Shea butter is a popular product in the skincare industry, sold both alone and within other products such as moisturizers and lotions. It is widely available in white and yellow, but what are the similarities and differences between white shea butter and yellow shea butter?
Ultimately the two products are similar in texture and skincare benefits. The differences are that white shea butter is refined and more commonly used in cosmetic products, whereas yellow shea butter is unrefined which means it is essentially raw and will contain natural impurities/vitamins.
Keep reading to find out all there is to know about white shea butter and yellow shea butter, including more on their similarities and differences. Also, here’s some more on shea butter vs coconut oil if you’re looking to learn more about other skin care products.
Comparing White Shea Butter and Yellow Shea Butter
Let’s compare the key elements of shea butter to determine how white and yellow shea butter correlate.
We’ve broken down our comparisons by similarities and differences to show how the two products can be distinguished.
|Texture||White Shea Butter is refined, Yellow Shea Butter is unrefined|
|Both are produced from nut of the African Shea Tree||Yellow Shea Butter has more vitamins/nutrients, White Shea Butter includes chemicals and is more prominently used in cosmetic industry|
|Moisturizing||Yellow Shea Butter has a strong scent, White Shea Butter is usually unscented|
White shea butter and yellow shea butter are similar in a few ways. They are both produced as fat from the nut of an African Shea Tree, with the process involving removing the kernel from the nut, grinding the contents into a powder, and then boiling it in water. Butter then solidifies at the top of the water and is collected to produce the finished product.
They are similar in texture and are used to bring moisturizing benefits to haircare products, skincare products, and makeup due to their creamy properties.
There are more differences between white/yellow shea butter than there are similarities. They are produced in very different ways, with yellow shea butter being the raw, unrefined of the two while white shea butter has been refined to remove impurities and fragrance.
Raw shea butter offers an earthy scent and retains a higher number of vitamins and nutrients than white shea butter as it is unrefined. The refining process can remove these key nutrients, which is why many people prefer yellow shea butter as it provides more skincare benefits than white shea butter.
White shea butter is more typically used in cosmetics as it is more palatable, due to its lack of color and the strong scent being removed in the refining process. However, this does involve introducing chemicals such as hexane, removing the natural benefits of the product.
You could safely eat yellow shea butter as it is free from chemicals, whereas white shea butter will have picked these up during production and is therefore unsafe to eat.
The production methods of white shea butter and yellow shea butter are ultimately what provides the products’ main differences.
Yellow shea butter is essentially how shea butter is produced in its raw state, with no refining taking place or adding of preserving chemicals.
White shea butter is made as a result of refining yellow shea butter and is extracted using heat to remove impurities. During the refining process, shea butter can lose up to 75% of its bioactive ingredients, such as nutrients including Vitamins A and E.
Which Type of Shea Butter is Best for the Skin?
Yellow shea butter is better for the skin as it contains more vitamins and nutrients than white shea butter. This is because it is unrefined and hasn’t had any benefits removed during the heating process.
It is also free of chemicals, while white shea butter usually has some chemicals introduced in order to preserve it. This is another reason why white shea butter tends to be more popular in cosmetic products as it will generally last longer than yellow shea butter.
Some sellers will introduce dye or turmeric into refined shea butter to give it the appearance of yellow, unrefined shea butter. It’s worth avoiding these types of shea butter when looking for the best skincare benefits as dye/turmeric can cause adverse reactions.
In my experience, the best shea butter recipes combine it with other great ingredients – like, for example, this whipped body butter recipe – to get the benefits of all the ingredients together.
Some other great skincare ingredients include:
I’ve compiled a few frequently asked questions relating to white shea butter vs. yellow shea butter to improve your understanding of how these two kinds of butter compare.
Keep reading to check out a few of these FAQs!
Where is Shea Butter Made?
Shea butter is predominantly made in African countries due to the prominence of the African Shea Tree. These countries include Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda, with two types of tree species producing shea butter nuts.
These two types of tree species are the Vitellaria Paradoxa which is found in Ghana and Nigeria, and the Vitellaria Nilotica found in Uganda. Shea butter will vary slightly depending on which type of tree species it is derived from – the Vitellaria Paradoxa produces a more dense texture of shea butter, while the Vitellaria Nolotica typically produces a more creamy shea butter.
There is little difference in the nutrient content and benefits in shea butter from these two tree species.
You can also make your own body butter at home with shea butter as a key ingredient!
White shea butter is good for moisturizing the skin and hair. It is commonly used in cosmetic products such as moisturizers, hair masks, conditioners, and makeup products.
It is unfragranced which is preferable for some, as consumers that have sensitive skin may experience reactions to products with a strong scent such as yellow shea butter.
Shea butter is often used in lip scrubs due to its moisturizing properties – check out a DIY Lip Scrub recipe including shea butter here.
The main benefits of yellow shea butter are that it is a raw product and therefore contains a high number of vitamins and nutrients.
This means it’s superior when it comes to moisturizing the skin/hair and doesn’t include the addition of chemicals.
Yes – ivory shea butter is essentially a different name for white shea butter. It is usually refined and commonly used in commercial cosmetic products.
Raw, unrefined shea butter should be pale yellow in color. Shea butter changes white in color during the refining process, as exposing shea butter to heat makes it lose its color.
No, shea oil and shea butter are NOT the same. When you extract shea butter, shea oil is a natural byproduct of that extraction process. So while they come from the same source, they serve different functions. Here’s a full explainer on shea oil vs shea butter.