Shea Butter-Sal Butter Comparison Lotion 1

Sal Butter on the top; Shea Butter on the bottom.

Shea Butter is an industry standard in skin care. Its luscious creaminess gives lotions a heavenly texture and great moisturizing ability. It’s a solid oil, but not brittle, making it easy to work with.

Sal Butter is remarkably similar to Shea, but it stands on its own as a dry emollient that brings a lovely texture and feel to products. Though Sal Butter feels grainy in its raw form, it does not carry that graininess into your creations.

Sal Butter is a relatively new product offering for us, and we wanted to highlight it. A suggestion to compare it with Shea Butter came up, and this series of comparison products is the result. I’ll be making lotion, body butter, lip balm, and soap using both Sal Butter and Shea Butter. We’ll find out how the different butters perform and how they differ (or do not differ) in the end product.

Shea and Sal are similar plant based butters, but there are distinctions between the two. One notable difference is color and texture; Sal Butter is grainy before being added to a recipe, while Shea is creamy and smooth. Sal Butter also has a golden hue, which can show up in your final creation.

For our comparison lotion, I found a 2012 blog recipe for Light Shea Butter Body Cream. It sounds perfect for my purposes, but I had to do some ingredient substitution to use what I had on hand.

Here are the things to gather so we can get started:

Distilled Water
Shea or Sal Butter
Beard & Hair Oil Base, unscented
Emulsifying Wax
Stearic Acid
Fragrance (I used Champagne Sugar FO)
Liquid Germall Plus
Microwave Safe Container
Containers (I used these one-ounce jars for my samples)


Recipe in Grams (400 grams to fill five 1-oz jars)
276 grams Distilled Water
60 grams Shea or Sal Butter
40 grams Beard & Hair Oil Base, unscented
12 grams Emulsifying Wax
4 grams Glycerin
4 grams Stearic Acid
2 grams Champagne Sugar Fragrance Oil
2 grams Liquid Germall Plus
Recipe in Ounces (makes 20 ounces)
13.8 oz Distilled Water
3 oz Shea or Sal Butter
2 oz Beard & Hair Oil Base, unscented
0.6 oz Emulsifying Wax
0.2 oz Glycerin
0.2 oz Stearic Acid
0.1 oz Champagne Sugar Fragrance
0.1 oz Liquid Germall Plus
Recipe in Percentages
69% Distilled Water
15% Shea or Sal Butter
10% Beard & Hair Oil Base, unscented
3% Emulsifying Wax
1% Glycerin
1% Stearic Acid
0.5% Fragrance
0.5% Liquid Germall Plus

On the left is Sal Butter Lotion; Shea Butter on the right. Note the warmer hue of the Sal Butter lotion.


Weigh all but the fragrance and preservative into a microwave-safe container. Heat in short bursts, using a stick blender or spoon between heatings until mixture is cohesive. Allow the lotion to cool to at least 120 degrees F before adding fragrance and preservative.

I read a hint to help cool lotion faster: put the hot lotion into a plastic bag and lay it flat. It surprised me how quickly it cooled! Add the fragrance and Liquid Germall Plus to the lotion in the bag, and use your hands to knead it well to incorporate. Then cut a corner off the bag and dispense the cream into the container of your choice.

I put my samples into 1-oz jars because they were handy. I might have used squeezable bottles with equally good results.


I gave samples of the two lotions to a few friends and asked for their opinions. No one felt there was a massive difference between the Shea Butter and Sal Butter lotions.

One tester called the Sal Butter lotion “buttery,” noting that although it felt greasy at first, it absorbed readily. Another tester said the shea butter seemed to take longer to rub into the skin, but that was the only difference noted. Two others preferred the Shea Butter version, noting it seems to last longer than the Sal Butter.

“If the two weren’t marked, I think I could tell the difference,” said one of my testers, “but I wouldn’t bet money on it, because they are that similar.”

In our next experiment, we’ll make a body butter! I’m very enamored of thick, luscious formulations; let’s see what I can make!

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About Denise

I'm a crazy goat lady who got into making my own soap with goat milk, found MMS to order supplies, and now I get to combine my love of creating skin care products with a job to pay the feed bill. I live in Alaska and greatly enjoy the unique aspects of my northern home - summer days when it never gets dark and the Northern Lights dancing above in winter. Favorite scents include Wild Mint and Ivy, Rhubarb & Sugar Cane, and Eucalyptus Spearmint.

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