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  • The Benefits of Butters and Waxes

    The Benefits of Butters and Waxes

    The inclusion of natural butters and waxes in your formulations are desirable... if not essential in creating great textures and for enhancing skin nutrition and moisturisation.

    Butters and waxes both belong to a broader category of ingredients, 'oils'. Yet they are quite different in chemical composition and obtained via varying methods of extraction. Here we will review some of the more popular butters and waxes utilised in natural cosmetics.

    Natural Butters

    Sourced from exotic plants and exotic locations around the world, natural butters are organic compounds containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are similar in composition to carrier oils, in that the carbon and hydrogen molecules form fatty acids that link together with glycerine to create triglycerides. And while all butters have high triglyceride contents, each unique fatty acid profile determines their distinctive qualities and benefits. 

    Derived from nuts, seeds and fruit kernels, natural butters are rich in nutrients and are suitable for many cosmetic applications such as balms, soaps, creams or body butters. They are typically solid at room temperature and are highly stable against oxidation.

    Cocoa Butter

    The Cacao tree produces fruit throughout the entire year which enables a continual harvest of cocoa butter. Beans sourced from the fruit are fermented, sun-dried, roasted and shelled to remove the cacao kernel which is finally pressed to produce cocoa liquor. The think brown cocoa liquor is processed further to extra the cocoa butter and leave cocoa solids which are later used to produce cocoa powder.

    Cocoa butter is high in Oleic acid (C18:1) and Stearic acid (C18) which provide excellent moisturising, emollient and thickening properties. Plus, the elevated Palmitic acid (C16) levels make it ideal for inclusion in natural soap formulations as it will harden the bar and enrich the finished product.

    Shea Nut Butter

     Sourced from the nut of the native African tree, shea nut butter also contains high levels of Oleic acid and Stearic acid. It is also rich in vitamins A and E and offers exceptional moisturising and protective properties along with anti-inflammatory benefits. It penetrates the skin easily and results in a softer, plumper texture. The phenolic compounds found in shea nut butter provide anti-ageing benefits and the phytosterol, triterpene and cinnamic acid offer natural sun protection.

    Grades of shea nut butter are processed by different methods. Organic grade is produced with manual processing techniques. The shea nuts are collected by hand, and then dried, roasted and pressed using traditional methods. It is then steamed to remove impurities; leaving a lightly refined creamy butter with high levels of nutrients and a natural nutty aroma. 

    Butter Melting Points

    Butters have relatively low melting points, and are thus flexible to include in formulations. Shea will actually melt on contact with the skin, thus enabling direct skin application for cases of severe skin dehydration,. 

    Cocoa butter: 33-35°C
    Shea nut butter: 28-34°C

    Natural Waxes

    The chemical composition of waxes differs from that of butters and oils. Waxes are actually esters made from fatty acids and fatty alcohols, and they also contain other components such as hydrocarbon resins which do not respond to chemical reactions. Waxes are extremely stable and are not affected by oxidisation. 

    Derived from plants, animals and minerals, waxes have been used in cosmetics for hundreds of years. In fact, ancient Egyptians utilised beeswax in early make up and haircare as they discovered it offered protective, softening and humectant properties. 


    The building of waxy honeycomb is undertaken by bees during their honey production cycle. Beeswax is extracted from the comb after the honey has been processed and is cleaned and refined accordingly to the desired grade.

    The main constituents of beeswax are Palmitic acid (C16) and Cerotic acid (C26). These long chain fatty acids, with high numbers of carbon atoms, give beeswax its solidity and strength. 

    When added to a cosmetic product, beeswax will thicken and enrich the product, while also offering some emulsification. Through vigorous dispersion. of the beeswax during the manufacturing process, the long chain fatty acids are broken and in turn attract water molecules. When utilised in conjunction with other natural emulsifiers, beeswax can provide a strong emulsion consistency.

    In comparison to butters, beeswax has a higher melting point and also relatively quick re-set or hardening points. When including it in a formulation, this should be taken into account in the method of manufacture.

    Beeswax: 61-65°C

    Butters and waxes contribute valuable nutrients to body-care formulations. Their addition to a product range will ensure excellent skincare results.


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