What’s the Difference Between Refined & Unrefined Shea Butter?
Email Question from a “Build-a-Butter” Client
A recent Build-a-Butter client asked a very good question that many of you probably also have. I thought it would be helpful to share her question and my email response here for you…
Q: “What’s the difference between refined & unrefined shea butter?”
Unrefined shea butter goes through minimal processing. It has a nutty aroma and retains most all of its nutrients. However, if you have a sensitivity to latex then I don’t recommend unrefined shea butter.
This is because the refining process strips out the proteins that trigger a protective immune response in a person with sensitivity to latex or shea butter.
Refined shea butter goes through a filtration and other processes that:
1. Removes the scent (which many people don’t like very much)
2. Lightens the color
3. Removes the proteins that trigger allergic response
4. Makes the product more firm at room temperature
Refined shea butter is still an excellent moisturizer for hair and skin. Refined shea is the type you’ll see in commercial products like lotions and cosmetics.
The nutrients lost through the refining process are no worry for your Build-a-Butter, though. They are compensated for by the rich oils whipped with the butter. I also add vitamin E oil for a very high amount of antioxidants that help skin/hair repair itself.
Each oil brings something different to the table in the way of their nutrient profiles & the way they feel on the skin/hair. That’s another reason I’m really looking forward to finishing the ingredient guide!
Nutrients In Unrefined Shea (And Balancing Those Lost In Refined Shea)
So what’s in unrefined shea butter that’s so great, anyway? Lots! Specifically, it contains oleic acid, stearic acid, allantoin, polyphenols and cinnamic acid. These compounds serve all sorts of purposes from forming a protetive layer on hair/skin (allantoins) to mild antibacterial properties and sun protection. In general, the more processed an oil or butter is, the fewer of these components will be found left in it.
However, you can replace what’s lost in the refining process by adding nutrient-rich oils, extracts & essential oils. For example, coconut oil is rich in catechins (polyphenols) like those found in dark chocolate and green tea. Avocado oil is rich in oleic acid that’s lost when shea butter is refined. Still, other oils add good things that butters may have never contained. For instance, castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid and acts as humectant in hair & skin products. You can find coconut oil, castor oil and even Jamaican black castor oil (JBCO) among the oil choices to whip with yourK.j. Naturals Build-a-Butter.