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The Best Unrefined Shea Butter

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Perfect Body Harmony Raw Shea Butter is the best shea butter available on Amazon


Shea butter is a popular moisturizer that is used in skin and hair products. It is naturally high in nutrients such as moisturizing fatty acids, and vitamins A, E and F.

To understand the difference between white and yellow shea butter, we must look at the different ways that shea butter is produced.

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Shea Butter Processing

Shea butter comes from the nut of the Shea tree (aka the karite tree). The nuts are first dried and then the harder outer shell is removed. The flesh inside the nut is ground down and then roasted, giving shea butter its characteristic smokey smell. The roasted shea butter gets boiled in water and the butter that floats gets scooped off, and is ready to use.

After this process, the butter may be used, or it may be further refined. It is common for the butter to be filtered, to remove any impurities. The shea butter may also be treated to change its color, scent and composition.

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Raw Shea Butter​

  • Has not been filtered at all, it has been left in it's original extracted form.
  • Often yellow or green in color, depending on how mature the harvested shea nuts were.
  • There is often flecks of impurities within it.
  • This type of shea butter will usually come as a paste in a jar or tub.
  • It has not been melted down and poured into molds.
  • No bleaching, deodorizing, or additives are used.
  • Raw shea butter may still have been extracted using chemical solvents, so it is best to check for this before considering a purchase.

Unrefined Shea Butter​

  • Can be filtered, as long as it does not affect the qualities of the raw shea butter.
  • May not pass through a filtering or meshing system using clays, chemicals or other methods that will reduce the vitamin content or change the butters properties, including altering its scent, texture or color.
  • Usually filtered through a cheesecloth to remove nut skins.
  • Can be melted and poured into molds, so it often comes in sticks or bars.
  • Unrefined shea butter is sometimes categorized into grades ( A - F). There is an institute in the US that does the testing and grading. Grade A is considered the best. Not all companies choose to have their shea butters graded, so not all labels will contain a grade. 

Refined Shea Butter​

  • Has gone through some sort of process to change its characteristics and odor. Typically it has been through at least one filtering or meshing system.
  • ​May be deodorized by airing, chemical additions, or other processes.
  • May be bleached with chemicals or through filtering to make it whiter.
  • Will sometimes have additives such as scents or preservatives.
  • Generally very smooth and is white in color.
  • Does not have the same nutritional value as raw and unrefined shea butter because the refining process destroys some of the nutrients.

Ultra-Refined Shea Butter​

  • Has been refined through at least two filtering systems that change its composition.
  • Has been deodorized, bleached and processed to make it white and soft, allowing machines to easily incorporate it into cosmetic products. 
  • Very white in color.
  • The texture can vary from firm to a more liquid consistency.
  • Many, if not all of the healing nutrients are lost in the refinement process.
  • Chemicals such as hexane may be used.
  • Preservatives must be added.
  • This type of shea butter offers only skin moisturization.
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Color as An Indicator of Quality

The color of shea butter can vary from off-white (often called ivory), grey or greenish, to yellow. These variations are due to the season and region that it is extracted from. The color of shea butter is not the sole indicator of nutritional value. The refinement process is a more reliable indicator of nutritional content.

The color of shea butter is not the sole indicator of nutritional value. The refinement process is a more reliable indicator of nutritional content.

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Raw or unrefined shea butter is usually more colored than refined shea butters, but the colors can vary. Just because a raw or unrefined shea butter is more white than yellow, does not mean it is a lower quality. If a shea butter is raw or unrefined, it will have its healing properties left intact.

Which Is Better?

Raw or unrefined shea butter is better for treating skin conditions, as all the healing properties are kept intact. Refined and ultra-refined shea butter can be easier to use, especially when making cosmetic products, but they don't contain the same healing properties.

Raw and Unrefined Shea Butter
  • may have an unpleasant smell
  • very firm in cold conditions and melts in warm conditions
  • only available in a few forms
  • higher nutrient content
  • superior natural healing properties
  • chemical free
Refined and Ultra-Refined Shea Butter
  • odorless
  • maintains consistent texture
  • available in many forms
  • loses nutrients during the refinement process
  • may contain harmful or toxic refining chemicals

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I prefer using unrefined shea butter. The healing qualities are present, but the resulting product is nicer to use and there are no flecks or impurities to worry about.

How to Find Quality Shea Butter

The Best Unrefined Shea Butter

raw shea butter

Perfect Body Harmony Raw Shea Butter is the best shea butter available on Amazon

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How do you use shea butter? Leave any questions or comments down below 🙂

Yours Naturally,
Andrea

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Hi Andrea!
    In the past I have melted down (with a double boiler) shea butter & added oils to make my own whipped body butters. However, I did not know until I started reading your blog about the comedogenic oils; I now know why they caused breakouts on my face! I stoped using those on my face ages ago but I still can’t seem to find anything that will actually moisturize without breaking it out that isn’t full of chemicals or doesn’t cost an arm & a leg as they say. So, is melting down the shea butter & adding some sunflower seed oil, argan oil & hemp seed oil still a good way to create a facial moisturizer??

    • Hi Janae, thanks for your comments and question. You can incorporate those non-comedogenic oils into your whipped butters. I would recommend sticking to one oil at a time and just making a small batch. Then you can test the whipped butter to see if it makes you break out. I recently made a whipped lip butter with shea butter and coconut oil, it is so nice on my lips. I didn’t even melt it down first, I just whipped it right out of the jar.

  2. Hi Andrea,
    Very informative article. I recently purchased an unrefined shea butter with five star reviews. I am aware of the color variants in unrefined shea butter. My concern is the smell. I opened the package and could not believe this stuff ever had a pleasant nutty scent. It has a very unpleasant acidic, chemical smell. It’s hard to explain, because it just doesn’t smell natural. The odor dissipates after 15-20 minutes, which is great. I still mixed some with coconut oil and it whipped up great. Very light and fluffy. Feels great on the skin.
    My concern is the scent. It says on the package it’s sourced from Africa and 90% of the reviews are 5 star. What should it smell like?

    • Hi Jim, what brand of shea butter did you buy? Sometimes shea butter can have a funny smell. I have heard people refer to it as smelling like a goat pen. The shea butter that I have doesn’t have a scent at all, so I am not sure how to answer your question. Maybe contact the company you purchased from?

    • As long as the Shea butter is raw and/or minimally processed, it will retain its nutrient value. The color doens’t matter as much as the process the butter has gone through.

  3. good day, pls does Shea butter darken skin of babies. I noticed the one I bought was darkening the skin of my baby so I stopped the use, it has hard texture and in moulded form. thanks

    • I have done a bit of research and I can’t find much about why Shea butter would be darkening your babies skin. Some people have experienced darkening of the skin with shea butter usage. I would stop using it if your baby is having that reaction.

  4. Hi,
    I am looking to make an eczema cream for my daughter. She does not have any allergies that we know of but has a dry patch above her lip and on her neck. The doctor says it is Eczema. Can you suggest which would be better to use, shea butter or coco butter. I am concerned because she is 16 and has some issues with Acne.
    Thanks
    Joanne

    • Hi Joanne, thanks for your question. Shea butter would be better as it is less pore-clogging than cocoa butter. She could also try aloe vera mixed with a little grapeseed oil if she finds that the shea butter makes her break out. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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