If you’ve ever made your DIY soap or lotion, then you probably already know that one of its important components is called shea butter. Most recipes include shea butter, but it does not indicate whether it is white or yellow. Most people wonder which one is the best choice. Aren’t they both the same? If you are feeling clueless and unsure, fret not. Just read on below to read about raw shea butter and how color influences its efficacy.
The Popularity of Shea Butter
The shea tree or Karite Tree is also known as the tree of life because of its many benefits. It thrives in Africa, growing up to twenty meters high and surviving for hundreds of years in a super dry, warm climate. It produces nuts which people harvest to produce shea butter.
Upon extraction, raw shea butter is often used in African cooking. However, for the rest of the world, she remains famous for its topical uses. May it be a lotion, lip balm, conditioner, etc. This renowned shea generally comes in two variants: refined or white versus unrefined or yellow.
The color difference rests on the extraction process. Refined shea goes through filtration with additives, so it results in a pure white color. In contrast, unrefined shea does not go through filtration and remains chemical-free while retaining its vibrant yellow shade. As such, this raw shea butter is considered the top organic in its purest form.
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The Effect of Nut Extraction Process on the Final Product
Typically, the makers of shea butter harvest mature shea nuts. From there, they take out the exterior shell and scoop out the interior flesh for grinding. Afterwards, they roast the grounds, which gives the shea its unique nutty and smokey scent. The next step includes boiling. As the product cools, the fat floating on top becomes solid. They then take the fat and whip it up, resulting in your shea butter.
This method follows the gentlest process, which many dub as the traditional way of harvesting shea butter. People harvest the nut by hand and process it without any chemicals. As a result, the shea butter retains its wonderful healing and hydrating properties.
Post-extraction, you’ll notice that raw shea butter maintains its pure state and original yellow color. Because the method does not rely on filters, preservatives, bleaches, deodorizers, etc., you often see impurities in this unrefined product. You may end up seeing tiny nutshells and fiber pieces. It also maintains its all-natural nutty aroma.
As the name suggests, this shea butter extraction process involves refinement by removing impurities. Most production plants use tech equipment and chemical solvents to process the shea nut. The compound hexane hastens the extraction procedures and is an industry-accepted standard. As a result, fat extraction speeds up, so the butter is prepped swiftly.
In this approach, the raw shea butter passes through a filtration system to remove any sediments and debris. Unlike yellow shea, this results in a whiter variant that has no nut skin or flesh bits. Commercial manufacturers prefer this because they take out impurities and potentially harmful bacteria. Moreover, most add preservatives to extend the shelf-life. However, since the chemical process removes that natural aroma, the white shea butter receives an artificial scent infusion.
The Unique Nuances Between White and Yellow
Apart from the glaring differences in color of refined and unrefined shea, the extraction method has a huge impact on the quality of the final product that hits the market. Let’s take a look at its nuances below:
1. Preservation of natural properties
Most industry professionals assert that white or refined shea butter inevitably loses most of its natural vitamins and emollient fatty acids. Why? Because the chemical extraction procedures modify the property of the raw shea butter. Hence, the color, texture, and even scent goes through a change. As such, unrefined or yellow shea butter retains its highly beneficial properties, making it a healthier and optimal choice. Yellow shea provides extra healing benefits for those with sensitive skin, like pregnant moms and infants.
2. Shelf life or expiration dates
With chemical processing, white shea removes impurities and bacteria. As a result, it possesses a longer expiry date than yellow shea butter. Because it has undergone filtration, white shea also morphs into having high-heat resistant properties. Thus, it can hold up well in transit even if it is inside a warm container van for delivery. In contrast, the natural fatty acids in yellow or unrefined shea can spoil faster. It turns rancid and goes through oxidation. For this reason, most commercial producers choose to refine their shea to prolong their shelf life.
3. Overall Product Aesthetic
Since yellow shea goes through very minimal processing, it retains its original look and form. Apart from containing sediments, the mixture itself remains clumpy with uneven texture. You’ll commonly find this in jars or bottles. On the other hand, white shea feels more velvety and silky. You’ll find it super smooth coming in the form of lotions or moisturizers. Refined shea can also be melted into fancy molds or cut up into soap bars.
4. Incorporating product additives
It is typical for white shea to have better longevity because it contains additives. Because this variant loses its scent during the chemical extraction process, it commonly contains fragrant infusions. Unfortunately, this may pose a threat to people with sensitive skin and allergies, leading to irritation and redness. In the final outcome, yellow shea butter offers superior coverage because it is 100% organic and all-natural.
The Final Buzz
Those who are in search of an excellent, high-grade, and quality moisturizer will find everything they’re looking for in yellow shea butter. Pure shea remains a top choice even for dermatologists or skin doctors because it preserves its natural properties. People with eczema, psoriasis, scars, dermatitis, rashes, and even mosquito bites will benefit from applying this all-natural healer and moisturizer. Its intrinsic properties soothe and calm, inflamed and irritated skin. It also offers super-fast moisture absorption with no greasy after-feel.
However, this does not mean that white shea butter no longer holds any beneficial properties. Although it goes through refinement and chemical processing, it still has the power to offer hydration, nourishment, and skin protection. Big-name brands use this variety because of easy incorporation with lotions, soaps, conditioners, etc. Remember, in the final analysis, shea butter, whether white or yellow, must be incorporated into your routine. But if you want to enjoy the Karite Tree’s significant benefits, yellow shea butter is the way to go!
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