Wednesday, January 27, 2010

E-mail question: Grainy products when using butters?

Caroline wrote to ask about graininess in lip balm. She's using mango and cocoa butter and wants to know how to get rid of the grains...

The first thing I'd try is changing butters - but that isn't going to make a difference because the inherent problem is with the cooling down of the lip balms, and every butter will go grainy if it isn't cooled properly.

Butters have different fatty acids with different solidification points. If we make lip balm (or other creations with butters) and leave it on the counter to solidify, the butter will go through those temperatures slowly, which can cause grains. If we put the creation in the fridge or freezer, they will cool down more quickly, which doesn't give the fatty acids a chance to crystallize, and we shouldn't get grains.

Some of us are cursed with graininess: There isn't an easy way to tell which of us will be plagued with little gritty bits in our lip balms and which won't. But a quick cool down of your lip balms, lotion bars, and other anhydrous creations like sugar scrubs or whipped butter should ensure fewer grains and more butter-y goodness.

11 comments:

Sally M. Estrada said...

I have this same problem with my whipped body butter. I got the recipe from the Soap Queen and love it but it is grainy. All it is is shea butter and coconut oil. I don't mind the grains but why is this happening?

Also I have been considering putting seaweed extract in the butter. What are your thoughts?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Your coconut oil and shea butter need to cool down more quickly (I love a coconut and shea whipped butter - one of my versions here - so I'd suggest putting it in the fridge or freezer to cool quickly.

Is the seaweed extract oil soluble? If not, then it won't emulsify properly and will eventually seep out. Save it for a water based thing like a lotion or toner.

Sally M. Estrada said...

I don't heat them. I just whip them. http://soap-queen.blogspot.com/2010/01/easy-whipped-shea-butter.html

Am I doing something wrong?

jackisayswhat said...

You can use NatraButter from The Herbarie (it has a different name at Lotioncrafter) at 10% of the butters in your recipe to help with grains.

Anne-Marie said...

I'm puzzled too, Sally. Is your shea butter grainy before you start whipping?

Row said...

I agree with Susan. Ihad this discussion with her in an earlier post. I took her advice and whipped the butter in a pan of ice and then in the fridge. Then I found these comments about tempering on the dish http://www.thesoapdish.com/oils.htm. and tried it. Both methods worked extremely well. I'll be ordering my butters and oils in the winter from now on.Thanks

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sally. It is possible the butter is grainy when you get it, so the grains will stay if you don't melt it at some point.

You can temper butters they way you'd temper chocolate - when you get it, melt it. Then put it into the freezer so it can cool down very quickly. Once it is cooled, you can use it right away or leave it in your workshop until you're ready to use it. This should help

There are great instructions - and a fantastic explanation - for why we do it - on tempering chocolate at Cooking for Engineers (the principle for our butters is the same!)

p said...

Would you recommend popping a shea butter-containing cream in the fridge after making, or just for anhydrous things? I did this once and my cream separated! Granted it was a finicky beeswax-and-borax emulsion....

I've had a suspicion that repeated heating and cooling causes graininess in shea butter, sort of like how it causes chocolate bars to "bloom" - is that true at all? I've avoided using shea butter in my lip balms, even though I love shea, because I figure that they often end up being warmed and cooled since they're often stashed in a jeans pocket. Graininess really annoys me! I've been thinking about just switching to mango butter, because I've read it doesn't go grainy.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p. I'd suggest trying to temper your butters when they arrive from the supplier - heat them, cool quickly, then store or use. (Look up in the comments to see a great link for doing this...) I like the store my shea butter creations in the fridge to cool quickly - emulsified or anhydrous, both seem to work well - because I hate the grains. Mango butter can go grainy as well, unfortunately, but it's less likely to do so.

Barbara Strickland said...

I'm still unclear on the concept of tempering. I mean, I get that melting the butter thoroughly will melt all the potential crystals, thus eliminating the grains in the short term, but won't the grains return the next time the butter melts and re-solidifies?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Barbara. Check out this post in the FAQ about tempering butters. The short answer to your question is no, the grains won't return, because they are composd of fatty acids that didn't cool properly. If they cool properly, they will not crystallize.