Shea butter is a substance that is widely popular for its use in beauty products. I first started to use it to help with my eczema and began to notice great improvements. However, through trial and error, I've learned there are some distinct differences between unrefined (raw) and refined shea butter with regard to their uses and benefits. Here are the uses and benefits when it comes to shea butter that you should know about when deciding which is best for you.
Extraction of Shea Butter
Shea butter is a substance that is extracted from the Karite (Shea) Nut tree, which is native to Africa. Unrefined shea butter can be extracted by hand using traditional West African methods or through the use of a mechanical process.
Both of these methods result in the production of shea butter and shea oil without the need for the introduction of chemicals or synthetic ingredients. This resulting product is what is known as unrefined organic shea butter, or also known as raw or virgin shea butter.
Refined Shea Butter
Refined Shea Butter is extracted during a process which uses high levels of heat which results in its white color and loss of natural odor. Due to the high heat utilized in refining the shea, the majority (about 75 %) of shea butter's natural healing benefits are lost.
It has 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.
Unrefined (Raw) Shea Butter
Raw shea butter is unrefined and has a natural odor that could be described as somewhat smoky or nutty. This is what we use and sell in our products. It’s extracted with traditional West African methods, without the addition of chemicals or heat. It has vast amounts of vitamin A, Vitamin E, fatty acids, and other anti-aging properties. The color can vary from an ivory color to a more yellow or green tone color.
The unrefined shea butter also has the highest concentration of antioxidants. It offers some natural UV protection and is an excellent moisturizer. Due to the natural nutty smell of unrefined shea butter, some prefer to use refined shea. Fortunately, you can add in essential oils and carrier oils to obscure the smell, as well as add-on even more beauty properties.
Given the loss of the natural properties of shea butter in refinement, unrefined shea butter is generally preferred for uses related to natural care. However, unrefined shea butter has some drawbacks given that it has a shorter shelf life (3 years) then its refined counterpart.