Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter: Review, Benefits & Uses

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So, shea butter vs. cocoa butter, which is better? If you’ve been looking for natural beauty remedies, then you’ve probably noticed by now that many skincare products contain either shea butter or cocoa butter.

Which probably makes you wonder what their difference is and if one is better than the other. Let’s take a closer look.

When we talk about vegetable shortenings, two things come to mind: shea butter vs. cocoa butter. These two types of “butter” have almost the same beneficial fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, although in different proportions.

This article will analyze the similarities and differences between cocoa butter vs. shea butter (unrefined). That is no bleaches, hexanes, or other synthetic solvents that change their structure are used.

Raw butter retains the basic characteristics of the fruits from which it’s extracted.

Background

shea butter vs cocoa butter

What is cocoa butter?

Cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa, cultivated for over 3,000 years, and is native to South American countries.

One of the largest suppliers of pure cocoa globally is the Ivory Coast, located in Africa.

Cocoa contains flavonoids, which are compounds with antioxidant effects, and are believed to have all kinds of additional health benefits.

For this reason, cocoa is regularly studied for its positive impact on reducing heart disease, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and improving skin conditions.

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is obtained from the African shea tree nuts and is used in a variety of ways. It can be used to moisturize dry skin and treat dry lips.

Furthermore, it is believed to be mild enough for use on skin prone to eczema or dryness associated with psoriasis.

This butter is not as fragrant as cocoa butter, which can be an advantage if combined with different ingredients without changing its natural aroma.

Shea butter vs cocoa butter: differences and similarities

Overview:

  • Cocoa butter is extracted from the fruit’s seeds of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao L.) native to South and Central America’s tropical regions. It is also cultivated in West Africa
  • Shea butter is extracted from the nuts of the shea tree (Vitellaria Paradoxa). This tree only grows in West and Central Africa

Shelf life:

  • Cocoa butter can last from 3 to 5 years. It’s a natural preservative and helps preserve the life of the remedies and recipes you make at home
  • Shea butter can last from 1 to 2 years. It will go rancid and lose power much faster than cocoa butter

Process:

In both cases, the extraction methods don’t include any solvents or hexane. This leaves their fats unrefined with their characteristic smell and color.

  • Unrefined cocoa butter is extracted from the fruit’s seeds by hand or cold pressing
  • Shea nuts are boiled lightly for several hours and then dried in the sun before being crushed into a paste. The fat is then extracted from the paste and converted into butter by beating. It can also be extracted by cold pressing

Appearance, Odor and Texture:

The unrefined cocoa butter is light yellow in color. Cocoa’s natural aroma is unmistakable: pure and nutty with a chocolatey undertone. Its consistency is quite hard, so it is necessary to use a knife to cut it.

It’s almost impossible to break it with your fingers unless it’s heated first. It melts at body temperature and is quickly absorbed into the skin.

However, when it is used in recipes for homemade facial or body scrubs and creams, it must be melted previously or together with the rest of the ingredients, as the case may be.

Raw shea butter has a light ivory color. Its natural aroma is slightly nutty and smoky. The texture is soft and flexible, so it’s easier to break with the fingers and is softened with a fork.

It melts on contact with the skin and absorbes very quickly, slightly better than cocoa butter.

Its consistency is somewhat less solid than that of cocoa, making it easier to make homemade scrubs and balsams.

Benefits

shea butter vs cocoa butter

Cocoa Butter

  • Skin conditions: effective for dry skin, rashes, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Skin type: Non-greasy. Cocoa butter has a high index on the comedogenic scale (4), which means it can clog pores. This is problematic for acne-prone skin
  • Benefits for the skin: Improves skin tone, elasticity, and promotes collagen production
  • Healing benefits: It is high in vitamins A, E, and stearic acid, deepening scarred skin to slowly improve its appearance; helps lips and chapped skin to heal. It’s rich in phytosterols that have anti-inflammatory properties helping the skin to heal and repair itself. This is why many consider cocoa butter the number one solution for stretch marks
  • Protection: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that offers protection against free radical damage from environmental pollutants. Cocoa butter acts as a barrier on the skin and slows water loss due to high amounts of palmitic acid. It is easily absorbed into the top layer of the skin and the layer of the dermis where the body retains more moisture. It contains another active repairing agent, squalane, which is naturally present in the skin and protects it from external aggressions. Squalane decreases with age so it cannot guarantee total protection of the skin. Hence the interest in cocoa butter for “mature” skin
  • Anti-aging: its polyphenols fight free radicals and slow down skin aging. Vitamin E helps reduce wrinkles and age spots. Its high content of vitamin K helps reduce dark circles under the eyes
  • Allergies: Cocoa butter can improve skin allergies. The beans contain cocoa mass polyphenol that helps relieve dermatitis and rashes by inhibiting the production of immunoglobulin that accelerates these conditions. However, cocoa intolerance can exist
  • Other benefits: Cocoa bean shells contain theobromine and caffeine which have anti-fat properties. Thus, cocoa butter attacks the fat cells to facilitate their reduction and help combat cellulite

Shea Butter

shea butter vs cocoa butter
  • Skin conditions: For the treatment of dry skin, rashes, dermatitis, eczema and, psoriasis
  • Skin type: All skin types. Shea butter is non-comedogenic with an index ranging from 0 to 2 and doesn’t clog pores (does not cause blackheads), despite being a super-rich oil. It moisturizes acne skin without making it worse and can even reduce acne breakouts over time
  • Benefits for the skin: Its wonderful ingredients help maintain the elasticity of the skin by stimulating collagen production
  • Skin Healing Benefits: Heals chapped lips and skin. Also helps reduce the appearance of acne scars. Thanks to the cinnamic acid, it possesses antimicrobial properties to fight infections, as well as anti-inflammatory properties
  • Protection: It is rich in vitamins A, D, E and, F that help strengthen and repair the skin. It softens and regenerates damaged skin. It provides protection against UV rays (around SPF 6) thanks to the cinnamic acid and caffeic acid. The linoleic acid it contains helps seal in moisture. Thanks to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, it cures small everyday problems such as scratches, burns and, insect bites
  • Anti-aging: Reduces and improves the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines thanks to its high content of vitamins A, E and, F. It also fights age spots
  • Allergies: May have possible reactions for those with nut allergies. Shea butter contains small traces of natural latex so people with allergies or hypersensitivity to this compound should avoid using it
  • Other benefits: Nourishes hair and restores shine. Makes the best ally for dry, brittle, or dull hair. Even in colored hair, it is perfect to sustain it and preserve its color. In wavy or curly hair, it nourishes curls from the roots to the ends while fighting frizz

Unlike shea butter, cocoa butter is not anti-inflammatory, so it doesn’t help in reactive skins or various dermatitis cases. Generally, it does not worsen, except for seborrheic type dermatitis and, sometimes, acne cases.

As a general rule, shea butter can be applied to various skin types by simply adding some oils or others. Being pure, it’s suitable for normal or dry skin.

On the other hand, pure or very concentrated cocoa butter is only indicated for dry or cracked skin or cold climates.

That’s why cocoa butter is an additional ingredient in cosmetics, to take advantage of its insulating effect without over-fattening the skin.

I prefer shea butter, in general, to take care of my skin. Likewise, cocoa and shea mixtures work wonders on dry areas of the body and the hair’s middle and ends (I have dry hair).

Cocoa Butter or Shea Butter, which one should I use?

shea tree

Both 100% pure, unrefined, high-quality cocoa butter and shea butter are an ultra-nourishing and natural moisturizer. Neither is better than the other since both have something to offer.

You can experiment and see which one is best for you.

Any of these kinds of butter can easily be purchased online and, depending on the extraction method used, you have:

  • Raw Cocoa Butter
  • Cold Pressed Raw Cocoa Butter
  • Raw Shea Butter
  • Cold Pressed Raw Shea Butter

In any case:

If you want butter mainly for the skin, cocoa and shea butter contain incomparable qualities and benefits. Moreover, you can combine them in your home beauty recipes.

However, if you also want to look after your hair, shea butter should be your choice.

Cocoa butter can be a bit too greasy for your hair.

In cases of acne-prone skin, you should definitely choose shea butter. Cocoa butter tends to be more oily and could clog pores.

Choose the scent you like best! Cocoa butter has a more pleasant aroma than shea butter and is often used as a massage oil and base for essential oils. Some people find the aroma of shea butter somewhat unpleasant.

Allergy or contact dermatitis to shea butter.

Shea contains small concentrations of natural latex that could irritate people with an intense allergy to this substance.

Shea butter is somewhat occlusive. It should not be used purely on acne-prone skin, although it can be diluted with other lighter oils or enriched with essential oils indicated for a particular skin type.

Summary

Cocoa butter is one of the most popular and beneficial beauty products on the market. Besides being edible when 100% organic, cocoa butter has high amounts of vitamin E and antioxidants that help moisturize and soften the skin.

Since it’s a thick cream, it is ideal for moisturizing and helping collagen and elastin in the skin deeply.

In the same way, and thanks to its properties, it reduces and prevents the appearance of stretch marks, eliminates scars, and can even be used to cure dermatitis.

Shea butter is the most used by women in the beauty world. It’s extracted from an African tree’s nuts and contains high amounts of vitamins A, E, and F, helping collagen production prevent wrinkles and skin aging.

Shea butter is a super-powerful moisturizer used for dehydrated skin and even for scalp problems. Another benefit of shea butter is that it contains SPF (sunscreen) of almost 4, so it can be used before or after sunbathing (although you should remember to always apply sunscreen before going out in the sun).

As well as preventing the appearance of wrinkles, shea butter soothes the skin from sunburn, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that also help various skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema.

If you still have doubts regarding shea butter vs. cocoa butter and, not really sure which one is right for you, consult with your dermatologist.

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Joel Zazueta

Hey! Joel here; A graduate of Herbalism & Naturopathy Medicine School. My team and I are passionate about finding ways to improve our lives on a daily basis and truly believe in natural alternatives of doing so before seeking traditional medications. However, always consult with your Doctor/Physician first before taking any actions in regards to your health. Stay Safe and Healthy!

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