Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saponification Sunday...Oh Shea Can You See?

Shea on me. Even though I has been entrenched in the making of homemade soap for nearly 3 years,
I have never used Shea Butter until last week. .

No real good reason other than it is costly, averaging $1.50/oz   compared to coconut oil which averages .08 cents/oz bought in bulk and the fact that my basic recipe seemed pretty good. If you are not familiar with Shea Butter, it  is a slightly yellowish or ivory-colored fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea  tree.

Used often in cosmetics it is known to be a great moisturizer as well as healer of a multitude of skin issues such as eczema, sunburn, rashes, itching, wrinkles etc...Normally soap makers use it in the range of 5-7% of their recipe but I have heard of others going much higher. It is even used to soften leather straps. Hmmmmmm.

So,in the mood to experiment I bought some and used it. My first batch I used 15% Shea butter along with my usual Coconut, Olive, Castor and Sweet Almond. oils. In the second batch all the ingredients were the same except I bumped the Shea up to 30%

I only let the bars cure for a week before playing with them comparing them  to a bar of store bought Shea butter soap I picked up at Barnes and Noble.  The bar was real cute with it's little elephant imprint and dry, it felt very smooth in my hand, but the lather really bombed.

5 minutes after rinsing my hands were tight and my skin felt dry. So much for "Triple Milled Shea Butter Luxury Soap" Granted the package was adorable but no where did it state how much Shea butter was actually used. I'm guessing in the 2% range.

The first batch of my own Shea soap took well to my alkanet coloring, just a little for a ight pink swirl and the peppermint EO I choose. With 15% Shea I was surprised to get the amount of lather I did.

Several minutes after using, my hands felt wonderful! So then it was on to batch number 2 with 30% Shea Butter. The lather was slightly less the first batch, each bar got a brisk 10 second scrub...
But still it was very adequate and left my hands very VERY soft without them felling greasy or oily at all. Both bars. although somewhat soft when cut at 24 hours after molding, were moderately firm after a week.
Final opinion. Shea Butter is good.
Now tell me, how do you balance out the cost of Shea in your soap bars? Do you save it for special bars only? Do you use it all your bars and increase your price per bar accordingly? If you don't use Shea butter why not?  Would love to hear your side of the story.




  1. Hi Donna, I use between 5 - 10% un-refined organic shea butter in all of my soaps except Castille. Why? Because I LOVE it. I love working with it. i love the way it feels on my skin in soap, in creams, in lip balms... Cocoa butter is okay, but not like my beloved shea. Un-refined, so it doesn't get grainy. These lastest shea experiment bars sound INCREDIBLE. xo Jen

  2. I have used shea in soap. Can't remember the %, not close to my info right now. Then I found a few postings that shea doesn't completely saponify, and it's better to superfat with it at the end. It takes less so not quite as expensive. I started using my shea for body cream recipes.
    I tend to use some higher priced ingredients, and fuss about how much I should get for the soap and how much I can live with for the soap. I am a small time soaper as far as sales. I focus on the skin benefits of ingredients, then try educating customers to look at more than fragrance. I only use essential oil for that. Most buy for smell until they are open to more reasons to use homemade. I avoid coco butter in soap because a few people told me if you're allergic to chocolate you can't use soap made from coco butter. I slurged on already mixed palm oil and it is amazing I think.

  3. Jennifer. Thanks so much for sharing with me. I love your soaps and the way they made my skin feel. Will never get over your perfect packaging! Your opinion means the world to me.

  4. Thank you Anne! You are so right about the need to educate consumers about how soap is far more than just scent. It seems though that once they "get it" they come back over and over because they have learned there is more to a good product than pretty little bunnies on a box.

  5. I use 20% shea in my recipe for ALL of my soaps, and bump the price slightly to cope. There's a store on Amazon that doesnt sell in bulk, but they DO have shea in 5lb things for about 18$ after shipping, and it arrives fast. Unrefined, ivory shea -- sometimes I use it straight out of the bag as a lotion! Especially on my dry, cracky knuckles.

  6. I use shea butter around 6% usually, but I've heard good things about soaps containing more than that. One of Anne Watson's favorite recipes calls for 30% shea butter - I should try that someday, especially since you got such wonderful results with 30% shea. I don't sell my soaps, so I don't have any advice about pricing. Thanks for sharing your experiences with shea butter!

  7. Ashley and Jenny, thanks so much for sharing your percentages. (and shea resources) Now for fun (not for profit) I think I'm ready to try 50% then 75% do I hear a 100? Just to see results and then compare to 100% olive oil.

  8. So glad to see your shea experiments have yielded such good results!

    It's definitely one of my pricier ingredients, but I wouldn't make soap without it. And I couldn't tell you why, as a complete novice, I started using it when my soaping journey began nearly four years ago, but I'm glad I did. I'm sure one of my many soapmaking books made it sound so appealing I just had to use it ;)

    For me, I use it as 10.5% of my recipe. All of my soap recipes, except my shaving soap, uses the same amount of shea, so I don't up the price. I should probably charge more per bar, but I'm not out to make millions. As long as I make enough to keep my addiction going I'm happy.

    Kinky Witch Soap