Tips on choosing Shea Butter

10 Jul 2014 | Skincare Recipes | 3 comments

Shea Butter is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties. But not all Shea Butter are created equal. What do you look out for when sourcing for good Shea Butter? Here are a few tips based on my personal experience.

Shea Butter Cream

What is available over most cosmetic counters and pharmacies is what I would call Shea Butter cream. Inside the beautiful packaging, one may think within it contains all Shea Butter. And when you try it, you can tell that it is a cream, a little thicker than lotion. It may have a nice fragrance and sometimes a little sweet smelling too.

Well, if Shea Butter comes in cream form, you can be quite sure it does not all contain Shea Butter and it has other ingredients in it.

Formulating a basic cream involves using water, butter, oil, emulsifying waxes, preservatives, colorants and other ingredients. Creams are formulated for easy application and it allows one to have a mix of different ingredients for its various properties. It is fine as long as the ingredients used are beneficial. But it is not good if the cream contains other undesirable ingredients.

Flip over the packaging, glance through the ingredients, and you will usually find that Shea Butter, sometimes labeled Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa, is just one of the ingredient among the long list of other ingredients. And for some brands, percentage of Shea Butter is not known.

I am not saying creams are no good. They are fine as long as the ingredients used are beneficial and harmless. Often, cosmetic products are likely to be named after the most exotic ingredient regardless of the amount used. I guess this is just like naming a dish. Chefs like to name the dish after their most exotic ingredients.

Whatever it is, my intention is that I hope you can become more aware of what goes inside that cream and not be misled by the label.

So the next time you hold up a container of cream labeled Shea Butter, know that it does not all contain 100% Shea Butter.

If you want the healing and moisturising properties of Shea Butter, it is advisable to go for 100% Shea Butter. Then again, there exist the refined and the unrefined version.

Refined Shea Butter

If it comes in white colour, you can be sure it is refined Shea Butter. It may be odourless or scented with fragrance depending on the companies. The texture feels a little waxy like a balm sometimes.

Why do they want to refine Shea Butter? Doing so removes the natural ivory or pale yellow colour of Shea Butter. Perhaps white colour looks more clinical and appealing? Rendering Shea Butter odourless would appeal to customers who prefer Shea Butter without its nutty scent. It also allows the cosmetic companies the option to add in fragrances and make the smell more appealing.

Refined Shea Butter often goes through a process of refining, bleaching, deodorising and/or degumming. It results in a colourless and odourless Shea Butter. In the process, some valuable nutrients and benefits are also significantly reduced as well.

refined shea butter1

Unrefined Shea Butter

If you want true healing and moisturising benefits of Shea Butter, it is advisable to go for unrefined Shea Butter, or sometimes called Raw Shea Butter. Unrefined, it retains all its valuable nutrients, that include Vitamins A, E, F, Cinnamates, Phytosterol and other phytonutrients, that are beneficial to your skin

Unrefined Shea Butter is usually handmade in the traditional way. Basic method involves drying the kernel of the Shea fruit, roasting, grinding, kneading by hand and boiling to extract the oil and cooling it to form Shea Butter.

Authentic Shea Butter is usually ivory or pale yellow in colour and it retains a nutty aroma. Personally, I find the smell appealing as if I am smelling chocolate. And it is not that all surprising when I found out that Shea Butter is sometimes used as a substitute for cocoa butter in food recipes. Unrefined, It is solid and firm under room temperature and melts at a temperature around 38 degree celsius. It feels smooth and buttery and melts easily onto your body.

unrefined shea butter1

A little unrefined Shea Butter can keep your skin protected, moisturised and happy for longer hours without having to reapply it several times a day.

I hope you enjoyed this sharing.


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  1. Agy

    Thanks for the tip, Lee Cheng!

    • Lee Cheng

      I am happy to know this is helpful for you!

  2. Eugeniashea

    Great Tip for choosing Shea butter. Use natural Shea butter cream at