Sunday, June 25, 2006

Difference Between Body Butter, Balm, Salve, Ointment, Liniment, Tincture, Infused Oil, Infused Vinegar, Lotion, Cream (Natural Skin Care/Medicine)


What is difference Between Body Butters, Balms, Salves, Ointments, Liniments, Tinctures, Herbal Infused Oils, Herbal Infused Vinegars, Lotions and Creams?

Body butters are usually made with a combination of carrier oil (liquid fats) and butters (like cocoa butter, etc. So solid fats) and often a wax (like beeswax). It does not contain water. It is a thicker and harder product than a lotion or cream (though it melts on the skin on contact), and often takes longer to absorb. It may also leave a slightly oily barrier on the skin for several minutes to a few hours, depending on the types of oils used and skin type.

Butters also refer to just the butters/solid fats themselves, such as cocoa, shea, mango, or kukui butter. They vary in texture and hardness, and absorbancy; some may leave a slight oily barrier on the skin, and others may absorb instantly.

A balm or salve is similiar to a body butter except it may or may not have butters in it, and body butters contain a higher percentage of butters than balms or salves. Balms and salves are made with carrier oil and a wax, and sometimes solid fats/butters. They do not contain water. As to the difference between a balm and a salve, it depends who you ask. Most herbalists, aromatherapists, and skin care authors mention that there is no difference. From looking at products on the market, I always thought salves were usually made with herb infused oils (see below for definition), while balms were made with either infused or non-infused carrier oils, and may contain essential oils. Looking at recipes though, there is little difference between the two, and as to what each product is called, it depends on the herbalist/author/crafter! I swear I once read somewhere that there was a difference but I can't seem to find it now!

Many authors also say that balms or salves are essentially the same as an ointment. For some reason I can't fathom, I always thought that ointments were made with the same ingredients but that they were thinner/softer in texture since they usually contained less wax. But all of my sources mention they are the same thing, so I just must have been thinking of something else!

I've found several different definitions on what a liniment is. They are made for external application for the skin, to soothe or disinfect. Basically you infuse herbs in a solvent. The difference in opinion that I've seen is what kind of solvent. One source said that the solvent is witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, while another said it is a carrier oil (and made it a point to mention that a liniment did not contain wax like a salve). Another book had a bunch of different recipes that included solvents or thickeners such as wax, oil, alcohol, or cider vinegar. I guess the true definition is any infused herbal solvent for external/skin usage!

A tincture is basically when you infuse herbs in alcohol or glycerin. Some books also mention cider vinger, though most tend to think of infused vinegar as a totally different product. A tincture is for internal use, but you can use it for external use too. Tinctures are a highly concentrated product. Many herbalists prefer using tinctures, as they have a longer shelf life than fresh or dried herbs, and they utilize less shelf space.

An herbal infused vinegar is herbs infused in vinegar, usually apple cider vinegar, and occasionally red wine vinegar. There are many cosmetic, medicinal, as well as food uses of infused vinegars.

Herbal infused oils are herbs infused in a carrier oil, such as olive or other carrier oils appropriate for your skin type. There are many cosmetic, medicinal, and food uses.

You can also make herbal vinegars and herbal oils by adding a few drops of essential oils. While these can be used for cosmetic purposes, they are not recommended for consumption, since essential oils are very concentrated plant substances. Herbal oils make awesome aromatherapy body, bath, and massage oils.

Lastly, all natural body lotions or creams are made with oils and waters (water, aloe, hydrosol, herbal infusion, etc) and also either a wax (like beeswax), thickener (like xanthan gum), and/or other emulsifier (like borax). It can have butters/solid fats in it, but not always. Lotions and creams are thinner, and 'runnier' than body butters. Lotions are thinner than creams, as they contain a higher percentage of water than creams.

Which is better to use for cosmetic purposes; which is more moisturizing or less greasy?

As to which is better, it depends on your skin type. Since lotions and creams contain water, if your skin is really dehydrated, they would be better. Lotions are also good for oily skin. Creams are better for drier skin.

Since butters, balms, and ointments are thicker, and may stay on top of your skin longer (preventing moisture lost), they are also good for dry skin (though if your skin is really dry, be sure to apply to really damp skin). Many people like to use them on really dry areas like lips, elbows, knees, and feet.

Infused oils are great to use on just freshly cleaned, damp skin, and are awesome to use during massages (or you can use an aromatherapy body oil). They also make a fantastic hot oil treatment for your hair.

The only thing that really moisturizes skin is water (or things that contain a lot of water like hydrosols, aloe, herbal infusions etc), so if your skin is really dry apply your chosen product to damp skin or choose a product with a high water content in it. Oils and butters work by lubricating and softening the skin and preventing moisture loss by forming a barrier on the skin. And (unlike mienral oil) they contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients that are great for your skin!

Infused vinegars, diluted with water or hydrosol, are great to use as toners, and as hair rinses. Really dry skin types may want to use just plain hydrosols, as vinegars can be drying.


Solarkat said...




Anonymous said...

I’m looking to understand butter butters

When making a natural butter manufactures talk of a “whipped butter” and it looks very silky – would this have waters?

What do you determine the consistency of a natural body butter to be?

What do you do for a butter?

p.s. GREAT BLOGS!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Slarkat about my previous 3-4 submissions to your blogg – just figuring out how to reply to a blogg

I’m trying to understand the consistency of a true body butter such as if it has water, should it be whipped or is it more of real butter.

Looking at other butters they resemble a cream but they call it a whipped body butter? Is this a true butter and if so how do you whip it but still pour?

In trying some examples such as using mango butter 25ml, sunflower oil 20ml and Jojoba 2ml, beeswax 10ml, 15ml water, 1.5 ml aloe gel it feels waxy on the body and can’t pour if whipped

When I just use olive oil and no other ingredients expect water, beeswax and aloe gel it seems to dissolve as soon as it hits the skin – is this more what I’m looking for?

Would much enjoy your feedback

Thank you

Solarkat said...

Hi J,

Sorry that your comment did not post immediately; I moderate comments (because I get a lot of spam) so comments don't show up until I approve them.

There are several different kinds of body butters; some of them are:

-only butters, and may or may not be whipped (so texture ranges from solid to whipped/airy light)
-butters and oils, and may or may not be whipped (texture as above)
-butters, oils, and a tiny bit of wax to prevent them from melting. This would be a really rich balm/salve if poured in a container. If a lot of wax is used, and it is made in a soap mold or poured in a stick container, it would be a lotion bar.

What you are describing is a butter -rich cream or lotion, since you are emulsifying together oils/butters and water. Some people do whip creams, but I haven't tried that yet.

I think your proportions are off (but it's hard to tell since for creams I usually work in ounces for liquids and use a gram/ounce scale for solid ingredients, and I usually make greater amounts of creams at a time).

If you look on my main page
I have links (right side of the blog) to old blog entries on cream making, and also a link to rosemary gladstar's cream recipe (one of the best herbalists in the country). Also for more recipes just check out make your cosmetic's website (link is on the right side of the blog also).

You may also email me if you have more questions (email address on mainpage of blog)


Anonymous said...

Hi) You have really nice blog! And thank you for this post, at last I can see the difference between all these products:)lol

Solarkat said...

Hi Happy,

Thanks, glad you enjoy the blog :)