Two cans of body butter based on shea butter are in front of you. They look relatively similar, but the labeling is different. One can says "unrefined and pure" and the other "natural and pure". Which can do you choose? What is the difference? Unsure? Here you can find out the differences and what you can look for when buying a shea product that is as natural as possible.
What's the difference between refined and unrefined shea butter? Refined.
By law, the packaging of cosmetics (including edible oils, by the way) does not have to state whether a plant substance has been refined or not. As a rule, you can recognize a refined oil, or in our case shea butter, by the absence of indications such as "cold pressed", "virgin" or "unrefined".
It should be noted, however, that refined shea butter can and may also be labeled "pure" or "natural". This is slightly confusing, but in practice it is allowed. So if you want unrefined, i.e. natural shea butter, you can look out for the following: It should say "unrefined" on the tin, the color should be light beige, or the butter should have its own scent. Because unrefined shea butter, unlike refined shea butter, has a characteristic inherent scent.
Characteristics for refined products
- Mechanical extraction, sometimes with solvents.
- Ingredients (including vitamins, fatty acids, etc.) are extracted
- Fragrance neutral (you don't smell anything) because the natural fragrance is extracted
- Color: white
- Very heat resistant
Characteristics of unrefined products
- Gentle extraction due to traditional production method
- Ingredients (including vitamins, fatty acids, etc.) are preserved
- Characteristic nutty to smoky scent (often depends on freshness as well as quality)
- Color: light beige
- Relatively heat resistant
Why is shea butter refined if the vitamins are destroyed in the process?
Refined or deodorized shea butter is a chemically processed butter, i.e. fragrance, ingredients and colorants are mechanically removed. Thus, ingredients that are good for our skin are also lost. But why exactly is shea butter refined in the first place? The reasons are as follows:
- Longer shelf life
- Fragrance neutral which is an advantage for certain formulations
- Usually cheaper
- A MUST for use in the food industry
What distinguishes unrefined shea butter?
Unrefined, raw, or natural shea butter is a high-quality and gently processed raw material. In most cases, the traditional method of processing can be traced back through generations of women in the country of origin. In the case of shea butter, this production is done by hand in an elaborate process. The natural color, fragrance, and ingredients are preserved in this method of production.
So, now you know. I hope it was helpful.