Monday, July 12, 2010

Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the butters and oils

I could probably start a blog called "modifying your oils and butters for lotion bars" and write posts every single day for a year going over every single possible combination - but since I already have a blog that I enjoy writing and since the whole point of this series of back to basics is to encourage experimentation, I'll offer a few suggestions based on what I've tried. (Click here to see the basic lotion bar recipe from the other day...)

One of my favourite combinations is mango butter with rice bran oil (the cream coloured bars above). It has a nice combination of the dryness of the mango butter with the slipperiness of the rice bran oil.  Although you can go with the 1/3 of each ingredient in this recipe, I prefer this recipe...

28% beeswax
30% mango butter
40% oils (I do like 20% sunflower oil with 20% rice bran oil, but you can use all of 1 oil)
1% Vitamin E
1% fragrance or essential oil

Even though my rice bran oil is a slightly brownish colour, my mango butter-rice bran oil lotion bar turns out off white. I'm using white beeswax in this recipe because that's what I have in the workshop. If you were to use a yellow beeswax or another type of wax, it might take on that colour (more about this below).

Remember that your lotion bar will take on the colours of the ingredients. I am currently using white beeswax because that's what I have in the workshop. If I were to use yellow beeswax, this bar would take on a more yellowish cast thanks to the slightly brown colour of the rice bran oil and the yellow beeswax.

As you choose your butters and oils, remember to consider what oils and butters you have in the workshop and what each brings to the party. Consider the skin feel, the weight of the oils and butters, the shelf life, and the properties of each oil before creating your recipe. And remember you can adjust the wax to reflect the hardness of your butters.

Never underestimate the effect of your oils and butters on a lotion bar. You can create vastly different products when you tweak the oils. For instance, using cocoa butter with avocado oil (25% beeswax) will create a hard, slightly dry bar perfect for your feet, whereas using shea butter with fractionated coconut oil (30% beeswax) will product a softer, greasier but lighter feeling bar perfect for your body skin. If you choose mango butter with hazelnut you'll produce a drier bar than you would if you paired mango butter with soy bean oil.

If you wanted to create a massage bar, you'll want to choose a butter that creates a hard bar that melts around our body temperature, so cocoa butter should be your first choice. You won't want 33% beeswax because this doesn't melt at body temperature, so you'll want to reduce that to 25% for two reasons - because the cocoa butter is hard and so the bar will melt at body temperature. You'll want to choose some slippery oils that won't stain sheets or fabric - sesame oil or fractionated coconut oil tend to be the oils of choice here. Some people choose a lip balm flavour oil at up to 3% instead of a fragrance oil for this application - for obvious reasons I won't go into here - but you might need to sweeten it yourself. And make it a decent size - a 10 gram bar will get annoying for this application.

25% beeswax
35% cocoa butter
39% sesame or fractionated coconut oil
1% fragrance oil or 3% flavour oil

When you're tweaking the bars, remember you can use any combination of oil soluble ingredients - not just butters and oils, but silicones, esters, fatty alcohols, fatty acids, oil soluble extracts, and essential oils.

Because I'm a girl who can't just make something basic, join me tomorrow for a post on making a really complicated lotion bar using some of these other oil soluble ingredients!


Sierra Snow Soaps said...

I have been loving the last few days of your posts! It is so fun to try different oils and lotion bars, like you said, are so forgiving! Great job.
Michelle in NV

Stacy said...

Hi Swift,
I love mango butter, but I always seem to have trouble with it crystalizing after time. I've tried it in a lotion bar and in a cream-type product (anhydrous). I'm not sure if I maybe heating it too much, or not enough? Your knowledge and advice would be appreciated.
Ringwood, NJ

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Stacy! Have you tried to temper it? Check out this post on graininess in butters. I think the problem is that you aren't completely heating all the fatty acids and not completely cooling them. Try heating and holding the ingredients so all the fatty acids are melted, then pop it into the freezer to cool quickly. Let me know if that works!

Here are a few other posts that might interest you...

Email question: Graininess in lip balms
Back to Basics - melting butters
What the hec is this and why did I buy it? Butter EZ or Captex SBE
Why did I buy this? Lipidthix.

Hope this helps!

Stacy said...

Thank you, I will try the tempering, as well as check out the other recommended posts!
Thank you,

Julia Ngo said...

Hi does white beeswax work okay for these lotion bars? I accidentally bought a big batch of it..

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Julia. Any type of beeswax will work!