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Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter

The Difference Between Shea Butter & Cocoa Butter

Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter – Updated January 2019

What is the difference between Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter?

You may be looking for natural beauty options and you probably noticed that many skincare products contain either Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter. So what is the difference between these two natural ingredients, and is one better than the other? Let’s explore!

The source: Africa vs. South America

Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter

The first difference between Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter is their source: cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa beans, while shea butter is extracted from the nuts of the shea tree.

Cocoa is a bean.

Shea is a nut.

The cocoa tree, also known as the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), is native to the tropical regions of South and Central America. The shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) grows only in Africa. Both Shea and cocoa butter are natural plant-based fats, packed with nutrients and vitamins that your skin will love.

BOTH butters are natural plant-based fats.

Both unrefined shea and cocoa butter are extracts from the fruit of their respective trees, this is done through pressure, but in different ways:

Shea Butter:

Shea nuts are lightly boiled for several hours and then sun-dried prior to grinding into a paste. The fat is then extracted from the paste and turned into butter through churning.

Cocoa Butter:

Cocoa butter is removed from the beans by the use of an expeller, a hydraulic press or extrusion. These methods of extraction do not include any solvents or hexane, and this leaves the unrefined butters with their characteristic smell and color. (Exactly how you would expect cocoa to smell! It’s delicious.)

Appearance and smell

In this article, we are only discussing unrefined cocoa and shea butter properties, where no bleaches, hexane or other synthetic solvents are used to change the structure of the butters.

These unrefined butters retain the basic characteristics of the fruits they are extracted from: unrefined shea butter has an ivory, creamy color, the shade can change from crop to crop but will be some sort of light shade of ivory. The natural scent of shea butter is slightly nutty and smokey. Unrefined cocoa butter is a bit darker than shea butter, with a browner/coffee tint to it, and the natural scent is unmistakable: it is pure, strong chocolate scent.

As for consistency, shea butter is soft and pliable, it’s easy to break off a pea size with your fingers, it is easy to soften with a fork and whip with an electric mixer to make body butters. Shea Butter will melt on skin contact.

Cocoa butter, on the other hand, is as hard as a rock. Breaking it off requires you to chip the butter with a knife or other tool and it’s almost impossible to break off a piece with your fingers unless you warm it up first. However, cocoa will also melt on skin contact, and when used in DIY whipped body butter, it requires melting before adding it to your recipe.

unrefined shea butter ivory
Unrefined Shea Butter, 100% pure, unrefined, and hexane free.

Cocoa ButterUnrefined Cocoa Butter, 100% pure, smells like delicious chocolate

Acne, Eczema and Stretch Marks

Over the past 5 years we’ve had thousands of customers all over the world purchase our shea and cocoa butter, and although we have not run any clinical tests with them, and although we cannot claim that our products cure or heal anything (God forbid a natural solution actually works!), we have read numerous reviews and feedback from customers who have claimed that:

  • Unrefined shea butter alone, without any additional ingredients added, has resolved theirs or their baby’s eczema.

The common denominator with these customers is that they had a real-life problem and didn’t feel comfortable buying over-the-counter eczema medications that, they said, have too many harmful ingredients. They wanted to have a simple solution that worked and did not create any side effects. They found their solution in unrefined shea butter.

  • Unrefined shea butter is non-comedogenic and does not clog pores, despite being a super-rich fat, so it’s a preferred natural moisturizer for people with acne or prone to breakouts. 

Acne is irritated skin, we can all agree on that simple definition. Irritated skin doesn’t need harsh products, it needs something to soothe and calms it. Shea Butter just happens to work in moisturizing skin with acne without making it worse, and it has been reported to reduce acne breakouts over time. Be sure to read our article on acne and shea butter!

  • Unrefined Cocoa Butter is the number one solution for stretch marks as further proven by most stretch mark creams on the market: one of their ingredients is cocoa butter and regardless of the amount of cocoa in their formula, they market cocoa butter as THE stretch marks reliever. 

Cocoa Butter is easily absorbed into the top layer of the skin and the dermis layer where the body is able to retain more moisture. Cocoa butter is rich in Vitamins A, E and stearic acid, and it will go deep into your scarred skin to slowly improve its appearance.

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What is your experience with Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter? What have you used them for and do you prefer to use them alone or in DIY skin care recipes? Leave a comment or question below, we always love to hear from our customers!

88 responses to “The Difference Between Shea Butter & Cocoa Butter

    1. Ivory shea butter is best for skin with blemishes because it is non-clogging. Shea Butter will also even out your skin tone, but please remember to wear sunscreen in your day moisturizer or all your efforts may otherwise be defeated.

  1. I am taking a few minutes to let you know that I’ve made the lotion tonight and I already love it I added about 1/4 tsp argan oil to the recipe. I am going to try some other recipe from the book I down loaded.
    Thank you so much
    Carol.

  2. Which is best for removing skin discoloration? I had a really bad fungal infection under my breasts, and although the anti-fungal cream removed the infection, I still have dark blotches.

    Thanks!

    1. Unrefined Shea Butter melted and mixed with some Rosehip Seed Oil is your best bet to help with skin discoloration. A simple ratio would be 1 TBS Shea Butter, 10 drops of Rosehip Seed Oil and if you’d like to add some essential oil, 10 drops of either Lavender or Sandalwood EOs.

      1. I’ve read a lot about Rosehip Seed Oil and want to try something new for my skincare. To make a 16oz jar can I substitue the Shea butter with Mango butter with the same ratio? How would I calculate that?

  3. Hi,

    I am wondering which would be better for a massage/rub? I am making a homemade massaging rub that has essential oils in it. It calls for cocoa butter, but I am torn between the two!

    Thank you!!

  4. Hi,

    I am wondering which would be better for a massage/rub? I am making a homemade massaging rub that has essential oils in it. It calls for cocoa butter, but I am torn between the two!

    Thank you!!

    (sorry for duplicate, put wrong email in!)

    1. Hello!

      Ivory Shea Butter is the best for a massage/rub skin care creation. It is more pliable and a fantastic base for the majority of preparations: it does not clog pores, it is full of vitamins and antioxidants and it is truly moisturizing. Cocoa Butter is the hardest of all cosmetic butters and because of this, it is best used in smaller quantities, or in more solid balms like lipbalm or lotion bars. Also, cocoa butter has a delicious chocolate scent that you may or may not want in your preparations.

      I hope this helps, thanks for writing 🙂

  5. Thank You for the information… From long time I was searching these kind of information.. Now I got the clear and simple information..
    Thank You again 🙂

    1. Shirlyn, it can be mixed with other ingredients to make a shampoo or hair mask, and can be very helpful for the hair! However, it is a butter which makes it “oily.” Make sure to use small amounts if you apply it to the scalp – it will make for some oily roots. Thank you for the great question!

    1. Hello Shae! I think a mixture of both works well for stretch marks, so you’re getting the benefits of both butters. Apply in the morning and at night to stay super moisturized wherever the stretch marks are <3

  6. Hi! Can you use the shea butter to make the lotion bars instead of the cocoa? Or will it be too greasy? Thanks!

    1. Shea Butter is a great moisturizer for all skin and it’s easy to use alone. Cocoa Butter should be melted and mixed with other oils or butters for your formulation so you can have a final product that can be applied easily.

    1. Our cocoa butter is actually food grade, however since we are technically a cosmetic company and not a food company, we prefer to promote all our products for external use only.

  7. I started using raw shea butter on my face and the texture of my face was fabulous. However, a few days after I started to use it, I got flu-like symptoms. I used it for four weeks, felt sick as a dog, so I then stopped using it, and the symptoms went away two days later. I then read that people who are allergic to latex, can become allergic to shea. I am afraid to use it again, but I thought that cocoa butter might work. Will it moisturize to the same level and give my skin the same refined texture as shea butter????

    1. Hi there,
      Are you sure the flu symptoms are connected to the shea butter? I wouldn’t exclude an allergy, but only testing and evaluating from a qualified doctor can determine allergies. If you don’t feel safe using Shea, Cocoa butter is the next amazing natural butter you can use, it does moisturize well and you can also melt it and mix it with an oil and beeswax to make lotion bars. I hope this helps!

  8. Thanks dear for this article.
    i have a dry flaky skin with stretch marks and i want to make a body butter with shea butter,mango butter,avocado butter and cocoa butter with rosehip oil and avocado oil,i will also incude lightners too.
    hope its not going to cause reaction?. my aim is to get each of the butter’s benefits . thanks

    1. That will be a fantastic recipe, I love mixing butters and oils! As for a skin reaction though, the more ingredients you have, the harder it will be to tell what causes a reaction in case you get one. Maybe test each of the butters and oils on your skin in small quantities and if your skin loves all of them, your recipe should be good to go!

  9. Thank you for very informative article. I´m going to try to make my own lipstick and like it to be a bit creamy. I´ll not put it in a tube but in a small jar. So what say you; shea or cocoa?

    1. Hi there! I cannot answer this question without having the ingredients and recipe you want to use. Cocoa butter is really hard, so if you want to use it, don’t add any beeswax and make sure you add enough oils to make the lip balm creamy. If you want to use shea butter, you need to add some beeswax to give it the balm consistency, but again, I would need to know what recipe you’re following to advise you 🙂

    1. Cocoa butter is more popular for stretch marks and scars (shea butter is more effective for eczema and skin irritations). Please check with your doctor to make sure it’s the right choice for you – although there are plenty of testimonials from people using natural products to solve skin issues, we cannot legally make any healing claims.

    1. Absolutely! I don’t have any exact recipes for cold processed soap, but we have customers using it all the time, I am sure you can find a forum or blog with specific directions.

  10. When a recipe calls for either shea butter or cocoa butter, I usually use 1/2 of each. That way I am getting the benefits of both.

  11. I’ve used your butters for years. I make loads of balms and scrubs, but by far my winning product is diaper cream for my baby’s butt. It’s a mixture of shea, coco butter, beeswax, avocado oil, and vegetable glycerin. It’s amazing stuff. Last week, I forgot it when we took a trip to austin for a week. Within two days of using Honest’s diaper cream, my baby’s perfect skin turned bumpy and red. It immediately cleared up when we returned home and used my Shea coco butter cream!

    I’ve also helped my husband clear up his seriously dry skin in the winter by using a similar mixture to the diaper cream. To his balm, I also add essential oils like lavender and sandlewood. This year I’ll mix in some calendula oil, and taking orders from my baby’s daycare teachers because they simply love the stuff I make!

    I’m so thankful your amazing product exists. I just wish you had a store in austin so when I visit, I could spend some time exploring your entire line of products!

  12. hi,
    my 6 year old daughter has severe aczema / atopic dermitities results severe itching and highly dryness with rashes.
    which is the best from
    1. shea butter / coco butter / both
    2. Refined / Unrefined?

    please kindly inform me. because i have tried so many lotions, oil, creams, soaps… but yet not curable.

    1. We have many customers that use our pure, unrefined shea butter for similar situations. This is not medical advice as we are not claiming we can cure anything, it’s just feedback from 1,000’s of customers who have relieved their eczema condition by using pure shea butter. I suggest you test it first on a small area to see if it works or if there are any adverse reactions. Best of luck!

  13. I read Shea Butter has antifungal properties. Is this correct? I have severe dry skin and suffer with frequent fungal infections due to diabetes . I’m not interested in making my own butters, can you recommend which product I should get?
    Thank you

    1. I wish I could advise you on this, but since fungus treatment requires a doctor’s advice, I am not qualified to do so. You can always email or call your doctor and ask specifically if unrefined shea butter (or the exact product you want to use) is recommended for your condition. This is the safest way to address these types of questions as you would not want to relay on an on-line advice from a cosmetic company that is not qualified to really help you. I hope this helps to steer you in the right direction 🙂

    1. 1. Always, always, always use a face lotion with SPF to stop the sun from further darkening your skin.
      2. Exfoliate your skin a couple of times a week for 30 days. Every 28-30 days your skin cells renew (as you get older, it takes longer for this to happen but I assume you are young :), so you want to stick to a good regimen for at least 30 days to see any results.
      3. Use a thin layer of unrefined shea butter as a moisturizer for day and night. It will nourish your skin with the right vitamins and antioxidants while you protect it from the sun and get rid of dead cells with your exfoliating.

  14. Hi i have acne prone skin and excessively dry too but i love cocoa butter n it’s fragrance so can i use butter made of cocoa and shea infused with tea tree, lavender, rosemary and geranium essential oils? Is that butter still going to clog pores?

    1. I don’t see anything in your list that would clog pores, maybe use only 1 essential oil to start with to make sure you introduce ingredients one at a time.

  15. Loved your article but Sometimes I feel sheabutter just isn’t moisturising enough.iam thinking of combining both shea and cocoa for body & Use only Shea for face. I n

    1. I know what you mean, sometimes skin is just too dry even for shea butter. If you exfoliate with a sugar scrub (mix sugar with an oil of your choice), that will help remove extra dry skin, then if you apply shea right after that, your skin will stay moisturized for longer.

  16. where can i purchase your unrefined shea butter, do you sell it or would i have to purchase it else where. Please let me know. Thank you .

    1. Just whip the shea butter without any other ingredient, unrefined shea butter works very well on sensitive skin.

        1. If you have oily skin, I would say cocoa butter is better as it’s less dense and will absorb a bit faster than shea butter.

  17. which is usually more expensive please? my health food organic store only sells the cocoa butter at $50 per kg is that usual price. aus dollar

  18. You will be surprised to know what this oil smells like! This is exactly what you do not expect! I do not know how to others, this [url=https://oilscenter.com/mango-butter]Mango Butter[/url] is very nice for me to smear, especially before a massage, even that pleasure.

  19. I have a lip gloss company and I want to change my formula a bit . I want to know which one is better unrefined or refined cocoa and Shea butter .

    1. For lip gloss I love unrefined cocoa butter. Just a personal opinion, and it really depends on your other ingredients and what scent you are trying to have. Unrefined Cocoa smells just like chocolate 🙂

    1. Either shea or cocoa butter will work. Cocoa butter smells like chocolate, shea butter smells a bit earthy and nutty, you could just choose one or the other based on what scent you like the most.

  20. Can I substitute Shea butter for cocoa butter in a facial cream. The directions say to melt in a double boiler but is that still necessary with Shea butter?

      1. Now in uganda here there people who amixture of the two cocoa butter and shea butter but every time you go to the scent is really different yet the first time i spotted it in one of the supermarket big in kampala the scent and its smoothness was pleasing but why the too many drastic changes

        1. Mixing Cocoa and Shea Butter will give you a strange scent because cocoa butter has a very strong chocolate scent, and shea butter has a nutty/smokey scent, I don’t think the two mix well together. It’s best if you use only one of them at a time.

      2. I combine coco, mango, and Shea butters with grapeseed oil and a little beeswax to make a great body balm. I have eczema and th The fragrance of Shea is completely hidden by the fragrance of a high quality butter. Alternatively, essential oils will also fragrance Shea.

    1. I would say yes, unfortunately. I say yes because I’m allergic to cocoa butter so I started using Shea products and have the same reaction just less severe. Sorry to break it to ya.

    1. Nothing completely removes dark spots (other than skin bleaching, but you don’t want to do that). Shea Butter feeds and heals your skin when used regularly, if you are prone to dark spots I recommend you use a daily SPF lotion to prevent them from getting darker, regular exfoliating, and shea butter daily.

  21. My first pregnancy I rubbed coco butter on my belly every day after I took a shower and at bedtime every night. From the beginning of my pregnancy all the way through. I have NO stretch marks on my on my abdomen at all. I gained 45 lbs all together and my baby weighed over 8lbs. I did it with my other 3 also. It was amazing I didn’t get any stretch marks. The places I didn’t think about were my hips, breast and upper thighs. I got a few in those areas because I didn’t put it there. Ladies it works. Start greasing down as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.

  22. Cocoa butter is awesome, it smooths, lightens, tones and moisturizes my skin I thank God for it…It works really well no real side effects only sometimes I fine my skin getting to lightened so I stop for a while and use virgin coconut oil which is also beautiful on the skin…

    1. They will both give you great results, you can try our samples pack and try them on your skin to see which one works best.

  23. I use shea butter in a DIY body lotion recipe. I was just about to make a large batch to sell, and realized I am out. Can’t get any for a week. But, I have cocoa butter available. Just curious if it would chemically alter the recipe?
    Would you use equal amounts?

    1. Cocoa butter is harder than shea butter, it will make your final product harder and definitely smelling like chocolate.

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