Refined vs. Unrefined Shea Butter

posted in: DIY Beauty | 22

Shea butter is one of my favorite butters to use in my homemade beauty products and medicinals. It's super versatile, very nutrient-dense, and it doesn't cost a lot.

There are three main types of shea butter you can find: yellow, white (refined), and unrefined/raw.

“Yellow shea butter” is probably not actually shea butter – and if it is, it is probably dyed. Most yellow butter marketed as shea butter is actually African butter, which comes from a completely different tree. DuchessGabrielle on YouTube explains the difference. As she explains, African butter is still good for your skin and hair – it's just not shea butter.

I like both refined and unrefined shea for different purposes.

Refined (left) and unrefined (right) shea butter.

Refined shea butter is gorgeous. It's creamy and smooths easily into the skin. It has a lighter odor so it doesn't overpower scented hair care and body butter recipes. It does have a lower nutrient content, though, due to the refining process. I use it in cosmetic, body care, and hair care recipes.refined vs unrefined shea butter

Raw or unrefined shea butter has a “grittier” texture and a creamier color. It also has a stronger nutty, earthy odor. I don't find the odor too unpleasant, but many people do. Raw shea butter has a much higher nutrient content than refined shea butter, and for this reason I use it in hair and skincare for dry skin and in medicinal recipes.

Aren't refined fats BAD?

I certainly don't like to eat refined oils/fats/butters, but when it comes to using them externally, I don't have a problem. I just choose raw butters when I really want to get the most nutrient-dense bang for my buck.

That said, when purchasing refined shea butter it's wise to look for one that is processed without chemicals, but those that are refined using clays and natural minerals.

I buy unrefined shea butter from Mountain Rose Herbs.

I get my refined shea butter from Amazon. 

Have you ever used shea butter to make beauty or health products? What kind do you prefer?


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Kylie Wiser is an herbalist specializing in skincare and women's health. She shares recipes and resources on Everblossom to help others live a more holistic lifestyle. She lives in Fargo, ND with her huge family and lots of houseplants.

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22 Responses

  1. Jorge Granda

    Very interesting information on shea butter, I did not know that there was refined and unrefined shea butter.

  2. Kelly

    Great information! I use Shea butter for my lotions and deodorant. I didn’t realize there were so many options and pros/cons for each. Thanks 🙂

    • Kylie

      I would probably choose refined for a deodorant myself… it would go on smoother.

  3. Sania Wasif

    You try your best to explain everything clear to your followers 🙂
    Hats off 🙂

  4. Trish F

    I’ve never worked with shea butter but I want to. For quite a few years I’ve been wanting to make my own soap and I know that shea butter is used quite often for it’s moisturizing properties. Some day I will get that soap made. Thanks for the information on this great ingredient.

  5. Toni Porter

    This is very useful information. I’ve wanted to try making some of my own bath and body products, and would’ve never known there was a difference otherwise.

  6. Bailey Dexter

    I have never tried the Refined shea butter,but sounds so much nicer! I love the shea butter, thanks for the post!

  7. Dana

    Hi there!! I love this article. I’ve been experimenting with some homemade body butters – and I can’t figure out which type of butters (refined or unrefined) to use – which type do you prefer for each cocoa and Shea for body products?
    1. Cocoa Butter: Refined, or Unrefined
    2. Shea Butter: Refined, or Unrefined
    I also sometimes ship them to some friends or customers, and am always scared to do so because I’m worried the butter might melt. Would sticking to one be better for that (ie: does refined or unrefined Shea/cocoa butter do better in heat without sweating or melting)? Thanks so much. I’m reading over this lol sorry about all this mumbo jumbo. I hope I’m making sense…

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