August 8, 2011

DIY Toiletries....Infinite Possibility Homemade Body Butter

For readers who are well-acquainted with DIY toiletries and the like, I envy you. But I'm not like you; not yet. I've never been one to make much of anything myself (DIY). The ZW lifestyle is changing all that. But like many of us, I felt too busy. Isn't that what our culture is all about? Create overworked, overtired, overstressed masses that will in-turn rely on disposable, cheap and plentiful conveniences and be too groggy to think much about the insanity of the whole picture. Who has time to think about where all those disposable containers end up...surely the incredibly intelligent human species' ruling government bodies have already solved such fundamentally basic issues. So I don't need to worry about such things, or there wouldn't be a system all worked out for me to use and pay for...right?

Even when I was in denial, I always felt guilt. Sometimes it was too subtle to notice underneath all my day-to-day weariness. I would sort of slip in and out of consciousness about this issue of enormous magnitude. I consoled myself that I was better than many in terms of following the 3R's, but in reality, I was still smack in the middle of this zombie-herd mindset. As a result, most of the time I convinced myself that humankind and its governing bodies must have all this waste stuff worked out. I mean, we're not going to trash our very habitat, that would be inconceivably stupid.

Well, I have finally, permanently come out of denial. And in looking to end my addiction to convenience, I am seeking ways to eliminate, or far reduce, my dependence on packaging, especially of the unsustainable type. At this stage, I am still working on doing so with items I use routinely. Toiletries are high on this list.

The trick is that doing it myself has to be easy. Very easy. And when I began hunting for lotion recipes, I found that for most of them, I would need to be an amateur chemist, complete with all the equipment that implies. This wasn't appealing. Then I thought, surely there have to be ingredients out that that pretty much are the whole product; like shea butter, perhaps?

With some digging I found that there are some simple least there are for body butter, which is one item I find essential in maintaining my not-as-young-as-it-used-to-be body. I love body butter for my breasts, arms, and tootsies.

Following is the basis for a recipe that can be changed to infinity to create just the body butter you love. The idea is that you need just 4 simple ingredients (5 if you want a preservative), and three tools: a microwave (or stove), stainless or pyrex container and blender:

plant-based butter   (shea, cocoa butter or other plant-based butters of your choice)
carrier oil (such as apricot kernel)
fragrant oil (essential oils are best in my opinion)
wax (important but not essential in a pinch...but just go find your natural candle and shave a little)
preservative (ex. tea tree oil, thyme oil, grapefruit seed oil, bitter orange extract, honeysuckle flower exract)  - optional

So, fancy an easy body butter making experience? Try may just have all the ingredients you need at home already. And it takes only a few minutes of melting and blending until whip cream smooth. Be sure not to boil, but do cook for several minutes, long enough that the ingredients bind well, to prevent separation later. If you do not use a preservative, you may wish to store your new body butter in the refrigerator. But if you find the consistency harder than you would like, add more oil, or less wax (the next time) and experiment until you find what works best for you.

1/2 cup olive oil (since most homes have it on hand already)
1/2 oz essential oil (of your choice, or try a natural perfume or scent you have at home) 
1 1/3 cups shea butter (or other butter, how about mango butter?)
1 tbsp bees wax (shaved or granules. you can even SKIP this ingredient if you don't have it)
1/2 oz corn starch (optional)

And, if you don't have plant-butters lying around, you can order them online. Here are two sites than carry these products. (I don't endorse the sites or their products, just offer options for you to peruse). Be sure to ask for minimal, sustainable packaging.

The trouble with not using a preservative is that natural products go bad, often in weeks, accumulating mold and the like. There are some natural preservatives like rosemary oil, but alas, the effect is still much less than a synthetic like germall.  Most commercial products include such synthetic preservatives, or their stock would simply not make it to consumers cabinets. So, I find myself torn, but will err on the side of caution, and for my purposes choose natural alternatives, with the hope of not needing to make frequent batches and risk batches going bad before I can use them completely.

UPDATE 9/19/11: Borax is another possibility for use as a preservative. It is both natural and less toxic than many chemical preservatives, though it should not be ingested.

So that's it. 3-5 ingredients and a little melting and blending, et voila! And, all but one lying around your home just waiting for creative use. Once finished, just place into a small container you've picked out and enjoy...ahhh, the simplicity.


  1. I enjoyed making whipped body butter, but I find that it's just a bit heavy, even for my dried out potter's hands. Commercial body butters include water to cut down on the oil, but introducing water is what really makes a preservative essential (most organisms don't do well in oil), so it ends up being kind of a toss up. My best compromise has been to put on oil-based products when my skin is a little damp. It seems to absorb best that way.

    It's been a while, but my body butter recipe was a little different from yours. It called for shea butter, mango butter, jojoba oil, and essential oils. I wonder if the cornstarch helps with the greasiness.

  2. Great comment. I tend only to use body butter when I'm just out of the shower so that my skin's damp, also. I'll keep experimenting and give a shout if I find a breakthrough on the "heaviness" front.

  3. Stephanie you are amazing! I cannot believe that you are making your own products! Wow! I wish I had the motivation to do such things. What else are you going to make? Christine

  4. Welcome, ChriStine. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a post. You know I am only just finding the motivation. But I'm having fun so far...way more than I could've imagined.

  5. As a fellow East Bay'er, can you share where you get your beeswax and butters? I know there's a little hole in the wall next to Body Time that has beeswax granules. Anywhere else? Locally made?
    Enjoying catching up on your posts, well written and inspiring. Thanks for sharing, and keep it up!
    Oh, and talk about guilt [a bit off topic, I know]: went to a new grocery store yesterday--left with plastic bags and so much guilt I was excruciatingly grumpy. Two steps forward, one step back! Sigh. Amused DH, though.
    So thanks again for the easy recipe, makes it seem possible.
    (sorry if this double posts, a little illiterate with this)

  6. Jay, I more often than not purchase online, for better or worse. But I have looked into local spots. One that looks promising is Lhasa Kharnak. Have you heard of it? They have 2 Berkeley locations, and their rather archaic website is

    Thanks for all the lovely comments on various posts. I cracked up reading about your subtle changes in the household, like hiding the saran wrap.

    Do me a favor. Please let me know whether this comment reply makes it to your email. I'm trying to work out why my comments aren't reaching one or possibly any persons when I reply. Thanks. And I'd love to hear more of your journey, too, if you decide to write.

  7. ha! Lhasa Kharnak is the place I was thinking of, "next" to Body Time on Shattuck. They do have beeswax beads/granules. No idea where they get them.
    Thanks! I've not been creative or dedicated enough to blog on my own, nor do I have many ideas. Am really enjoying reading how you are working through the "process".
    I'm not getting emails, rather reading online. Seems to work better for me.

  8. Steph, commenters can sometimes choose to subscribe to comments and be notified when there's a new one on a post (this could just be for Wordpress), but it's usually up to them to check back to see if you've responded. Not ideal, but I think that's how it works.

    As far as where to get supplies, I mostly order from Mountain Rose Herbs, which is good about sourcing responsibly. I think it could be tricky to make body butter from all local ingredients. However, the honey stand at the farmers' market is a good bet for beeswax.