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 and 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 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 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.
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 babies 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.
If you wish to read some customer testimonials, you can see them here.
What is your experience with Shea or 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!