If you are someone who has dry skin, then shea butter and cocoa butter are no strangers to you. A common moisturising ingredient in many skincare products, these creamy butters are incorporated into formulas for their healing and moisturising properties. More often than not, people tend to mix these two butters up as they seem to have similar properties and uses. However, they are in fact quite different.
Origins of shea butter and cocoa butter
Shea butter is extracted from the nuts of the shea tree and is native to East and West Africa. The nuts of the shea tree contain two oily kernels. After the kernels are removed from the seed, it is ground into a powder and boiled in water. The butter then rises to the top of the water and becomes solid, forming the shea butter that we all know. This wonderful nut dates back to the times of Cleopatra in Ancient Egypt, where it was said that the butter was carried in large clay pots to her.
Cocoa butter, also known as theobroma (food of the gods), is extracted from cacao beans and come from cacao trees native to the tropical regions of South and Central America. Producers ferment, dry, roast, strip, and press cocoa beans to extract cocoa butter. This butter is also the hero ingredient that gives chocolate its lush consistency and melting properties.
Shea vs cocoa butter
It is easy to mistake these butters for one another because of their moisturising properties. In fact, both butters are natural plant-based fats and contain a variety of saturated fats that help to repair and heal the skin.
Appearance: Ivory, creamy colour that might differ slightly from crop to crop.
Scent: Mildly nutty, smoky scent.
Texture: Soft and easy to break off or soften. Melts easily on skin contact.
Appearance: Darker coloured with a coffee tint.
Scent: Distinct chocolatey scent.
Texture: Hard and difficult to break, especially with your bare hands. Melts on skin contact, but less easily than Shea butter.
Shea and cocoa butter are rich in saturated fatty acids such as oleic, stearic, and palmitic acid. These fatty acids are great as a source of moisture to your skin and help to replenish your skin’s lipid barrier. Shea butter has significant levels of Vitamin E and A which contribute to its strong antioxidant properties. This means that it can help repair damaged skin like stretch marks and scarring, reduce skin inflammation and boost collagen production.
Cocoa butter is slightly thicker than shea butter and tends to clog up the pores. On the other hand, shea butter is non-comedogenic and is unlikely to clog up the pores. Cocoa butter is regarded as an occlusive, which means that it acts as a barrier for your skin or hair, protecting it from future damage. Meanwhile, shea butter is seen as an emollient that helps to heal already damaged skin.
Both butters are typically incorporated into moisturising products. Their great moisturising effects are a match made in heaven for those with dry and compromised skin. They are also commonly used in products that target itchy and dry skin concerns like eczema and psoriasis, with shea butter being the better option due to its stronger anti-inflammatory properties. They are also great for treating skin concerns like stretch marks as they help to boost elasticity in the skin, which reduces the permanent damage caused by skin stretching.