Shea butter contains unsaponifiable fats, which do not turn to soap and retain their moisturizing properties. It is completely non-toxic (unprocessed, it can be used in cooking) and gentle enough for use on the face, for babies or people with extra sensitive skin. Shea butter is a natural moisturizer, offers UV protection, and is even thought to help the skin make its own collagen by stimulating the tissue. It has been long used by healers for things like skin cracks and ulcers, small wounds, dry skin, eczema, dermatitis, and to sooth aching muscles. Because of the way shea butter restructures the skin, it has even been used to help with stretch marks, and in anti-aging formulas.
Shea butter is available in some craft stores that sell soap-making products, as well as many by soap and cosmetic supply companies. It is relatively inexpensive, as you can obtain an ounce for only a few dollars, and need only a couple of tablespoons in order to create two to four bars of soap. It also keeps well; refrigerated, it can last more than two years. But not all products are created equal. Many companies refine shea butter, or extract it chemically, which essentially takes out many of it's beneficial properties. Other companies bleach it, or add coloring and fragrances. For the best product, try to obtain shea butter that is all-natural and without additives. The more pure the product that you work with is, the better your results will be.
In order to make your own shea butter soap, you will need:
All-natural Castile (olive oil based) soap
2 tbsp all-natural, unprocessed shea butter
1 tbsp finely ground almonds (optional,for a gentle exfoliating soap with a nice scent)
A double boiler, or a small pot that can be placed inside of a bigger pot
Small plastic food containers for molds
A mixing spoon
A drying rack
Begin by setting some tap water to boil in the double-broiler or big pot. Grate your castile soap until you have two cups full. Add this to the inner double-boiler, or the small pot, with ½ cup of distilled water. Melt it over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the soap is completely melted and stringy when you pull up the spoon.
Remove it from the heat. Add the shea butter and almonds, stirring gently until the mixture is well blended. Pour into small plastic food containers and let dry and harden for several hours. They should pop out when completely hard.
Place on the drying rack and allow soap to set for 3 weeks, turning regularly throughout the day to prevent the bars from warping. Then, simply wrap them in plastic wrap to preserve them, or use them in your next bath.