Saturday, May 3, 2014

Making Body Butter Good Enough To Eat

When I was little, I remember my mom had a stick of cocoa butter for something, maybe to use on sunburns.

It was in a metal tube with a cap on it that pushed up from the bottom, and I don't think she ever got to use it for whatever purpose she had purchased it. She probably gave it to me and I kept it hidden in my doll box where I could take it out and smell it. I was in love with the scent of cocoa butter.

When I began seeing lotions with cocoa butter in them, I thought I would be able to recapture that scent and, through the years, tried a shopping cart full -- all in vain.

Then I went crunchy with my hair, and among the recommended treatments was a deep conditioner made with cocoa butter. Just reading the "recipe" triggered memories of that long ago cylinder of cocoa butter. In this modern age of internet shopping, a pound of cocoa butter was just a few clicks of my mouse away and chunks of the fragrance I remembered were soon in my grasp.

While I love the scent of the conditioner and the fact that even afterwards I have a vaguely beachy (think suntan lotion I guess) smell, more recently I've been in love with the idea of making lotion with cocoa butter that isn't completely swamped by artificial fragrances or so much processing that its natural fragrance was lost.

My first experiment with a body lotion involved a recipe from my favorite crunchy blog which called for 1/2 cup almond or olive oil , 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup beeswax, and options, which I added all of were 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil, 2 tablespoons Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter (I used one of each) and essential oil.

The instructions said to combine all the ingredients in a glass jar in about an inch of water and heat the water until everything melted and stir it together.

With the cocoa butter and a little vanilla essence oil, the concoction wound up smelling good enough to eat. Just like vanilla flavoring enhances chocolate pie, the fragrance did the same for the small amount of cocoa butter.

Unfortunately, the recipe didn't tell me to whip the ingredients before they completely cooled and I wound up with a lotion block. Even after reheating them, the amount of wax in the recipe was too high for the temperatures in my house and I wound up with lotion a bit harder than shortening. I also discovered that when using beeswax, you should melt it completely before adding anything else because I still had little pellets of wax in my "lotion," even after the mixture had been remelted and mixed. Also I hadn't noticed that Shea butter comes in yellow or white, and if you use yellow, everything is really buttery in color, which I've decided isn't my favorite lotion color.

Not, I should say, my finest crunchy moment, but I do still use it -- especially on warmer days when it tends to liquify a bit more. My daughter has made a batch that is more of a cream texture, but I moved on.

Inspired by a commercial Shea butter that I had purchased earlier in the winter, I decided to make my own body butter. I even cleaned out the old container to store it in.

For body butter, the recipe is simpler: 1/2 cup each of Shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil and a light oil like almond or olive oil. Melt all together. Add essential oil for fragrance. I also included some vitamin E oil, since I had it any way. Allow to cool, perhaps in refrigerator, for about an hour until it begins to harden, then whip with mixer for 10 minutes.

My first batch I made with a relaxing essential oil blend that includes lavender, marjoram, patchouli, mandarin, geranium and chamomile. I like the scent, but determined I did not use enough. When I made my sunscreen bars last weekend, I whipped up another batch with the vanilla oil, recreating the fragrance of my lotion and blending with the cocoa so well as to rekindle those old memories again.

(The jury is still out on how well the sunscreen works. Both mom and I are using it on the three Es and no one is burned, but the weather hasn't been ideal. E3, I noticed today, is getting a little tan on her lower arms.)

The homemade body butter is not creamy like the store bought solution, but it softens quickly in my hand. It also leaves more oil on my skin initially. All the same, I like the fact that I could pretty much eat it with no ill effects and that I'm not rubbing a potential carcinogen on my skin just to avoid dryness.

I especially enjoy having control of the fragrance and look forward to the next batch, and the next, and further experiments with essential oils to create not just something that smells yummy, but body butter that meets specific needs. One of the bottles I've purchased already came with a guide to choosing the oil to meet the need, and I'm looking forward to trying some of the proposed solutions.

Even if they don't work as claimed, at worst I wind up with a new scent of lotion and healthier, softer skin.

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