What's The Difference Between Refined and Unrefined Shea Butter (And Why It Matters)?

As appetizing as it might sound, shea butter isn’t necessarily the kind of butter you put on toast in the morning (though you can). Instead of being an essential ingredient in your pantry, shea butter is an essential ingredient for a number of cosmetics products. However, the benefits extend far beyond beauty. Derived from the fat extracted from the nuts of the shea trees on the African plains, shea butter - in addition to being found in the latest line of beauty goods - can treat a number of skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, dry itching skin, and sunburn. It also acts as a moisturizer that results in softer and wrinkle-free skin. With so many benefits for skin and beauty, purchasing shea butter isn’t always easy as it comes in two distinct varieties each with a different texture, smell, look, and function.

Refined Shea Butter
As the name suggests, refined shea butter is not shea butter in its purest form. Extracted for commercial purposes, it is typically used in cosmetics and other beauty products. It also has a number of additional chemicals added to help break open the nuts and better separate the fat. The end result is a rich butter that is smooth and free from the strong nutty fragrance of its raw counterpart. The refinement process also involves bleaching in order to give it a white color that is more visually appealing. That said, the medicinal properties are often diluted and even lost during refinement.

Unrefined Shea Butter
Also referred to as raw shea butter, this is what is typically pictured when shea butter is mentioned. Unrefined shea is first removed from the tree, boiled, and then broken by hand. The inner part is then beaten with water before being boiled again to extract the fat. Later as the fats cool off it is whipped into a useable form. Unlike refined shea butter, the raw version contains all the medicinal and healing properties that are lost. Shape-free and unfiltered, it has a strong scent, a yellowish color, and can help remedy skin conditions and improve facial appearance thanks to its moisturizing effects.

So Why Does It Matter?
Many people care about which type of shea butter they purchase as the process involved directly dictates what type of shea butter they get. As demonstrated above, from usage, to the look, to the color, and to the smell, unrefined and refined shea butters are like two separate products – almost hard to believe they are derived from the same African tree. If beauty matters to you, then choosing a product with refined shea butter is the way to go. If on the other hand you are health conscious or prefer a chemical-free solution for your skin, then selecting unrefined shea butter is the better choice. Either way, when it comes to this popular and natural ingredient, you can’t go wrong with shea butter in either form.  



Established in 2016, Anjou’s exclusive collection of skincare products and essential oils are all made using preservative-free ingredients from around the world in order to empower users to live more naturally and confidently with 100% natural ingredients.

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