On Salve, Balm, and Buttercream

Salve, balm, butter, and cream . . . what’s the difference? This came up as I recently made a batch of body salve for my cousin, who explained after receiving it that she had something creamier in mind and the salve wasn’t quite that. After chatting we realized that I had made her a ‘salve’ as requested but what she wanted was a ‘butter’, so how are they different as indicated by each having a name of its own?

Salve’s are made with oil, usually infused with plants, and beeswax, simple.

Add cocoa butter (or pick from the variety of butter’s available nowadays) to a salve and you get a balm.

Remove wax from a balm, and you get a butter, which is often whipped to a light fluffy confection consistency, good enough to eat (but not recommended!) . . . some butters may have teeny weeny bits of wax.

Remove the wax, and add water, often floral, to emulsify butter and oil combinations with by way of blending and you get cream . . . a lotion is cream with a higher liquid content.

And there you have it . . . though because each of their purpose is to soothe and salvage skin, which is one definition of ‘salve’, the word salve is sometimes used interchangeably to apply to all of them, hence my cousin asked for a ‘salve’ while meaning butter, which is now on its way to her and hopefully is what she imagined .

What form of skin care do you prefer: salve balm cream butter or other?

One thought on “On Salve, Balm, and Buttercream

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  1. Interesting to learn the differences! I like moisturizers to be buttery, but for balms and salves seem to be most effective for healing. Though creams are maybe more penetrating? Like arnica cream on sore muscles.
    Thanks for the education! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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