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Make Your Own Lotion Bars

Butter Bars in cardboard dispensers
Raw cocoa butter

Easy to Make Skin Softening Body Bars

Lotion bars, Body bars, and what I like to call Butter Bars, are all the same thing! Regardless of what you call them, they are an easy, portable way to work with oil-based preparations in a no-mess way.

This is your how-to inspiration guide for creating your own vegan aromatherapy lotion bars with a few simple ingredients and a lot of leeway for creativity.

Butter Bar vs. Lotion Bar?

Do you find it ironic how “lotion bars” have nothing to do with lotion? By definition, “lotion” contains an aqueous component. Lotion bars are, rather, more like harder salves that incorporate butters (e.g., cocoa, mango, shea) into wax and liquid oils. Definitions matter, because they help everyone get on the same page! So let’s call these “Butter Bars” for the fun of it during this article.

How is a Butter Bar Different From a Salve?

Salves often feel greasy & oily to the touch whereas Butter Bars are hard and firm, almost “soap-bar” like. Yet once hardened and “set”, the surface of a Butter Bar melts against the warmth of your skin thanks to the inclusion of “butters” in the formula. This is what makes these unique: the warmth of your skin melts the surface of the “bar” ever-so-slightly and spreads on easily in a thin film. Like butter!

Container or No Container?

When you work with a wax (which is hard and has a high melting point) AND a butter (higher melting point than liquid oils…), you end up with a finished product that is relatively “dry” and often solid to the touch. This gives you flexibility to create stand-alone “bars” (using molds, such as silicone) or containers (such as these). Choose what fits your needs and plan accordingly.

Melting Point Matters

Butter Bars are what they are thanks to playing with the concepts of rigidity and melting point (which are intimately linked!) as they pertain to different ingredients.

  • Think of how coconut oil can be solid at one temperature (70 degrees F), then liquid at another (85 degrees).
  • Take a piece of beeswax and melt it with cocoa to see which melts first.
  • What happens when you spill a bottle of sesame oil? Does it stay put or get all over the place?

Melting point has a LOT to do with the consistency and structure of your product; this is similar to candle making. Heat and melting points have a LOT to do with product making, but that’s for another blog post…

Cocoa chips and Candelilla wax melting in double boiler. Which do you think melts first?

Butter Bar Formulating Guidelines

The general guideline when working with beeswax for “Butter Bar” formulating is working in thirds. Below is a listing of ingredients from hardest to softest for a classic “Butter Bar”:

  • 33% Wax (e.g., Beeswax)
    • Gives rigidity and stability to the liquid oils
  • 33% Butters (e.g., Cocoa, Shea, Mango and several others!)
    • Easily become soft to the touch & most melt on contact with body heat
    • Likely to sit on top of the skin due to their saturated nature
    • Solid to relatively solid at room temperature.
  • 33% Liquid oils at room temperature (e.g., Sunflower, Sesame, Cranberry and hundreds of others!)
    • Easily absorbed into the skin due to their liquid nature and lower melting points
    • *Remember: an oil like Coconut easily melts at 78 degrees F….making it a go-between liquid and solid.
  • 1% (1-3%) Essential Oils are an optional addition

That’s all well and good but…

What if I want to work with a vegan wax like candelilla, which has a vastly higher melting point and is MUCH harder than beeswax?

What if I don’t want Coconut oil in my formula nor Mango or Shea?

It’s time to get creative with the formulation percentages. Let’s make it interesting by working with Candelilla wax (vegan options) and Cocoa, both of which are rather hard. The percentages would have to be adjusted if you added Coconut oil or Shea.

Vegan Butter Bar with CocoaHere’s a Real Life Example
Rather than working in “thirds” we have to adjust the ingredients to account for the hardness and higher melting points.

15% Candelilla wax (by weight)
50% Cocoa butter (by weight)
32-35% Liquid Fixed oils (by volume)
1-3%* Essential oils (by volume)

*Read here for essential oil dilution rate information
Quantity: This formula is for 30 ml (2 ounces) of product, which gives me enough to fill 2, 15 ml cardboard tubes (pictured above).

4.5 grams Candelilla wax
15 grams Cocoa butter
~5 ml Avocado oil
~5 ml Sesame oil
30 drops of Essential oils

This blend of essential oils is intended to promote a calming slumber:
8 drops Rosewood leaf (Dalburgia sissoo), 6 drops Fragonia (Agonis fragrans), 3 drops Vetiveria zizanioides & 3 drops Valeriana officinalis.

Supplies & Ingredients for Making Butter Bars

  • Double boiler
  • Heatproof beaker, such as “Pyrex” brand, for melting and pouring
  • Scale
  • Graduated cylinder/beaker
  • Stirring rod or spatula
  • Silicone Molds (if making bars) OR Containers depending on application preference
  • Candelilla wax
  • Butters such as Cocoa, Mango or Shea
  • Liquid Nut/Seed oils
  • Essential oils of your choice

What Are the Steps for Making Butter Bars?

Click here for a similar article on making lip-balm as the steps are virtually the same for making a lotion/butter bar. Simply decide if you want to use molds or have the “butter” in a container.

Settle in for a free in-depth class on working with wax-based products.

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