Shea Butter

What is shea butter? Shea butter is a rich, thick, soft butter made from the seed of the shea fruit. Most shea butter we use is from Ghana or Burkina Faso.

Learn more about where shea is from and how it’s made with this video.

Appearance Thick and solid. The unrefined stuff comes in soft chunks and is beige to a pale yellow in colours. The refined stuff is pure white and can come in chunks or as a solid from being poured into its container while melted. If you live somewhere quite hot your shea might never be in chunks when it arrives if it melts during shipping and then re-solidifies.
Texture Thick and a bit tacky or sticky. You can spread a very thick layer of it on your skin, unlike thinner oils like coconut oil.
Scent Unrefined shea butter has a distinctive smokey scent that some people love and others loathe. The refined stuff doesn’t smell like much.
Absorbency Speed Slow. Shea butter is thick, rich, and heavy.
Approximate Melting Point 37°C/99°F
Solubility Shea butter is oil soluble.
Polarity High
Why do we use it in formulations? It brings great staying power and creaminess to formulations and is fantastic for dry skin.
Do you need it? I’d say so; it was one of the first ingredients I purchased and I use it all the time.
Refined or unrefined? I have both; I use the unrefined stuff in soap, and will often choose the refined variety for body butters and lip balms where I don’t want a shea scent.
Strengths Shea butter is a great moisturizer, especially for irritated skin.
Weaknesses It is really greasy and heavy, and the unrefined version can smell a bit funny. I also find it is extra prone to going grainy in projects. Learn about how to prevent greasiness here.
Alternatives & Substitutions Mango butter is a good alternative in terms of also being a soft oil, though it does absorb into the skin much faster than shea butter does.
How to Work with It Melt it gently in a water bath to incorporate it into recipes.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, shea should last at least 1–2 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Try applying it straight to dry, irritated skin—it’s especially good for eczema.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. I love Baraka Shea Butter!

Some Formulations that Use Shea Butter