Updated: 7 April 2023
Grainy Shea Butter
What is grainy shea butter? What are those little sand-like beads that sometimes form on your wonderfully whipped body butter, homemade lip balm or other butter-rich product?
Those grains are parts or molecules of your butter that cooled off faster than the rest. They have separated and have cooled off quickly, while the rest of your product has cooled off at a different temperature.
Let that sink in for a minute: those grains are parts or molecules of your butter that cooled off faster than the rest. Welcome to homemade, synthetic-free skin care.
In a traditional cosmetics lab, there are numerous ingredients and products that, when added to a formula, prevent grainy from forming.
The science behind grainy Shea Butter
Shea Butter is made up of many fatty acids, in parenthesis you will see the average percentage of that fatty acid in a typical, high quality, unrefined shea butter:
Oleic acid (43-56%)
Stearic acid (31%-45%)
Linoleic acid and Palmitic acid (4-8% each)
Lauric acid, Linolenic acid, Arachidic acid (about 1% or just a trace)
Each of these fatty acids melt and solidify at different temperature, this is called Melting Point. While you will find from manufacturers what the overall melting point of a butter is (for example melting point for shea butter is 89-100F, while the melting point for cocoa butter is 93-101F), the truth is that all the fatty acids that make up your shea butter are behind the scenes melting and solidifying at their own pace.
How to fix grainy Shea Butter
At this point the answer is getting more and more obvious: to avoid your body butter, balm or other homemade skin care products from getting grainy, you need to melt the butter, add it to your formula. then place the container in the fridge, freezer or over an ice bath to quickly solidify.
If you will be whipping your shea butter or final product, you can remove the container from the fridge, freezer or ice bath when the product is mostly but not completely solid. That way it’s easy to whip it, and it will be smooth and with no grains.
If you will not be whipping it because it’s a lip balm, salve or even a non-whipped body butter, you can leave it in the fridge until it is completely solid, take out of the fridge and use it.
Similarly if you have a product (made with only butters, oils and/or wax) that arrived to you grainy or came out grainy you can usually fix it by completely melting it again (over a double boiler on low heat) and quickly cooling it in the fridge for freezer. As a note: If it had essential oils in it you may need to re-add these after completely melting again as most of the smell evaporates with the heat.
What do you do once it’s fixed?
Once your shea butter or whipped body butter has solidified, simply take it out and keep it stored in a cool place. Be sure to keep it away from heat and moisture, and if the temperature gets above 80F, it is safer to keep your butters and products in the fridge.
With this trick, we invite you to jump right in and fix any grainy shea or other butters you may have, then have fun making skin care creations like:
- Lotion Bars
- Body Butter
- Sugar Scrub
- Lip Balm
- & More!
Grainy Shea Butter happens, but don’t stress it, just fix it 🙂
For more information on how to avoid grainy butters in DIY skincare please see my latest article How to Avoid Grainy DIY Body Butters here.
We would love to hear your feedback on this subject, please comment below if this blog helped you, and let us know your experience with your shea butter creations!