Shea Butter Vs Cocoa Butter: What’s the difference?

Have you ever wondered what the differences are between shea butter and cocoa butter? How to choose between these two when it comes to formulating your own products or which one to use to moisturise your body?

In recent years, these butters have been a popular ingredient when it comes to products that moisturises and nourishes. Can they be alternatives for one another?

In this blog, we are going to summarise what they actually are and their characteristics!


Shea butter is extracted from nut of shea trees where the nuts are lightly boiled for hours and sun-dried before it is grinded into a paste. The fat is then extracted from the paste and turned into butter through churning process. Watch this video to see how shea butter is extracted and churned:

The unrefined shea butter has ivory to creamy colour and has natural nutty and smoky smells and it is soft and pliable. While refined shea butter has its scent and colour removed.

Shea butter has a melting point of 37°C, which melts when in contact with our skin. It’s a thick butter that is great for moisturising extra dry/ dry skin and eczema skin. It’s slightly sticky when applied on the skin.

Shea butter is rich in the following fatty acids;

  • Palmitic
  • Stearic – Determine the solid consistency of the shea butter
  • Oleic – Determine how hard or soft of the shea butter depending on the ambient temperature.
  • Linoleic
  • Arachidic  

It is complimented with vitamin A and E which promotes high anti-oxidant activities to slow down the skin aging process. Shea butter helps to reduce inflammation and protect the skin against free radical damage aka sunburn, you might want to apply shea butter to soothe sunburns!


Cocoa butter is plant-based fat extracted from cocoa beans by the use of an expeller, a hydraulic press or extrusion which requires no addition of solvent or hexane in order to retain their basic characteristic smell and colour. Watch this video to see how cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa beans:

At its unrefined state, it has a distinct yet mild chocolate scent and slight yellow colour. While refined cocoa butter has its scent and colour removed.

In room temperature, cocoa butter is firm yet brittle. Its melting point is at 34°C and would melt into a silky liquid that feels smooth instead of sticky on the skin when applied.

Cocoa butter is rich in the following fatty acids;

  • Palmitic
  • Stearic – Determine the solid consistency of the cocoa butter
  • Oleic – Determine how hard or soft of the cocoa butter depending on the ambient temperature.
  • Linoleic

It is also packed with vitamin K and E which helps with skin conditions such as stretch marks.

Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats, which can last up to 5 years. It can act as a natural preservative to help elongate the shelf life of natural cosmetic products. Although cocoa butter has a good and fast absorption and used to treat dry skins, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, it is not suitable for those with oily skin as it is comedogenic.

Shea butter vs Cocoa butter: Similarities

They are both natural plant-based fats that can come in unrefined and refined state. The process of refining the oils to remove the scent and colour of the butter, however, doing so would remove some of its nutrients.

Both shea butter and cocoa butter are great to be used as moisturizers as they contain fatty acids which aid and improve the skin moisture retention and elasticity.  These butters help to fight free radical from causing skin damage and improve skin overalls conditions (fine lines, wrinkles and aging spots). It can also help stimulate collagen production to improve skin elasticity.

With its ability to penetrate the skin deeply to form a protective barrier on the skin, these butters are excellent for dry, chapped and irritated skin. Helps to relieve skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis etc.

Can they be each other’s alternative? The differences between shea butter and cocoa butter.

Shea butter and cocoa butter is often added to formulate products, and while they are both used to moisturise the skin, it is not recommended to swap the ingredients called for in the recipe for your formulation. This is because, they have different hardness when in solid form. Shea butter is much softer and pliable as compared to cocoa butter.

They also have different texture. Shea butter is a thick butter that is slightly tacky on the skin while cocoa butter has a smooth texture and creates a thin layer on the skin when applied.

Also, since shea butter is from a nut, it may cause sensitivity reactions to people with tree-nut allergies. Always perform patch tests of products before using on your whole body!

There you go! These are what butters are and why they are used in personal care, cosmetic products. Now you can choose which products would work better for your skin needs!






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