The different ways shea butter is made (and which one is the best for your skin)

The different ways shea butter is made (and which one is the best for your skin)

Shea butter isn't always the same. There are different ways of producing shea butter that create differences in quality. Read on to find out what the best method is.

For producing shea butter two fases are important:

1. Extracting the butter

- the way the fats are extracted from the shea nuts.

2. Refining the butter (or not)

- the way in which the butter is filtered or refined. 


    1. Extracting the butter

    Extracting the butter (the way in which the fats are extracted from the shea nut) can happen in a few different ways. 


    The shea nuts are grinded and mixed with chemicals to seperate the fat. This is done by using solvents such as n-hexaan.

    Disadvantage: Hexane is a harmful substance for humans and nature. Obviously it will be removed from the shea butter but there is a chance traces will remain.


    This method is used to make shea butter on a large scale. The nuts and fats are heated and then pressed in a large press.  The oils and fats are separated from the kernels by pressure, than filtered and collected.


    Cold pressed

    With this method, the fats are pressed out of the nut without heating. Compared to other methods, little fat is extracted from the nuts with this method. This is actually the only way you should call RAW because the other ways are all using heating (or chemicals).

    Disadvantage: The yield is small due to the lack of heat.

    Traditional hand-crafted

    This is the method that the Ghanaian people have used for centuries to make shea butter, and which made shea butter so famous.

    The method is quite complex: after removing the pulp from the nut, they are dried in the sun. Then they are roasted, ground and mixed with water and kneaded. By cooking the resulting pasta it is possible to separate the butter from the moisture and residue. The mass that then arises is a butter that is great for your skin.

    A big advantage is that more is done locally. Both collecting nuts and making the shea butter are done by the women in Ghana, and those women are therefore paid for it. This way, the local population will get the maximum benefit from purchasing your shea butter.

    An additional advantage is that the quality of the shea butter is better because nuts are selected manually and the bad nuts are removed.


    As you can read above; we (Butterwise) are fans of the traditional method, the method that has been used in Africa since time immemorial. Especially because this traditional way yields the most for the local population. All batches of our shea butter are checked for fatty acids and anti-oxidants. This enabled us to objectively determine that the traditional method is the best method. Butterwise is 100% behind this traditional method.

    If you have any questions, we can share with you the measurement data that shows how good our shea butter is. Mail to and we will send you the measurement data.

    Fatty acids

    The amount of fatty acids is shown in our measurement data. You read that right, we can measure and determine the fatty acids in our shea butter. What we learned from this is that the amount of fatty acids between the unrefined and the refined shea butter doesn't even differ that much. If you want to know how that works, read on below.  


    2. Refining the butter (or not)

    Many people think of refining as chemical processes that destroy all the good properties of shea butter. That is not the case, especially with the Butterwise shea butter. Here the facts at a glance.

    Refining shea butter

    You can refine shea butter in different ways. We can only say something about the way we apply at Butterwise. And that is a method without chemicals so that our products are not contaminated and remain as pure as possible. And keep the organic quality mark!

    Refining the shea butter at Butterwise consists of three stages:

    Decolorize with natural substances (sand), filter out impurities with a micron filter and steam to remove the odor from the shea butter. This results in a stable, pure white, odorless butter.

    Refined shea butter is attractive to companies that use shea butter as a base for their own skincare products. Refined shea butter is always odorless, and the color is always pure white. Whether you buy the shea butter, or in a year. It has been checked for the same product. This makes it a lot easier to add your own scent (or a color) to the shea butter. 

    Tested: fatty acids remain almost the same

    The refining makes the shea butter stable and retains its qualities. The tests that are carried out continuously show that refined shea butter scores almost equal to unrefined shea butter.

    That refining by definition removes most of the nutritious substances from the shea butter is not true. That myth has been debunked here :-)

    Extra benefit of refining

    There is an added benefit in refining shea butter! Everyone knows that over time, shea butter oxidizes and slowly deteriorates. That is why we always state the production date of the batch at Butterwise. Our shea butter has a standard shelf life of 2 years (depending of course on storage). After 2 years, there is a good chance that too many fatty acids have been affected by oxidation and that the quality of the shea butter has deteriorated.

    Now it comes: through refining, we can remove the oxidized, degraded fatty acid chains from the shea butter, so that the refined shea butter sometimes even outperforms the unrefined shea butter!

    Unrefined shea butter

    The unrefined shea butter you buy from us is as pure as it is made in the rural areas of Ghana. The unrefined shea butter is slightly more yellow than the refined version and it has the characteristic nutty scent of real shea butter. Great for those who want to experience the pure experience of shea.

    Because we put quality first at Butterwise, our unrefined shea butter is always filtered in the Netherlands with a professional micron filter to remove imperfections.


    Butterwise shea is made according to the traditional method. This means that the unrefined shea butter has been heated; so it is not raw. The heating of the refining is actually comparable to the heating of the shea butter in the production process. This second time heating does not change the product.