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Which is better for the Skin? Cocoa Butter or Shea Butter?
Cocoa butter and Shea butter are some of nature's most powerful emollients.
They nourish and moisturize the skin, helping it retain its elasticity. You have probably seen Cocoa butter and Shea butter in skin care products and wonder if one is better than the other.
In this article you will learn:
- What is Cocoa butter and Shea butter?
- Their similarities
- Unique attributes of each
- How to use these butters
- Which one is best for you
- My recommended products
What is Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter is a vegetable fat extracted from the Cocoa bean. It has a mild chocolate scent and flavor. It is used in making chocolate and as an emollient in skin care products.
Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats known, it is loaded with antioxidants and resists rancidity for a long time (2-5 years). It is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature.
There are two types of Cocoa butter, refined and unrefined.
- Refined Cocoa butter has had it’s scent and color removed.
- Unrefined Cocoa butter will smell distinctly of chocolate and will have a slight yellow color. It will still have all of it’s valuable nutrients intact.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a vegetable fat derived from the nut of the African Shea tree. It is an edible oil used traditionally as a cooking oil, moisturizer, waterproofing wax, in hair-dressing and in candle-making.
Shea butter has a natural beige color unless it has been refined [Read: White Shea Butter vs. Yellow Shea Butter]. It has a mild nutty-smoky scent, that some people find a bit off-putting, though it quickly goes away after application.
Shea butter is also solid at room temperature, melting when it is warmed. It will last about 2 years before going rancid.
Shea butter comes in a one of four states:
- Raw Shea butter has not been filtered, it is left in its extracted form.
- Unrefined Shea butter has been filtered to remove nut skins. Nutrients are left intact.
- Refined Shea butter has gone through some sort of process to change its characteristics and odor. Refining process destroys some nutrients.
- Ultra-refined Shea butter has been deoderized, bleached, and filtered. Most of the healing properties are lost.
Cocoa Butter Vs Shea Butter
- Solid at room temperature and melt at body temperature.
- Excellent moisturizers and have healing properties for the skin.
- Anti-inflammatory properties.
- Penetrate the skin deeply and form a protective barrier on the skin.
- Work well on dry, chapped and irritated skin, relieving eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.
- Contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Stimulate collagen and elastic production, making them great at repairing and reducing fine lines associated with aging.
- Soften the skin, provide exceptional moisture to the upper layer of the skin, and diminish scars.
Unique Attributes of Cocoa Butter
- Contains cocoa mass polyphenols (CMP), which may inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. This polyphenol also helps ease dermatitis and rashes, by inhibiting the production of immunoglobulin that accelerates these conditions - source.
- High in Vitamins E and K. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, it lessens the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin K reduces bruising and under eye circles.
- Contains plant sterols. B-sitosterol has wound healing and skin repairing properties. Stigmasterol may help prevent skin cancer - source
- High on the comedogenic scale, meaning it can clog pores (acne-prone people shouln't use it).
- Can be used to prevent stretch marks, and scarring. May help eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
Fatty Acid Composition
- Linoleic acid - 3.2%
- Oleic Acid - 34.5%
- Stearic acid - 34.5%
Stearic Acid gives Cocoa butter its hard form. Oleic acid is a rich and heavy fatty acid that nourishes the skin and seals in moisture.
Cocoa Butter is Best for People Who are Not Prone to Breakouts
Unique Attributes of Shea Butter
- Has a high healing fraction. Healing fraction refers to the percentage of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that stimulate healing. Shea butter can have a healing fraction of 5 – 17 %, compare that to most other seed oils, which have a healing fraction of 1% - source.
- High in Vitamins A, E and F. Vitamin A and E are strong antioxidants that repair the skin. Vitamin F is a rich source of fatty acids, it softens and rejuvenates the skin.
- Offers some SPF protection because of its cinnamic acid content. This can vary from 0 – 6 SPF.
- Triterpenes in Shea butter may have anti-cancer effects - source
- Contains allantoin which protects the skin from drying out and aging.
- Low on the comedogenic scale, meaning it does not clog pores (perfect for people with acne).
- Excellent for winter skin care and after sun care.
- Useful for eczema, baby's skin, diaper rash, sensitive skin, rashes, psoriasis and cracked skin.
Fatty Acid Composition
- Linoleic acid - 6.6%
- Oleic acid - 46.4%
- Stearic acid - 41.5%
Stearic Acid gives Shea butter its hard form. Oleic acid is a rich and heavy fatty acid that nourishes the skin and seals in moisture.
Shea Butter is Best for People Who Have Acne-Prone Skin
Tips for Using Cocoa Or Shea Butter
I recommend picking one butter and using it for 2 weeks. This will give you a good idea of how it works on your individual skin.
Some ways to use these butters:
- drop a chunk into your bath and let it melt in the warm water.
- use a butter knife to shave pieces off that you can then rub on your skin
- put a chunk in a bowl of hot water to soften it, then rub on your skin
- use them to make a whipped body butter
Both of these butters are excellent at nourishing and moisturizing the skin. Neither of them is better than the other, as they both have something to offer:
- Mild sweet, chocolate scent
- Relieves the pain of skin irritations
- High in polyphenols that reduce free radical damage
- Deeply hydrates the skin and provides a barrier from the environment
- May clog the pores of acne-prone people
- Can be used on hair, face and body
- Anti-aging effects
- Helps heal and protect the skin
- Mild nutty, smokey scent
- Calms skin irritations and inflammations
- Offers a small amount of UV protection
- Will not clog pores
- Keeps skin supple and soft
- Antioxidants repair skin and reduce wrinkles
- Can be used on the hair, face and body
- Offers the skin a lot of healing properties (as long as it is unrefined)
- If you have normal skin and want something that smells nice, choose Cocoa butter.
- If you are prone to breakouts, choose Shea butter.
Remember to make sure the butters you are buying are unrefined. Refined butters will still offer moisture, but their healing properties will be gone.
Try These butters Now and Let Us Know If They Help Your Skin
What do you think? Have you had success with either of these butters? Please let us know in the comments below!
Yours In Beauty,