So you just whipped up a batch of gorgeous Shea Butter lip balm. It was tinted with beautiful beet-root infused Jojoba, and scented with a delicious Organic Peppermint Essential Oil. The recipe was carefully concocted, formulated for nothing short of perfection! After waiting what seems like a lifetime, the balms have hardened, and it's time to take one of those pretty little tubes for a test drive.
The balm smells delightful, so you put on your winning grin and glide the tube across your lips. That's when it all goes wrong. Instead of the light, creamy texture you're lips have been anticipating, you feel something rough and gritty. How can this be? You open another tube, then another, finding the same mysterious grit in every stick.
Has this happened to you? The culprit is very likely to be crystallization, a phenomena that can affect almost any Vegetable Butter, but is most commonly found in Shea Butter and Mango Butter. After a butter is melted, it can develop tiny crystals as it cools and sets. These crystals usually melt again on skin contact. While they don't detract from the butter's beneficial properties, the gritty texture they create is usually undesirable.
To avoid crystallization, butters need to be heated to 175 degrees (Fahrenheit) and held at that temperature for about twenty minutes. It's a good practice to treat your Shea or Mango Butter in this way prior to formulation. I usually heat the Shea Butter I'm working with for a recipe in the double boiler before adding the other ingredients in my recipe.
After being heated properly, it's important to cool the Butter as quickly as possible. If you have added the Butter to a product, keep that in mind. The butter or finished products must be cooled down right away. The longer the butter remains melted, the more likely it is that crystals will reform. If you can chill the butter or products in a refrigerator, definitely do so. If you don't have that option, there are a few things you can do to help speed the cooling process:
- Distribute the product/butter into small packages, and give each one plenty of room to cool off. Don't close lids or put caps on any packaging until the product/butter has cooled and set. Avoid stacking or grouping jars or packages close together.
- If you are cooling a large batch of butter or product, increase the surface area as much as you can. Pour the liquid into a wide, shallow baking pan or casserole dish.
- Cool the product/butter in the coolest area possible. If your kitchen is hot from being in use, consider moving the product to a cooler room. A close garage, bedroom, or office might be a better choice.
Be sure to protect the product/butter from dust, moisture, or debris as it cools. Once it has hardened, test a small portion to see if crystals have reformed.