When I posted our essential oil and homemade deodorant recipes, a few of you expressed interest in our other concoctions, so today I’m sharing my hair and body butter recipe. Our high-plains, desert region is known for high altitude, violent wind, short growing season, and dryness–all of which wreak havoc on skin and hair. After trying this Lemon Meringue blend, our entire family ditched commercial lotions, thrilled to find something that really works.
Hair Butter initially inspired this lotion. I researched coily African hair types and natural products when we first considered adoption from the Congo–long before we brought Kiffanie home! An equal blend of shea butter, coconut oil, and aloe stood out, and sounded like they’d serve double duty as a lotion! I added additional goodness to my recipe with the nourishing benefits of Almond, Jojoba, and essential oils especially selected to nurture hair and skin. (Important note: our whole family enjoys this as a body-lotion, but only Kiffanie uses it as a hair product. It’s fabulous for her thirsty, curly, Congolese hair, but would weigh down limper, straighter tresses. I make a hair hydration spritz that’s fabulous for all our hair types–so stay tuned for that recipe!) When Kiffanie finally arrived home, I tried a few high-end, natural, hair butters, but we keep coming back to this homemade Lemon Meringue!
- 1/2 cup softened Shea Butter
- 1/2 cup Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1/2 cup Aloe Vera Gel (I buy this from our Natural Grocer, and prefer those that require refrigeration.)
- 2 Tbs Sweet Almond Oil (Other oil of preference such as Olive Oil or more jojoba may be substituted)
- 1 Tbs Jojoba Oil (Again, Olive oil, or more Sweet Almond Oil can suffice)
- 40 drops (about 1/2 tsp) essential oil. I like to combine 20 drops of lemon essential oil or my lemongrass lymph blend with 20 drops of a “Lotion Potion” essential oil blend I concoct which is equal parts rosemary, clary sage, sweet orange and lavender. Experiment to find the right essential oil blend, or ditch the whole “lemon” concept and use peppermint for an amazing foot cream!
Soften Shea Butter in a double boiler or using the microwave’s defrost setting. Don’t allow it to smoke, boil or overheat lest it get gritty. (The goal is softened more than melted, but it partially melts without boiling or scorching, it should still be fine.) Combine the softened Shea with the other ingredients in a glass bowl and whip everything together with an electric mixer on a medium to high speed. Keep whipping for 5-15 minutes. Five minutes is sufficient, but longer will make it all the more smooth, rich, and fluffy. (Less than five minutes is likely to leave small grains and lumps.) Pour into jam jars or empty lotion containers, and you’re done! I refrigerate the jars for a few hours to help them “set up” and then store them at room temperature thereafter.
The season and temperature of our home affects consistency, but not the moisturizing ability. It’s like whipped cream in the winter when we keep the house at or below 70 degrees. In the summer when it is often 75-80 indoors (we have air-conditioning) it’s just as effective, but feels more like a mousse. Either way, it’s luscious and rich. Because of the low melt point of the coconut and shea (coconut oil melts at approximately 73 degrees Fahrenheit, and shea softens nicely at body temperature), this lotion absorbs quickly into the skin or hair follicles It feels oily at first, but mere seconds of rubbing it into the skin and the oily feeling is replaced by a moisturized, “mmmm….. ahhh!” as the skin sighs with contentment.
*Notes about shea butter: There are two varieties marketed as “Shea” and in my opinion both are good–the important thing is ensuring that you are buying unrefined, raw, and without additives. True Shea Butter (Butyrospermum parkii) is off-white in color and grows in the savannas. Shea butter’s yellower cousin, Kpangnan butter (Pentadesma butyracea) thrives in the rain forests and along the Togo river. It’s naturally a brighter yellow than true savanna Shea, and thus is often called “Golden Shea”. Some sources try to discredit the yellower Kpangnan butter (mistakenly calling it dyed shea), but while it’s different, it isn’t dyed, and I don’t believe it inferior. (On the contrary, I rather prefer it.) Misinformation abounds, but my research indicates that both off-white and yellow can be real, wholesome, natural nut-butters, unrefined and direct from the trees (albeit different varieties of trees). Likewise either color, from the wrong vendor, could be refined or have additives; Color is no guarantee. My experience is that the yellow butter (often labeled unrefined shea even though it’s more accurately Kpangnan) has a more matte feel, is silkier, and less oily, but I hear the creamy white Shea is a favorite of excema sufferers due to it’s higher olein content. As long as they are unrefined and without additives, it’s merely personal preference. I’ve purchased both varieties from several different sources with good results. Places I’ve purchased include: Amazon (both varieties), Butters and Bars (off-white, true Shea only), The African Store (both varieties), and Agbangakarite.com (white Shea here and yellow Kpangnan butter here). In the batch I photographed above, I’d used Kpangnan, as evident in the sunny yellow color. The color of your final “Meringue” will vary depending on the type of African Nut Butter used.