What Is The Difference Between Unrefined And Refined Shea And Cocoa Butter?

Unrefined And Refined Shea And Cocoa Butter

Unrefined Shea And Cocoa

First let’s define the meaning of unrefined and refined.  Unrefined is NOT processed to remove impurities or unwanted elements. When you purchase unrefined whipped shea butter you purchase all around goodness.  Unrefined shea and cocoa butter is so much more effective than its counterparts (refined shea and cocoa).  Many people choose not to use raw unrefined whipped shea butter because of the nutty scent that it naturally has. Sadly they will miss out on all of the wonderful benefits and ingredients that these butters have to offer.  

Unrefined Process

Traditionally, when unrefined whipped shea butter is made the shea nuts are picked from the tree, cracked, grilled and pounded to extract the butter. Next, it is boiled in water for several hours until the shea butter rises to the top.  After boiling it is scooped into gourds to cool and set. Surprisingly, this process is done by hand and takes much time and dedication to complete the process. It also does not produce a large amount of whipped shea butter at one time. This is still the best way to extract the butter from the nuts, without the need to use chemicals and synthetic ingredients added. 


Another term that you may hear when purchasing unrefined whipped shea and cocoa is “raw” shea and cocoa butter. One other natural way of extracting shea butter is by pressing.  When the pressing procedure is used it crushes the nuts of the shea butter. The nuts are pushed  up against a metal press. The movement is similar to that of a meat grinder. Once this is complete the Shea butter is then squeezed out of each nut by the pressure.  This method will also result in unrefined / raw shea butter. 


The pressing method is most commonly used today because it helps companies to produce more shea butter while keeping everything organized.  When the pressing method is used they are able to make more shea butter in a shorter period of time to meet the demands of consumers. Pressing does not involve any chemicals. It is just a faster way of producing and not have to compromise the purity of the butter.  When comparing the traditional and pressing process, the pressing process is much faster as it cuts down the total processing time and is 3-5 hours off of the traditional extraction time.


As mentioned earlier to refine shea butter, chemicals are used such as hexane.  These types of chemicals helps to break open the seeds and speeds up the process of separating the fat (which is also known as butter) from the nut.  The process also removes any odors and make the shea butter smooth. During this time not only are all beneficial properties of the butter changed but artificial perfumes and preservatives are also added to the product.  Bleaching is done during the process which is why you may come across some whipped shea butters that are white instead of having an ivory/off white shade. Again, all of these changes will cause the product to lose its nutritional value and we all want the best right?…of course!. 

Choose Unrefined

Many natural skin care products and cosmetic companies use the refined version of shea and cocoa butter. This version is cheaper and has less of a scent.  As a result, they add artificial scent to the product to make it more appealing to the purchaser. In conclusion, it is most beneficial to purchase shea and cocoa butters that have NOT been refined.  Your hair and skin will thank you and overtime. You will reap the benefits from using a natural skin and hair care product that has all of its nutrition in tact.