skin was still dry. Especially in this hideous dry cold snap, so it was time to get very serious about moisture.  That means Shea Butter. But most of the Shea Butter that you can buy in stores is, well, crap. It’s highly refined, which kills most of the natural emollients and healing properties in it, not to mention leaving trace chemicals behind from the processing. And it’s hideously expensive.

After much searching, I found a supplier of unrefined Shea Butter straight from Africa, where it is grown. And much to my delight, the whole process benefits the women who make it in Africa, so it’s good all the way around. I have never experienced anything like this stuff. After just one day my skin – even the worst parts of it – was soft and smooth, even small cuts and knicks were healing. Since I had to buy 5 pounds of it (which is about 5 big mason jars full,) I decided to experiment with making a sort of lotion. Shea Butter is amazing used straight, but sometimes you need something a little bit lighter, and the “lotion” that I made is fantastic. Seriously, I am baby-butt soft all over.

Be picky about ingredients, please! This also uses Coconut Oil, and the only coconut oil that I will use is from Wilderness Naturals. This is my primary cooking oil also, so we go through it like crazy, but it’s incredible on skin. I’m calling it lotion only because it is not pure liquid, but the truth is this is a Body Oil, and it behaves like oil the minute it touches your skin. I don’t use any weird emulsifiers in it because – you guessed it – I wouldn’t eat them so I won’t put them on my skin. And you don’t need them!

Shea Butter Lotion Recipe (Makes roughly 3 cups)


  • 2 cups (scant) Shea Butter
  • 1 cup (scant) coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup (ish) walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup (ish) grape seed oil
  • 2 Tablespoons food-grade glycerine
  • 2 teaspoons beeswax
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey (totally optional)
  • essential oil of your choosing (fragrance, totally optional)

Making It:

Do this one cup at a time, preferably in a glass measuring cup

  1. Scoop a cup of shea butter into the measuring cup, one glob at a time. The globs should stack up on each other, do NOT smoosh them down. There will be lots of space left, and that’s what you want.
  2. Once you’ve reached the 1 cup mark on the measuring cup with the shea butter, pour walnut oil in until it comes up to the one cup mark. The idea is to dilute the solid butters with enough liquid, but not make it too runny.
  3. Do it again with shea butter. Only this time, only pour walnut oil to the halfway mark. Then add grapeseed oil to the one cup mark.
  4. Do it again but with coconut oil (which is pretty hard at room temp.)
  5. Pour grapeseed oil to the 1 cup mark.
  6. In a glass (or pyrex) bowl that is over a pot filled with simmering water (a double boiler), slowly melt the solid and liquid oils together until they are all liquid and mixed.
  7. Add the glycerine and the beeswax – let it melt completely.
  8. Add the honey if you want, and whatever essential oil you like.
  9. Whisk it all together like crazy and pour it into glass bottles with pumps in them.

This stuff is amazing. BUT, it is an oil, so if you’re not used to body oils, it may take some getting used to. A very little bit goes a very long ways. And it can take a little time to soak in, so I usually oil up and then brush my teeth etc.  If you’re in a rush, let it soak in a little and you can always towel off before you get dressed so that you don’t oil stain your clothes. You’ll get used to it, and you’ll never go back to those crazy commercial lotions with all sorts of odd chemicals in them. Ick. You wouldn’t drink it, why would you soak your skin in it?

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