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What is the Difference Between Shea and Cocoa Butter?

Avatar • Aug 11, 2018

A question I’m often asked is the difference between shea, cocoa and mango butter. From my experience as a product creator I would say it mostly comes down to texture, smell and feel.

Shea butter has a very dense sticky texture when raw, a nutty smell and an absorbent feel. Cocoa butter has a hard texture when raw, smells like chocolate (yum!) and an oily (but not greasy!) feel.

As far as their effect on skin, I always tell people that they both do the same thing — regenerate, soften and heal. However shea butter is far more effective on hair than cocoa butter is.

I came across this incredible article on Better Shea Butter that breaks things down. Check it out;

The key difference between Shea butter vs cocoa butter is their source. Cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa beans, while Shea butter is extracted from the nuts of the Shea tree. Both trees grow naturally in different areas of the world. The cocoa tree, also known as the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), is native to the tropical regions of South and Central America. The Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) grows only in Africa. Both Shea and cocoa butter are actually natural fats. They have slightly different properties, but their uses are similar.

Both Shea and cocoa butter are extracts from the fruit of their respective trees. This is done through pressure, but in different ways. Shea nuts are lightly boiled and then sun‐dried prior to grinding into a paste. The fat is then extracted from the paste and turned into butter through churning. Cocoa butter is removed from the beans by the use of an expeller, a hydraulic press or extrusion.…

When it comes to the beauty industry using Shea or cocoa butter, companies use both often. These ingredients are in lotions, soaps, creams, and cosmetics. You can find cocoa butter and Shea butter in products designed to treat stretch marks and other skin conditions. These conditions include eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. Hair treatments use shea butter which moisturizes and shines hair.

Shea butter vs cocoa butter – both are highly concentrated in fatty acids which melt at body temperature. This means that they absorb when you apply them to skin. There is a preference to use cocoa butter in massage lotions and aromatherapy because it’s considered to smell slightly better than Shea butter. However, you can blend Shea Butter with essential oils to create specific fragrances. This makes Shea Butter very versatile. Moisturizers most commonly utilize Shea butter, although some products do use cocoa butter.

Cocoa Butter is in massage products formulated to alleviate stress and support the immune system. This is due to the presence of a compound called cocoa mass polyphenol (CMP). Shea butter is rich in vitamin E and vitamin A. Both of these vitamins are essential for healthy skin and eyes. They are potent antioxidants that protect and heal the skin. This is why Shea butter is so effective for boosting the immune system. In addition, Shea butter contains cinnamic acid. This is a special compound that helps to safeguard the skin from ultraviolet ray (UV) damage.

So what do I recommend for customers?
1. Decide whether you want a butter mainly for skin or one for both hair and skin and 2. just go with whatever scent you love most!

If you just want a butter for skin, all of them are going to do the trick! If you want a butter for hair and skin, stick with the sheas and mangos and if you want a cocoa‐infused butter, try a blend!

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