Favorite Butters?

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Apr 19, 2019
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My experience with butters to date is limited to shea, cocoa and mango. I'm trying to decide if it's worth exploring some of the other options for skin care products. If you have any favorite butters and wouldn't mind sharing what you think is special about them, I would love to learn more.
I don't have anything against hydrogenated vegetable oil, except when it is sold for a premium price as avocado butter or similar, but right now I'm thinking along the lines of Cupuacu, Tucuma, Babassu, Kokum etc. I came across this list today from Lisalise when I was looking for butter melt point comparisons and realized that I have not tried most of them.

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@Mobjack Bay, I don’t have much experience with more exotic butters, but my favorites are Kokum (if I want a hard butter) and mango if I want a softer one. In most b&b I prefer a non-greasy feeling on application, and these fit the bill. I also like the conditioning qualities of mango butter and the hardness of kokum (over shea and cocoa, respectively) since I prefer creams to lotions.
Thanks @not_ally. Before I found that table, I was not aware that some of the butters have such high melt points. I’m intrigued by what that might mean for a butter /balm bar, lip balm etc. thinking without wax, etc. How does Kokum butter smell?
I don't have anything against hydrogenated vegetable oil, except when it is sold for a premium price as avocado butter or similar, but right now I'm thinking along the lines of Cupuacu, Tucuma, Babassu, Kokum etc. I came across this list today from Lisalise when I was looking for butter melt point comparisons and realized that I have not tried most of them.

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What I find odd is that six butters are shown as having the same melting point of 95ºF. However, three of them are identified as semi-soft, two as semi-hard, and one (cocoa butter) as hard. 🧐🤔
@AliOop Are melt point and hardness necessarily correlated?

ETA: I hard a vague recollection that crystal structure makes a difference. Google (AI?) says:

Cocoa butter can crystallize in six different forms, or polymorphs, with different physical characteristics like hardness, gloss, and melting point. The most stable forms are βV and βVI, but βV is the preferred form for chocolate production because of its hardness and melting characteristics. Form V, also known as beta crystal, hardens into the shiny, firm chocolate that cooks want. Form V crystals have a smooth texture, don't melt in your hands, and produce a snap when broken.
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I know you are all about the details and research and I wish I could give you more specifics. I routinely use mango butter in lotion bars because it absorbs quickly and isn't greasy.

I have experimented with small amounts of cupuacu and kokum in both soap and lotion bars. I'd encourage you to get some and try it. They are very hard and luxurious.

Kombo butter is a whole other thing unto itself! Very creamy and balmy to begin with. Love the nutty scent. It's supposed to help with pain and swelling although my two subjects -- me and Mrs. Zing -- didn't notice any appreciable difference. But again, it's worth checking out.

I've never tried babassu but the 12 year old boy in me has never forgotten this post, https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/cupuacu-butter-in-soap-and-lotion-bars.85403/post-912453 ! Sorry, couldn't resist.
I love Kokum butter and Illipe butter. FYI, 100% avocado butter is available. You just have to find a supplier. I still have a container of Avocado butter in my freezer, it is wonderful.

Sorry I do not remember who I purchased my Avo butter from and I am to tired tonight to dig in the freezer. Will post it later when I get it out and see if the supplier is still in business.
I am by no means one of the forum professional makers, but love playing with the exotic and rainforest butters.

I like kokum butter a lot; it's hard and very white, and I like it especially in a soap recipe high in olive oil since it adds hardness. I got a simple one years ago from the old SoapQueen site and still make it with variations. I enjoy the skin feel and think it works really well in lotion bars. I've only ever bought it from Bramble Berry and assume it is refined since it has very little odor on its own. For me it's most comparable to mango butter. Have never seen or tried unrefined and have no idea what the odor might be.

Murumuru and tucuma butters are light-colored but not quite white, more off-white to yellowish. Both feel great when just smeared on the skin and I like them very much in soap; they help make bubbly lather and I've read that they contain quite a bit of lauric and myristic acids. I've added murumuru butter to a salt bar formula and it worked great. Cupuacu butter doesn't seem to have the bubbly boost and feels just a tiny bit softer (but not as soft as shea). To my mind it's more similar to mango or kokum butter. The color is very similar to murumuru and tucuma and I'd be hard-pressed to distinguish any of these three from just a visual.

Bacuri butter and ucuba butter are much darker in color than the above. Bacuri is very dark chocolatey brown, and even came with a warning: "...can cause stains on clothing and materials used in handling." It is one of my favorites, softer than the others and quickest to spread on skin, with sort of an earthy but not unpleasant smell. Haven't tried it in soap yet, but watched a YouTuber use it as superfat in HP and I think that would be fantastic.

Ucuba butter is kind of mottled brown & tan but not nearly so dark as bacuri; both of the samples I've gotten have been pretty hard and almost crumbly. It still felt nice on skin but took a little more time & effort to spread around. It occurs to me that I haven't used this one much at all, so maybe I should remedy that.

I've tried only unrefined, wildcrafted versions of the Brazilian butters and there is often noticeable variation in the smell, with some of them having a pungent smoky odor. I'm not sure if this comes from the butters themselves or from the harvesting and extraction processes. I'd like to get the pricier refined versions someday to compare.

Now I've never even seen sal butter but would love to try it someday!
Wow, thanks everyone. Looks like Kokum will be at the top of the list, but I have a suspicion that I won’t be stopping there. I’m at the point where my skin needs all of the pampering it can get and the same is true for my sisters and many of my friends.
Sorry, this is is so late, but in my experience Kokum has very little odor. I've bought it many times because I almost alway use it in creams/lotions (except in facial ones), in different countries, and it has never smelled very strongly of anything. At this point if it did I would suspect I got a bad batch, I think.

Regarding the melt point, I've never had issues with difficulty applying it when used in lotion bars or lip balms, I guess because the liquid oils drop the melt point. But it has been a really long time since I have lived in a cold place. I don't know if things would be different if I were trying to use them at less than 50 or 60F. It seems like in my experiments with lip balms (it's been years, I might be mis-remembering), I sometimes had some graininess, but I can't remember if I used a butter that was susceptible to that (eg,shea), or if might have been a harder butter coagulating.
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Back to this issue of "hardness" in butters. I'm working on a table of butter properties and there does seem to be some relationship between fatty acid composition and LisaLise's hardness scale for some of the more commonly available butters. Butters she classified as very hard or hard - kokum, illipe and cocoa butter - have 60% or more stearic + palmitic fatty acids, with at least half of that as stearic. Two of the butter she classified as semi-soft or soft - mango and shea - have less than 50% stearic + palmitic, and 10-15% more oleic to make up the difference. Bacuri has a lot of palmitic, but no stearic. I'm collecting my own melting point information and the ranges I have so far are what you see in this little table. The less common the butter, the more variable the data seem to be and there are a few things that don't make sense to me right now. For example, Ucuuba butter (not in table below) - Very hard and melts at 53 C/127 F according to LisaLise. According to Rain Forest Chica, this butter is 18% lauric, 74% myristic and 8% palmitic, with a melting point of 53 C/127 F. I don't understand how the melting point can be so high for a butter that is mostly lauric + myristic. (Edited to add - From poking around the internet - the high melting point may be related to a high percentage of trimyristin (triglyceride with three myristic acids)

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