How to Make Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter Soap

cocoa butter and shea butter soap

 The Spruce / Mindy Schiller

Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 3 pounds of soap
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20 to $30

While most soaps will do a good job of getting you clean, some are more luxurious than others—especially if they contain a high percentage of moisturizing oils and butters. This soap recipe uses both cocoa butter and shea butter, which constitute roughly a quarter of all the ingredients by weight. It will leave your skin feeling nourished and silky smooth. And it's fairly quick and easy to make, though the soap bars do take at least a few weeks to cure. You can add fragrance oils to customize the soap to your liking if you wish. And these soap bars can be great homemade gifts.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Kitchen scale
  • Bowls for measuring ingredients on the scale
  • Medium-size microwavable bowl or pot
  • 2 Small bowls and a fork or whisk for the micas (optional)
  • Safety gloves and goggles
  • Pitcher (for lye solution)
  • Stainless steel spoon
  • Immersion blender
  • Soap bar mold

Materials

  • 6 ounces cocoa butter
  • 5 1/2 ounces shea butter
  • 15 1/2 ounces coconut oil
  • 4 1/2 ounces lard (or palm oil for a vegetarian option)
  • 11 ounces olive oil
  • 2 ounces castor oil
  • 2 ounces fragrance/essential oils of your choosing (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon gold mica colorant (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown mica colorant (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons carrier oil for micas, such as olive, avocado, or almond oil (optional)
  • 12 1/2 ounces distilled water
  • 6 ounces lye flakes

Instructions

  1. Melt the Oils

    First, put only the cocoa butter into your microwavable bowl or pot to begin melting it. In the microwave, heat the cocoa butter for about 3 minutes at 50 percent power. On the stovetop, melt at low-medium heat.

    When the cocoa butter is partially melted, add the shea butter and continue heating until it is partially melted. Next, add the coconut oil and then the lard.

    Heat until the butters and oils are completely melted. Then, add the olive and castor oils to the mixture.

    Solid cocoa butter in a bowl
    The Spruce / Mindy Schiller
  2. Prepare the Micas and Fragrance (Optional)

    While you’re waiting for the oils to melt, you can measure out your micas (colorants) and fragrance if you're using them. Both are completely optional in this recipe.

    To give the soap a rich, warm swirl pattern, put the gold mica into a small bowl with about 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. Do the same in a separate bowl with the brown mica. Stir both well with a fork or whisk.

    Melted micas with oil in a mug
    The Spruce / Mindy Schiller
  3. Make the Lye Solution and Add It to the Oils

    To make the lye solution, first put on your safety gloves and goggles. Add the distilled water to your pitcher. Then, gradually add the lye flakes to the water, gently stirring with your stainless steel spoon until the lye is dissolved. Note that lye gives off heat as it dissolves, and working too quickly can cause the mixture to bubble over. Let the lye solution cool for a bit until it's no longer bubbling before proceeding.

    Warning

    Lye is a dangerous chemical that can burn the skin and eyes and is harmful when inhaled. Always wear protective gear when using lye, and work in a well-ventilated area.

    Then, add the lye solution to the oils. Use an immersion blender to mix the oils until you achieve "trace," which just means that the mixture will hold its form when you drag the blender through it.

    Add the fragrance if you're using it, and blend a bit more.

    Mixing melted soap with an immersion blender
    The Spruce / Mindy Schiller
  4. Swirl the Micas (Optional)

    For the color swirl, pour one of the bowls of mica onto one side of the oil mixture and the other mica on the other side.

    Adding micas to the melted soap
    The Spruce / Mindy Schiller
  5. Mix in the Micas (Optional)

    Using the immersion blender not turned on, swirl the color into the mixture. You can leave distinct color swirls or mix it in fairly well for more subtle color variance.

    Swirling the melted soap to mix the colored micas
    The Spruce / Mindy Schiller
  6. Mold the Soap

    Pour the soap mixture into your soap bar mold, and let it set up. After roughly 24 hours, remove the soap from the mold and let it cure for about three to six weeks before using it.

    Cutting soap into bars
    The Spruce / Mindy Schiller