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raw shea butter vs refined shea butter

The Difference Between Refined & Unrefined Shea Butter

Shea Butter is life! At least for me, and maybe for you too. Better Shea Butter & Skin Foods only sells unrefined, raw, unadulterated shea butter for skin. We do not sell refined shea (also called “white shea butter”), but why? There are some major differences between raw and white shea butter. You will quickly discover why wholesome brands like BSB choose to supply raw and unrefined shea.

Refined Shea Butter

refined shea butter

Refined Shea Butter is extracted during a process which uses high levels of heat. Sometimes, the addition of chemicals such as hexane also come into play. Many of the benefits that shea has to offer are lost when exposed to higher temperatures, like the heat used to refine shea butter. The color is removed during the process, so this type of shea butter is white.

Many people use white shea butter because of its lack of color and fragrance. This shea, however, also lacks many of the bioactive nutrients (like Vitamins A & E) that raw shea butter has. In fact, up to 75% of the bioactive ingredients are lost during the refining process. 75% is a pretty significant loss. It is a very creamy consistency, more like a lotion. White shea is still moisturizing, you just do not receive the same healing and beautifying properties as raw shea.

Organic Raw Shea Butter

unrefined shea butter

Raw Shea Butter is unrefined and beautifully earthy. This is what Better Shea Butter offers, and thank goodness. I spread hunks of that stuff all over my body. It’s extracted with traditional West African methods, without the addition of chemicals or heat. It’s a crunchy momma’s dream, really. It has vast amounts of vitamin A, Vitamin E, fatty acids, and other skin foods. The color can vary from an ivory color to a more yellow or green tone color.

The scent is earthy, which some people prefer and others don’t care for. Luckily, any crunchy momma knows that you can add in essential oils and carrier oils to level out the fragrance, as well as add on even more skin care properties. The consistency is thick and chunky, which changes once you are making skin care products. For example, you can make a rich, thick, decadent body butter using raw shea butter.

Raw Shea Butter vs Refined Shea Butter

So, which do you prefer? It’s a matter of personal preference. Raw shea butter maintains much more skin care benefits and vitamins. It does have a scent, and the color can vary. Refined shea butter is white and doesn’t have a fragrance, which some do prefer. The winner is clear when it comes to skin care benefits: raw shea butter takes the cake. The benefits are outstanding, and the quality BSB offers is the absolute best.

BONUS! Here are some recipes you can make with Raw Shea Butter from BSB:

Hungry for even more skin food recipes? Sign up for our free recipes eBook, or follow us on Pinterest!


28 responses to “The Difference Between Refined & Unrefined Shea Butter

  1. I love this post and it is super informative by the way it was worded. My question is if I want to mix in essential oils should I add them in during the melting process?

    Secondly, if I poured the hot liquified shea butter into small plastic containers would it melt the containers?

    Thank you,


    1. Hello Bray! You should add the essential oils after everything is melted and cooled off to about room temperature. If you add EOs to something too hot, they will evaporate and the scent will mostly dissipate.

    1. Over a double boiler it melts pretty quickly, about 10 minutes to melt 1 LB. When it cools it hardens again, but if you whip it, the butter will be a little softer even if it hardened.

  2. Can fragrance oils be added to melted Shea Butter once it’s cooled down to room temperate?

    If so do you have any recommendations for vanilla & baked scents? Ty 🙂

    1. You can add fragrances to shea butter, usually a company that sells fragrances will direct you on the mx amount you can add and any other directions you need to follow. I don’t have a recommendation for you about fragrances, I’ve only used essential oils to scent everything I make.

  3. Can unrefined and refined shea butter be mixed when melting without ending up “icky” or shouldn’t be done for any reason?

    1. You sure can! Mixing different butters and oils gives you a very customized product. Have fun with your creation!

  4. I have a question about which one to use – which type, refined or unrefined, holds up best in hot temperatures? I use shea in my homemade body butter recipes and ship to the states but am always worried that it will melt in the warm weather. Which Shea works best in this situation? And thanks so much for this post – I’ve found it very helpful.

    1. Both types of shea start to melt at 80F, that’s just the way it is with homemade butter based products. The best way to ship homemade balms and body butters during hot seasons is to include small cold packs with your shipment, here’s an example that’s only about .25 cents per pack so it won’t affect your profits (you can always increase your price slightly during summer when you include this in your package):

  5. Hello , I’ve been selling my hair cream for a while and use unrefined raw Shea butter mixed with other naturals oils. My customers loves their hair results but hates the smell. I’ve tried using essential oils but can’t seem to get rid of the smell. I’ve even tried lavender oil but doesn’t work. So you have any recommendations

    1. This is a very common questions because some people do not like the natural smell of unrefined shea butter. It’s not really possible to “hide” a smell, you can only remove or dilute it. You can try to modify your recipe by cutting the amount of shea butter in half and replace the other half with either an unscented butter like Mango, or with more carrier oil of your choice, while keeping your essential oil amounts the same. If you decided to replace 1/2 the shea with an oil, beware that the consistency of your product will change and will be less dense.

  6. hi, please is there a way shea butter can be refined for cooking without losing most of its nutrients.

  7. I couldn’t find a site that sells emulsifying wax, an ingredient for my body butter recipe. Can you recommend one please. What is the benefit of this type of wax compared with just omitting it from the recipe?

    1. Emulsifying wax is not your typical wax like beeswax.

      Emulsifying wax is made up of several synthetic ingredients that help an emulsion from separating.

      An emulsion is a lotion or body butter that contains ingredients that separate, for example: butters plus water, or oils plus witch hazel, or butter plus honey. All these do not normally mix and stay together, so you need one ingredient to tie them together and prevent them from separating. That’s what emulsifying wax does for your formula. If you answer me with the ingredients in your body butter recipe, I will be able to confirm if you need emulsifying wax and I will be able to give you a link to where you can buy some (we currently do not sell it but can recommend a few brands).

  8. Aloha. We believe in raw unrefined Shea but recently our product has presented with blossoms or star like growths on the surface. Have you heard of fresh Shea causing this?

    The Shea is only 3 months old. We have purchased a new batch and it’s still having this. All the other ingredients are fresh too. Just trying to figure it out.

    1. It’s hard to tell without seeing it in person, but a growth in shea butter sounds like possible mold, what other ingredients are in it? Feel free to email us with more details and photos at, we’re happy to help.

  9. I enjoyed reading through your article. We use organic, raw, fair trade shea butter in our creams and soaps and can’t imagine using refined! While refined is easier to work with and less likely to get grainy, we feel its a minor trade off for the luxurious quality of our end product. Thanks for putting this into perspective in your article. *Blessings*

  10. I have been using shear utter refined with lots of fragrance
    Refined shear butter has an added ingredient bee venom, but l still have a feeling unrefined shearbutter is the best for any skin type.
    I choose to apply raw shear butter at night after my night serum which micro sliver BG.
    The results are amazing.

    1. Hi Sophia,
      I am exploring what Shea butter is and how it used.
      I noticed you mentioned ‘micro sliver’
      Would you be kind enough to explain what this is?
      I imagine you are using the Shea butter on your face?
      Where do you purchase yours from?
      Many thanks.

  11. Some people said that raw shea butterr less shelf life n not very stable. Means it will effect the structure of end product when keep too long. Its true?

    1. Raw shea butter shelf life is stable from my experience, it withstands high temperatures and unless it comes in contact with any water, it should last for 24 months from date of manufacturing.

    1. Loved these reviews as I have wondered whether to use refined or raw unrefined Shea butter in my products. Thank you

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