Shea butter is a type of fat taken from African shea tree nuts. As the “butter” name implies, shea butter can be edible and used in some types of food preparation. However, shea butter is more widely known for its use in lotions, salves, moisturizers, and body butter.
Buying Guide for Shea Butters
Why buy shea butter?
Because it contains high volumes of fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and E, shea butter is great for softening, soothing, and evening out skin without making it oily. It can also provide healing and anti-inflammatory benefits. Even though shea butter is technically a nut, it’s low in the proteins that set off nut allergies, so it’s generally safe for most skin types. It can also be used in conditioners since it can help with dandruff, dry scalps, and sometimes even hair breakage.
What should you consider in shea butter products?
- Refined vs. Unrefined: Refined shea butter has been chemically altered or prepared, while unrefined shea butter hasn’t. The scent, color, and benefits of refined and unrefined shea butter are different. Unrefined shea butter retains its natural nutty scent and off-white or ivory color, while refined is odorless and bright white. More importantly, unrefined shea butter retains all of its moisturizing and healing properties, while refined shea butter may have added antioxidants and preservatives but loses much of its natural benefits in the process.
- Quantity: Shea butter comes in various amounts, usually measured in ounces: 6 to 8 ounces tend to be the most common quantities, but you can find it in as little 1 or 2 and as much as 16 ounces. Consider how often you plan to use your shea butter and pick the quantity accordingly.
- Jar vs. Bar: Most shea butter will come in an oil or cream-like consistency in a jar. These are great if you plan to use the shea butter directly on your skin or hair. However, if you plan to use the shea butter in-home crafts or DIY projects, you may prefer to buy it as a bar instead. It’s easier to measure out specific amounts in a more solid form, and you can always melt it down into liquid form if need be.
Is it hard to make DIY shea butter products?
No, it’s not difficult to make DIY shea butter products. There are thousands of step-by-step recipes online to make everything from shea butter lotion to bath bombs to conditioner. Many of these procedures require a stovetop or burner to melt down the shea butter and make it easier to work into the product of your choice, but most DIY shea butter products take under an hour to make.
Our Picks for the Best Shea Butters
Sky Organics Organic Shea Butter for Body & Face
A USDA-certified organic shea butter that's a great base for any DIY shea butter skin product recipe.
Pros: If you like the idea of creating your own shea butter creations, opting for a raw, unrefined option is always a good idea. Sky Organics lets you enjoy shea butter with peace of mind thanks to their 100% USDA-certified organic solution. Plus, it’s also certified PETA cruelty-free.
Cons: Because this is raw, unrefined shea butter, it’s not generally something you can use straight from the jar without adding it to a DIY recipe. If you try to do so, you’ll find that raw shea butter can be gritty and is often difficult to emulsify.
Bottom Line: DIYers will appreciate this raw and unrefined shea butter that serves as the perfect base for homemade whipped shea butter recipes and moisturizes skin very well.
Weleda Skin Shea Body Butter
This luxurious body butter provides silky, non-greasy hydration and nourishment for dry skin.
Pros: This soft, whipped shea butter is rich in botanical ingredients, such as cocoa seed butter, sunflower oil, and pansy extract, which leave the skin feeling velvety soft and glowing. The product is certified natural and free from harmful additives such as parabens and phthalates, as well as synthetic fragrances and preservatives. Instead, the company uses flower, fruit, and root extracts, minerals, and essential oils. This shea butter is also cruelty-free and does not test on animals.
Cons: Due to all the botanical ingredients in this product, it does come with a strong earthy smell. . The formula is also a bit on the heavy side; if you want a more lightweight shea butter, this probably isn’t the product for you.
Bottom Line: This quickly absorbing, easy to apply shea body butter is the perfect solution for those with dry skin who are looking for a luxurious and nourishing moisturizer. Ideal for use after a bath or shower, this body butter is all you need for luminous, healthy-looking skin.
SheaMoisture Face and Body Bar
Specifically formulated to soothe dry skin, this moisturizing bar beautifully cleanses without any sulfates, parabens, or phthalates.
Pros: This is a sustainably made soap that’s gentle enough to use on a child’s skin. It has essential oils in it and no artificial fragrances. It’ll soothe and clean skin without harsh ingredients, so it’s great for use in the cold, dry months of the year.
Cons: This soap may leave skin tight after using it. Shea butter is not the first ingredient on the product label.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for deep moisturizing bar soap, this is a nice choice. You can feel good about the fact that it has no chemical additives, and it will keep your skin clean without making it feel dry.
Cantu Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Repair Cream
This leave-in conditioning treatment helps to ease frizz, split ends, or dry and damaged hair to support healthy hair growth.
Pros: This leave-in conditioner works well on most hair types. It can heal damage from dying, bleaching, relaxing, perming, heated styling, or environmental factors. This treatment can also remove residue and buildup from the hair, leaving it cleaner and shinier.
Cons: Be wary of using this with other conditioning and styling products, as it may dry and flake. It contains alcohol, which isn’t good for curly hair. It can also leave a little bit of a greasy residue on your hair.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a moisturizing leave-in conditioner made with natural products, this is for you. It’s loved by swimmers wanting to improve chlorine-damaged hair. It has a pleasant smell that most people love.
Pros: Pregnancy can be a joyous time in a woman’s life, but stretch marks and itchy skin are anything but that. This belly butter is designed to soothe irritated skin, leveraging shea butter as one of the main ingredients. Along with being 99% natural, it provides vitamin E, another skin-friendly moisturizing ingredient.
Cons: While this will help with dry and tight skin, it’s a known fact that you can’t entirely prevent stretch marks with a product, as some people can also be genetically predisposed to them.
Bottom Line: Pregnant mamas everywhere can get relief from itchy, tight skin on their bellies with this 99% natural belly butter that combines shea butter and vitamin E for an ultra-moisturizing topical solution.
Shea butter products are a great staple product for silky healthy skin. With its versatility in its healing, moisturizing, and anti-inflammatory properties, you can use it on the most sensitive of skin. If you want shea butter products for your body, give our top picks a try.