Shea butter in lotion

FAQ plus Homemade Lotion Recipes with Shea Butter for Beginners

Shea butter is one of the most popular natural body butters. It’s a very thick one. Because of that, many prefer to make lotions with it, which have a lighter consistency. If you’re one of them, this article should clear away many doubts and get you started. Find out all about using Shea butter in lotions.

Further on, you’ll read about:

  • Frequently asked questions about making Shea butter lotions. Why use this butter specifically, how, how often, etc. These are just a few of the questions you’ll find answers for in the first part of the article.
  • Trivia facts about Shea butter, extraction, growing, tradition, etc. I always find it interesting to know more about the products I’m using. If you do too, then this section will definitely do it.
  • Beauty recipes using Shea butter in skin lotions.
  • Last but not least, a few safety tips for using the butter safely on skin and hair.

Natural Skin Care with Shea Butter in Lotions FAQ and Tips

Shea butter has been a beauty staple for such a long time now. Its emollient properties and accessibility make it popular among beauty products manufacturers.

Many commercial body and face lotions and creams contain Shea butter. Compared to the butter itself though, these products contain very small amounts of it.  

Luckily, you don’t need to use them anymore. You can apply raw and unrefined Shea butter to your skin or hair, and get a lot more out of it.

Or, you can make your own face or body lotion with Shea butter. Check out all the next Qs and As to learn more about the process and the butter itself.

Shea butter lotion with floral water.

1) First things first: what is a Lotion?

A lotion is a beauty product designed to take care of the skin. It may or may not sound weird, but lotions can be used for hair care too.

Lotions are light in consistency, and they also feel light on the skin. This light consistency comes from adding a lighter oil or butter in Shea blends.  

Why else is a lotion light? It’s light and fluid because it contains water. A lotion is a water-based preparation meant to hydrate the skin. Of course, it can also moisturize it.

The moisturizing abilities, however, come from fatty substances like oils or butters. This is why we can use Shea butter in a lotion. Among others, lotions are great for irritated and/or shaved skin.

Lotions can be used for:

  • Cleansing – A cleansing lotion is great for makeup removal. It is always used first, to remove all impurities, dirt, makeup, sebum, etc.
  • Moisturizing and care – A moisturizing lotion is applied on clean skin, which is usually the face. It supplies the superior layer of the skin with water and moisture. It also prepares it for further nourishing and moisturizing. It can do that by causing the skin cells to be more receptive to other active ingredients. This step is usually followed by a face serum or a thicker cream.  It could also end the beauty ritual. It all depends on what you want to achieve. Sometimes, less is indeed more, especially when it comes to skin care. Still, the moisturizing lotion is weaker than serums or creams and can never replace them. The first enhances and boosts the action of the latter. In other words, if it’s cold outside or you have really dry skin, you’ll want to use them both.

The good part is that you can use Shea butter in both types of lotion. I’m saying this because you can make them both.

*Don’t confuse either of them with a tonic lotion, which is part of the cleansing process. Tonic lotions are applied after makeup removal and before the moisturizing lotion and cream. They don’t usually contain any oil or butter.

2) Who Can Use Shea Butter in their Lotion?

Originally, lotions were made for dehydrated skin types. Now, lotions can target various skin problems, making them good for each skin type.

Maybe it’s radiance you’re looking for. Or you need to keep your sebum more under control? Or perhaps you want a more toned and clear skin?

All these and more can be achieved by using the right lotion. The fact is that all skin types need hydration, both from the inside and the outside.

Basically, anyone can use Shea in their beauty regimens. Making your own Shea butter lotion will allow you to personalize it. This makes it more fun and healthy for your skin (or hair).

Shea butter in Lotion

3) What are the Benefits of Using Shea Butter in DIY Lotions?

You’re probably wondering why Shea butter is so special? In that case, let me tell you a bit about its chemical composition and benefits.

It all begins with the composition. Even though it may share similar compounds with other butters or oils, Shea is unique.  

Shea Butter

Latin name: Butyrospermum parkii.

Color: light yellow to beige.

Consistency: very thick and waxy. Turns liquid at temperatures of 34C/93.2F.

Aroma: vegetable, smells like seeds and nuts, sometimes sour; with some almond-like notes.  

Other names: butter tree, Vitellaria paradoxa, shi, and karité.

When a vegetable butter is raw and unrefined, its smell may vary from lot to lot. It all depends on the country of origin, harvest time, processing and extraction, packaging, etc.

So, don’t be thrown back if it smells different than what you may know. As long as it’s still there, in the range I described, it’s good.

Of course, the rancid smell is very particular and you will know when that’s the case. That’s the moment you’ll have to throw it away.

I’ve seen people asking how to make Shea butter. The only way to make it is by extracting the fats from the Shea nuts through a mechanical or cold press. Traditionally, the nuts are ground into a paste, then pressed and filtered a few times.

How to make Shea butter lotion, on the other hand, is something different. You’ll find the steps further down the article.

Shea butter can be made into oil only by melting it on a double boiler. Once the temperature drops below 34C, it’ll start to harden again. You can make it more fluid though, by adding light oils like Macadamia or Grapeseed.

So, why is Shea butter good for your skin? Is Shea Butter a moisturizer? It’s a great moisturizer for the skin and hair because it contains:

  • Oleic acid (45 – 46%)
  • Stearic acid (41 – 47%)
  • Linoleic acid (6%)
  • Palmitic acid (3%)
  • Phytosterols and tocopherols (strong antioxidants).
  • Latex.

The fatty acids it contains are all essential for great skin. They keep it toned and plump. They fill the fine lines and improve the aspect of mature skin.

These acids can also stimulate the production of collagen and delay the onset of aging. Vegetable fatty acids can nourish and keep the skin elastic and well-hydrated, among others.

Thus, Shea butter can have the following benefits:

  • Strengthens the protective barrier of the skin.
  • Maintains the water in the skin cells making it look plump.
  • Nourishes the deep levels of skin and keeps it elastic and toned.
  • Prevents dry skin and regulates the production of sebum.
  • Improves the blood circulation underneath the skin.
  • Prevents or halts the process of premature aging.
  • It can soothe and prevent inflammations. For some, Shea butter can also deal with acne.
  • Thanks to the antioxidants, it can also protect against UV damage. Thanks to the latex in its composition, it can absorb these UV rays. For some people, Shea can also act as an anti-allergenic.
  • This butter can soothe and calm irritated or heated skin.
  • It can also prolong the life of your tan.
  • Shea butter can keep the hair hydrated and elastic, and protected from sun damage. It can also give it luster and shine, and moisturize the scalp.
  • Also, using Shea butter on colored hair can prolong and protect both the color and the hair.
Shea butter in lotion for face.

Can Shea butter lighten your skin?

  • No, it can’t lighten your skin. In fact, it can help your skin get tanned faster. The areas you’ll use it on, the ones that are most exposed to the sun, will get darker. The butter can also prolong your tan, if you have any.

Can Shea butter clog your pores?

  • This may come as a shock, but the answer is no. As thick as it is, the comedogenicity rating of Shea butter is 0. This means it can only nourish and moisturize, without clogging the pores. In other words, all acne-prone people can use Shea butter in their lotions. You can read more about non-comedogenic oils here.

How to use Shea butter lotion?

  • You can use your Shea butter lotion after removing makeup or the traces of a long day (sebum, dirt, etc.).
  • Apply it with a spray pump directly to the skin and massage it in gently. Wipe the excess off with a clean cotton pad.
  • Continue with an oil blend, pure Shea butter or any other cream you like.

What to expect after using Shea butter lotion?

  • After applying Shea butter for a while, your skin will start looking smooth and fresh. It’ll also look supple, with less and less fine lines. Generally, it’ll look well-hydrated and radiant.

Why Use Shea Butter in Lotion instead of Using It Plain?

Of course, you can use Shea butter in as many ways as you want. But using it in a lotion can help the skin more. The butter absorbs on a deep level, so it can take water molecules deep too.

A normal lotion usually stays only on the surface layer of the skin. Applying pure Shea butter to the skin can’t add any more water to it, because it doesn’t have any. Only with a lotion can you get these results.

This is the only difference between the two ways of using this beauty ingredient. Luckily, you can use them both, first the lotion and then the butter, as a serum or cream.

How to Make Shea Butter Lotion? (Easy DIY Steps)

When it comes to making water-based lotions, it needs serious preserving. Bacteria breed and thrive in humidity and water. They can grow and multiply very fast.

You should not keep your water-based products outside the fridge for more than 2 hours. It’s the same as with meat.

Good natural cosmetic preservatives are:

  • Vitamin E,
  • Cosgard,
  • Grapefruit seed extract,
  • And Rosemary oil extract.
DIY steps for making Shea butter lotion

What you need to make Shea butter lotion from scratch is:

  • Good-quality Shea butter (raw & unrefined).
  • Distilled water, tea, or hydrosols (floral waters). I, personally, prefer hydrosols by far. See here why (what the deal with hydrosols is).
  • Natural preservative.
  • Emulsifying wax (glyceryl stearate, Cetearyl wheat straw glycosides & Cetearyl alcohol, or Cetearyl and polysorbate 60). These are natural ingredients used to bind the fat with the water and turn it into a lotion. They’re very easy to use, by the way. The dosage is 3 – 8% of the total amount of ingredients). Emulsifying waxes are called differently, according to the consistency they give. They are no. 1, 2, and 3.
  • Xanthan gum. It turns water and fat into light gels and stabilizes the lotion.  
  • (Optional) Stearic acid, for a thicker consistency. It’s mostly used in making body butter from oils. The stearic acid can be used in 2%, 10% or 20% of the total amount of ingredients.

You’ll also need:

  • A dry, dark, and cool place for storage. The fridge is usually the best place for that.
  • An airtight glass recipient. Glass is the best quality for a natural beauty product, but a good plastic or ceramic work too.

Steps to making Shea butter lotion recipes:

  1. Melt the butter or butters, if you want to use more.
  2. Follow the directions on the package of the emulsifying wax to prepare the lotion. In general, the wax needs to be dissolved in hot oil (70C). In a different recipient, heat the water or hydrosol to 70C. Then, mix the two phases stirring really well. This is the perfect time to use your mixer on low power.
  3. Add the preservative and mix some more afterward.
  4. Transfer to an airtight recipient and store it in a cool, dark place.
  5. Try to use it within a 6-month span.

As you can see, it is really not that hard. The emulsifying wax will do all the binding for you. With all that water, Shea butter will make the skin very happy.

If you want to make body butter, you can read more about that process here.

Facts & Trivia about Shea Butter, Shea Lotion Recipes, and Safety Tips

Since this article is about using Shea butter in lotions, it’s only natural to know more about it. I’ve found out some interesting things about it in my research.

So, I thought to share these details with you. That way, you’ll have an idea about the origins and production of your new favorite beauty ingredient.

  • The Butyrospermum parkii (Shea tree) belongs to the Sapotaceae family. There are hundreds of evergreen shrubs and trees in this family. These plants grow in the tropics and most of the time, they’re wild. You can find Shi trees all over the middle African territory.  
  • Shea is the anglicized name of Shi. Shi is how the tree is called in many West African languages.
  • In Africa, Shea butter is intensely used as food and fat source.
  • Burkina Faso is one of the main producers of Shea butter.
  • The shea fruits look like small avocados.
  • In Burkina Faso, Shea butter is produced by women, whose life quality is much improved with this job.

All in all, it’s good to buy only raw and unrefined Shea butter for your lotions. This’ll help and support many families in Africa. And of course, it’ll benefit your skin so much more than a processed Shea.

Shea butter for natural skin care.

Beauty Recipes with Shea Butter

In my experience, there is nothing more enjoyable than spending some time making your own beauty lotion. I’ve got a few easy recipes for you but feel free to adapt or change them with other ingredients you like. The condition is to have similar benefits and effects.

Anti-Aging and Firming Shea Butter Lotion Recipe

You’ll need:

  • Emulsifying wax no.3: 3%
  • Shea butter:10%
  • Rose hydrosol (or water): 86%
  • Xanthan gum: 0.3%
  • Cosgard preservative: 0.6%

Prepare the emulsifying wax as per instructions. The Xanthan gum is dissolved in the hydrosol, at temperatures between 40 – 70C. Stir well while incorporating the gum. Then mix the two (hydrosol + butter) together and stir vigorously, or use a mixer on low power.

The end result will be a non-greasy Shea butter lotion recipe you can make any time. It has a fresh and light touch, very fluid that penetrates the skin very fast.

DIY Shea Butter Lotion Recipe for Face (All Skin Types)

You’ll need:

Dissolve the wax into the oil, then mix with the hydrosol. Add the vitamin E at the end and stir well. Use daily to hydrate, moisturize, and plump up your skin. This homemade Shea butter lotion will make your skin look like it’s bursting with health, and it’ll glow.

The variety of ingredients is huge! You can make whatever recipe you want (just make sure you write everything down!). You can change it seasonally, just like your skin’s needs change seasonally.

Homemade lotion recipes with Shea butter are easy and natural. You’ll have fun making them, and then you’ll be happy to use them too.

Safety Tips for Using Shea Butter on Skin and Hair

There are not many precautions one needs to take when using Shea butter. Still, the butter contains natural latex. There are many people allergic to latex, so you’d better give the product a test first.

Apply a small amount on the inside of your forearm and wait until the next day. Any skin reaction should have enough time to manifest itself by then.

Also, being extracted from nuts/seeds, there is the risk of causing an allergic reaction just because of that. Use it carefully at first and, if you’re not sure, talk to a doctor about it.


At first glance, it may seem like it’s not really something a beginner could do. The truth is, if you want to add Shea butter in lotion and personalize your beauty regimen, you’ll have to start somewhere.

Once you’ve got your ingredients ready, it’ll all follow its course. Allow yourself room for error though. That’s how we learn. The second Shea butter lotion you’ll make will probably be perfect. How about it? Will you give it a try and use Shea butter in your next lotion?

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