Have you researched Yellow Shea Butter and are still not clear on what it is and how it differs from “regular” Shea Butter? Or, have you watched a youtube video or read a blog but are still not sure if the source of information is reputable?

We talked a little bit about yellow shea here, but over the years we had more questions, so here is an expanded explanation with a bonus recipe at the end 🙂

Let’s first understand Unrefined vs Refined shea butter

Shea butter is extracted from shea nuts: they are small, brown, bean-shaped hard nuts that look like this:

nuts from the shea tree

shea nuts before they are milled and made into shea butter

These nuts fall from the Shea Tree (technical name: Vitellaria paradoxa) every Spring, then are picked, sorted, washed, cracked, the pulp inside them is boiled until a paste is formed. The paste is worked on by hand, then it is boiled. After a few hours of boiling, the shea butter will float to the top and it’s ready to be used.

We import large containers of this shea butter directly from West Africa, the butter has to be of the highest quality to pass an FDA inspection at customs, then it arrives to us in Austin, TX where we filter it with a chemical-free, physical filtering system that removes any left over skins, so we achieve a clean, but still completely natural shea butter.

This is Unrefined Shea Butter (also referred as “raw” shea butter even if technically there is boiling involved to extract the butter). We label it as “Ivory” in our packaging and product description to indicate the ivory, off-white color of the shea, and to differentiate it from the Yellow Shea Butter also available in our store.

Refined Shea Butter, on the other hand, is further processed with hexane or other bleaching chemicals that remove the natural nutty/smokey scent that unrefined shea has, and to make the color an even white. Below is a photo of what refined shea butter looks like – this is a jar of Shea Butter from a popular brand that sells in grocery stores across the US. As a note, the label of this product does not state anywhere if the shea butter is refined, thus giving incomplete information to buyers. The label does say “hexane-free”, but does not state what compound was used to strip it of odor or color – and that’s what you get at your local grocery store.

shea butter

refined shea butter (not our brand)

What makes shea butter yellow?

In West Africa there is a tree whose bark has been used for centuries to make teas and topical preparations that will help detox and heal inflammations. The tree is called Borututu Tree, and its bright yellow root is what gives Yellow Shea Butter the yellow color.

This is what a tree branch looks like:

borututu bark

Borututu tree branch – this is where the yellow in yellow shea butter comes from!

The yellow/orange core you see above is shredded and added to the boiling step of shea butter production, and the result is a shea butter that has a pretty bright yellow color, and infused with incredible antioxidants and healing elements in addition to those of our Ivory Shea Butter.

Yellow Shea Butter is a magical butter that hasn’t reach the popularity it deserves, and it is probably because people don’t quite understand what it is.

How to use Yellow Shea Butter

Yellow Shea can be used as a stand-alone moisturizer: just take a pea size amount, melt it between your fingers, then apply on your skin, rubbing it in and massaging your skin until it’s well-absorbed.

The same pea size amount can be used in coarse or thick and unruly hair that needs some taming and extra moisture. Melt a pea size amount of yellow shea between the palms of your hand, then apply it to the dry hair.  Please note that a little goes a long way as shea butter is ultra moisturizing, so using too much will weigh down your hair.

There is a downside to using straight yellow shea: if you have fair skin and use too generous of an amount, it will temporarily stain your skin. So either use it in moderation, or if you still want to benefit from the antioxidant properties of the Borututu bark, you can simply add a bit of yellow shea to your homemade body butter. Check out our recipe below for a wonderful, effective skin healing whipped body butter made with Yellow Shea.

Whipped Yellow Shea Butter Recipe (cold whip method)

whipped shea butter in a jarWhipped Yellow Shea Butter – so fluffy!

Ingredients

  • 4 oz Yellow Shea Butter (we sell an 8oz yellow shea bar that you can simply cut in half, and there’s your 4oz:)
  • 2.75 oz of a carrier oil of choice (almond, apricot, jojoba are recommended)
  • 60 drops of your favorite essential oil (30 drops of lavender and 30 drops of tea tree EOs add antibacterial properties)

How to

Cut the yellow shea butter in small pieces and place them in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip the butter while you slowly add in all your oils. If you slowly add them in and continue whipping at medium speed, your butter will whip up in about 10 minutes.

Place the whipped butter in a jar or several small containers, close them with a lid and store in a cool place away from direct sun light. This body butter will start melting at around 80F and, while it will not lose any of its nourishing properties, it will lose the whipped effect. If the body butter melts, it is best to stir and put it in the fridge to re-solidify.

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I hope this brings some clarity as to what Yellow Shea Butter is and how it’s made. Feel free to comment below with any questions you have or any help you need to whip up your own homemade body butter!