Refined Vs Unrefined Shea Butter: What’s The Difference?

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raw shea butter vs refined shea butter

Shea butter is a natural product that comes from the nut of the Shea Tree. It has been used for centuries for its moisturizing and healing properties. It’s one of the most commonly used butters in skincare products both for the body and face, but it can also be used on the hair. If you’ve done any research on it, you may be wondering what’s the difference between unrefined vs refined shea butter? Which one is best?

What Is Shea Butter?

Shea butter, also known as Butyrospermum parkii butter, is a skincare ingredient that’s derived from the nuts of the African Shea tree. It’s been used for centuries, mainly for skin and hair, but it has a ton of healing and anti-inflammatory properties.

It has a high concentration of fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other skin-loving nutrients. It’s very moisturizing and gentle enough for all skin types, but it is especially effective at treating sensitive and dry skin.

It’s commonly used in body care products like body butters, lotions and even body washes. It also used in facial skincare products, as well as hand creams, foot creams and hair care products.

Shea butter is a fat that is solid at room temperature but melts upon contact with human skin. Shea butter can be found in many forms including unrefined (raw) and refined (processed). Unrefined shea butter has not undergone any processing while refined shea butter has undergone numerous chemical treatments which include deodorization, bleaching, hydrogenation and more.

What Is Refined Shea Butter?

Refined shea butter comes from the refining process in which the shea butter is treated with high levels of heat (and sometimes chemicals). This removed the smell and color of raw shea butter and improves the texture so it’s smoother and spreads easier.

Because of the refining process it doesn’t retain all of its nutrients but it still works great as a moisturizer. It’s widely used in cosmetics and skincare products because it has a longer shelf life and a better texture to use in products (or even by itself).

However, the refining process does come with significant drawbacks. The extreme heat or chemicals that are using during refining will cause the shea butter to lose many of its nutrients and moisturizing properties that makes shea butter so great.

What Is Unrefined Shea Butter?

refined vs unrefined shea butter for face

Unrefined, or raw shea butter, is shea butter in its natural form. It’s not touched or refined in any way so it keeps all of its amazing properties and nutrients.

Natural shea butter is a thick, yellow-cream color with a strong smoky/nutty smell. It’s easier to scoop and apply than refined shea butter but it can be challenging as a base ingredient since the texture is so thick and difficult to work with, which is why many beauty products contain refined shea butter instead.

Unrefined Shea Butter (Raw Shea Butter) Benefits

Since refined shea butter loses many of its properties and nutrients, these are mainly going to be benefits of raw shea butter. However, refined shea butter can still be a great moisturizer, but it just won’t have many nutrients and other anti-inflammatory properties that raw shea butter does.

Moisturizing & Nourishing

Shea butter is an incredible moisturizer thanks to its emollient and humectant properties. It helps to strengthen the skin’s natural lipid barrier so it can retain more moisture. It also helps to improve the appearance of enlarged pores, dryness, fine lines and wrinkles by keeping skin moisturized.

Because of its emollient properties, it’s great to use on rough patches like elbows or dry, cracked skin on the hands. It also makes a great foot cream to help soften and smooth cracked or calloused feet.


Shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties that are effective at calming irritated skin due to conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

It has a lot of compounds that help to calm inflammation in the skin which can help with inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea, but it can also help with irritated and red skin.


Shea butter has a high level of antioxidants that help to neutralize free radicals that damage skin cells. This keeps your skin healthy and younger looking and avoids skin and cell damage caused by environmental factors like UV rays or pollution.

Because it’s high in both Vitamins A and E, shea butter helps to nourish the skin while also protecting it from environmental stressors like pollution or sun damage.


Shea butter is high in Vitamins A & E, which are two antioxidants that help to fight free radicals.

Vitamin A helps to firm and regenerate skin cells while Vitamin E works as an antioxidant to keep skin healthy. Together they can fight the signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage or loss of collagen production.


Shea butter is great to use on scars because it helps the skin to heal faster. It contains Vitamins A, C & E which can help to fade acne scars or stretch marks and Vitamin F which helps with cell regeneration.

Related Post: Does Shea Butter Clog Pores?

Unrefined Vs Refined Shea Butter: Similarities And Differences

is refined or unrefined shea butter better for the skin

Unrefined (Raw) Shea Butter

  • Very thick, grainy texture
  • Harder to spread/use
  • Yellow in color
  • Has nutty/smoky smell
  • Retains all nutrients and vitamins

Refined Shea Butter

  • Smooth, creamy texture
  • Easy to spread onto the skin
  • White or cream colored
  • No scent
  • Loses most nutrients and vitamins

Is Refined Shea Butter Good For Skin?

Yes, refined shea butter is great for the skin! It still has its nourishing and moisturizing properties after it’s been processed, but it does not have as many vitamins, minerals and other properties that raw shea butter has.

Refined shea butter is a form of shea butter that’s been processed in order to make it smoother, softer and easier to work with.

The whole point of processing shea butter in this way is because raw, natural shea butter has a thick, greasy texture that makes it challenging in a hair or skin product. It also has a pretty strong nutty smell.

So even though it’s been processed, it’s still a great product and many people prefer refined shea butter because of the more pleasant texture and smell.

Is Refined Shea Butter Bad?

No, refined shea butter is not bad – it’s just not as natural or unprocessed as raw shea butter is. It still has many of the same properties that unrefined shea butter does, but it may lose some of its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant properties during the refining process.

What Type Of Shea Butter Is Best?

If you’re wondering should I use refined or unrefined shea butter, it will completely depend on your needs and texture preferences. If you want something that’s going to nourish and provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and healing benefits, raw shea butter is best. But keep in mind, unrefined shea butter can be difficult to use and spread on the skin.

If you want something that’s a little easier to apply and feels better without much scent and you don’t care to lose some of the nutrients, refined shea butter will be best.

Is Unrefined Shea Butter Safe?

Yes, unrefined shea butter is completely safe to use. It’s been used for literally thousands of years on the skin and hair and even in cooking.

Refined Vs Unrefined Shea Butter: Wrap Up

Shea butter is a natural product that comes from the nut of the shea tree. It has been used for centuries to protect and heal skin, hair, and nails. There are two main types of shea butter- unrefined and refined. Unrefined shea butter is in its natural form and retains all of its vitamins, nutrients, and healing properties. However, it does have an unpleasant texture and smell. Refined shea butter is smoother and easier to apply with no smell but during the refining process, many of its vitamins and nutrients are lost. Both types of shea butter have their own unique benefits so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. Hopefully this guide on unrefined vs refined shea butter was helpful and can help you decide on which one is best for you.

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