14 Mar 2005
Make Your Own Shea Butter Soap
By M.S. Beltran
By M.S. Beltran
At bath time, nothing is more luxurious or nurturing for your skin than an all-natural bar of Shea butter soap.
The Shea (Mangifolia) tree is a wild tree found in Western Africa that produces a tasty fruit. The fruit contains large seeds with oils that can be extracted to produce shea butter, a white to light yellowish color cream with a similar texture and consistency as butter.
Shea butter has been utilized by native Africans for more than a millennia. Shea butter contains unsaponifiable fats, which do not turn to soap and retain their moisturizing properties. It is completely non-toxic (in fact, unprocessed, it can be used in cooking) and gentle enough for use on the face, for babies or people with skin conditions. Shea butter is a natural moisturize, offers UV protection, and is even thought to help the skin make its own collagen by stimulating the tissue. It has been long used by healers for things like skin cracks and ulcers, small wounds, dry skin, eczema, dermatitis, and to sooth aching muscles. Because of the way shea butter restructures the skin, it has even been used to help with stretch marks, and in anti-aging formulas.
Because of the natural latex found in shea butter, people with latex allergies should do a test patch on the skin before using any shea butter products. Many people with latex allergies are not effected by shea butter, but some are, so it is better to be safe than sorry. But other than that, shea butter is a wonderful product to use on your skin. And the best way to take advantage of all-natural shea butter is to create your own home-made shea butter soap.
Shea butter is available in some craft stores that sell soap-making products, as well as many by soap and cosmetic supply companies. It is relatively inexpensive, as you can obtain an ounce for only a few dollars, and need only a couple of tablespoons in order to create two to four bars of soap. It also keeps well; refrigerated, it can last more than two years. But not all products are created equal. Many companies refine shea butter, or extract it chemically, which essentially takes out many of it's beneficial properties. Other companies bleach it, or add coloring and fragrances. For the best product, try to obtain shea butter that is all-natural and without additives. The more pure the product that you work with is, the better your results will be.
In order to make your own shea butter soap, you will need:
* All-natural Castile (olive oil based) soap
* distilled water
* 2 tbsp all-natural, unprocessed shea butter
* 1 tbsp finely ground almonds (optional, but a nice addition for a gentle exfoliating soap with a nice scent)
* A grater
* A double boiler, or a small pot that can be placed inside of a bigger pot
* Small plastic food containers for molds
* A mixing spoon
* A drying rack
Begin by setting some tap water to boil in the double-broiler or big pot. Grate your castile soap until you have two cups full. Add this to the inner double-boiler, or the small pot, with ½ cup of distilled water. Melt it over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the soap is completely melted and stringy when you pull up the spoon.
Remove it from the heat. Add the shea butter and almonds, stirring gently until the mixture is well blended. Pour into small plastic food containers and let dry and harden for several hours. They should pop out when completely hard.
Place on the drying rack and allow soap to set for 3 weeks, turning regularly throughout the day to prevent the bars from warping. Then, simply wrap them in plastic wrap to preserve them, or use them in your next bath.