Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter: The Ultimate Comparison Guide!

Shea Butter Vs Cocoa Butter Large

The number one difference between shea butter and cocoa butter boils down to their sources of extraction. Shea butter is derived from the nuts of the shea tree, while cocoa butter also traces its source to cocoa beans. 

Another difference can be found in the various regions they grow. While cocoa (cacao) trees grow in the tropical South and Central Americas, it’s only in Africa that you’ll find shea trees.

Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter: The Story behind it

Shea butter and cocoa butter is by far the best option when you’re looking for organically-sourced skin products. Even though they have different textures, people commonly mistake them for each other.

In the northern part of Ghana, shea butter is dubbed “women’s gold”. This nickname is tied to the high economic value of shea butter. It also gives food a delicious taste when used as cooking oil.

Of late, the popularity of these two kinds of butter has been soaring to greater heights. But why? Well, today’s cosmetic industry can hardly do without shea kinds of butter and cocoa kinds of butter.

Join us as we explore the two natural ingredients that are taking over the skincare market by storm.

Our aim is to give you fair ideas by comparing and contrasting between the products. Secondly, we promise to walk you through the special features, as well as the pros and cons of shea butter vs. cocoa butter.

What’s more, expect to see samples of real customer and independent reviews that’ll help you to settle down on the best butter for your needs.

Last but not least, an informative buyers’ guide will climax our review article.

Is that too much for you? As far as we know, knowledge is power. Too much knowledge will only make you smarter every day.

If you can’t wait a minute to enjoy the ultimate review article on shea butter vs. cocoa butter, then here comes the presentation.

Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter: Comparison Table


Basis of Comparison Shea Butter Cocoa Butter
Source of Extraction Nuts of the shea tree (also botanically known as (Vitellaria paradoxa)  beans of the cocoa tree (aka Theobroma cacao)
Growth region (origin) of tree Africa Southern and Central America
Texture Soft, sticky and greasy Raw texture is harder
Smell/scent of unrefined product Nutty and smoky Gives a strong chocolate scent
Unrefined Color Varies from gray, yellow and cream Dark and brown

Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter Review:

Shea Butter

What is it?

Shea Butter is a natural fat that’s derived from the nuts of the shea tree. Traditionally, this butter is popularly used as a cooking oil in African countries like Ghana.

But there’s more to the shea tree than meets the eye. 

Many foreigners may not know that shea fruits (from the shea tree) are very palatable to the tongue.

If you ever had an opportunity to taste a bite of these delicious, round and succulent green fruits — you would thank your stars.

During the rainy seasons, ripe shea fruits save many northern Ghanaians from starvation. 

After the fleshy mesocarp is eaten away by humans and birds, the nuts of the shea fruit are collected.  

Fruits from different shea trees taste differently.

The same is true of butter produced from different shea trees.

How is the butter retrieved from the shea nuts?

This is done by lightly boiling the nuts, drying and grinding them into a paste, and re-boiling them to retrieve the fat. 

After processing, pure (unrefined) shea butter is packaged in sealed plastic bags and bottles. The butter is solid at room temperature but melts gradually when applied to the body.

Apart from the edible uses of shea butter, the product also functions as a moisturizer, a waterproof wax, and a hair-dressing oil. 

During the dusty harmattan seasons, some Ghanaians use shea butter as a cost-effective solution to soften their dry scaly skins.


  • Its healing fraction is very high.
  • It does not clog up to the skin pores.
  • Used as an emollient in cosmetic products.
  • It contains good vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Good for harmattan seasons due to its moisturizing effects on the skin. 
  • It’s a plant-based product. Hence, it’s safe for many people, including vegans.


  • It gives a repulsive scent that may take time to disappear.
  • Price may be expensive in countries that import shea butter.

Cocoa Butter

Cocoa Butter refers to the vegetable fat that’s derived from beans of the cocoa tree. West African countries such as Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, etc.. also grow cocoa. 

However, illegal mining activities negatively impact Ghana’s cocoa output. 

Despite losing portions of her cocoa plantations to surface mining, cocoa is still abundant in Ghana. Organic cocoa butter is also a common commodity in a number of West African countries.

What is refined cocoa butter? Comparatively, refined cocoa butter has a weaker scent than the unrefined ones. For this reason, refined butter can be blended with other ingredients without altering the final product significantly.

The only downside is that nutrients may be lost during the refinery process. It’s believed that cocoa mass polyphenol (CMP) present in cocoa butter, helps to treat dermatitis, skin rashes and other conditions. 

Can I substitute cocoa butter for shea butter?

Yes, you can. Shea butter, mango butter and coconut oils are all alternatives to cocoa butter.


  • Softens the skin
  • Attractive aromatic scent
  • Gets easily absorbed by the skin
  • Can be used for DIY skincare recipes
  • It has a longer shelf life of about 60 months (5 yrs).
  • Unrefined butter is less harmful since it’s purely organic.


  • Cocoa butter lotion is becoming very expensive, even in countries that produce cocoa
  • It clogs to the skin, so it may not be effective in treating acne, as compared to shea butter.

Cocoa Butter vs Cocoa Butter Buyers Guide: Things to Consider When Investing your Hard-earned Money

Shea Butter 

Everyone wants to buy the best shea butter product. However, it turns out getting good shea butter can be challenging, especially if you’re not familiar with the market. 

If you consider the following factors, they’ll help you to take home high-quality shea butter.

  • Color: Pure unrefined Shea butter comes in three main colors — gray, yellow and cream. Any other color apart from these may suggest that the butter isn’t pure.
  • Scent:

Raw shea butter has a nutty and smoky organic scent. This is normal, though.  But if the butter smells like rotten fish, it may be an indication that you shouldn’t buy it.

  • Shelf life: shea butter has a shelf life of 1–2 years. Don’t keep it longer than that.
  • Healing fraction. This talks about the percentage of healing minerals and vitamins that are present in the butter. The healing fraction of shea butter (5–17%) is far greater than that of cocoa butter.

Cocoa Butter

  • Color: Good cocoa butter is dark or brown. Be advised accordingly
  • Scent: Raw cocoa butter gives a pleasant chocolate scent. Nothing more, nothing less!
  • Shelf life: 2 to 5 years

Benefits of Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter

Cocoa Butter Benefits

  1. Keeps the skin hydrated
  2. Has anti-aging benefits
  3. Good for healing stretch marks.
  4. Cocoa butter for face can make you look fresh.
  5. Cocoa mass polyphenols (Camps) may limit the multiplication of cancerous cells.
  6. It contains essential vitamins (E, A) in addition to stearic acid. When absorbed into the skin layer, they heal scars.

Shea Butter Benefits

  1. Used as vegetable oil
  2. Can be used as hair-dressing oil
  3. For making candles
  4. Has skin-healing effects. Shea butter is believed to be good for treating eczema, dermatitis, inflammations and other conditions.
  5. It has antioxidants that heal skin damage and wrinkles.

Similarities between Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter

Even though shea butter and cocoa butter come from different sources, they produce similar healing benefits on the skin. Here are some similarities between the two kinds of butter:

  • Make the skin soft
  • Improve skin elasticity
  • Used as skin moisturizers
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Presence of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • At room temperature, they both exist in the solid-state.
  • Melt when applied to the body. You can also use shea butter for face

Differences between Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter

Cocoa butter

  • Chocolate scent
  • Obtained from Cocoa tree
  • Shelf life: about 2 to 5 years
  • Dark brown or yellow in color
  • Higher comedogenic scale (this makes it clog to the skin)

Shea butter

  • Shelf life: 1 year
  • Yellow, gray or cream
  • Doesn’t clog up to the skin
  • A repulsive nutty-smoky scent
  • Obtained from the African shea tree


Is shea butter or cocoa butter better?

If you’re looking for therapeutic benefits, go for unrefined shea butter. It has a higher healing fraction than cocoa butter. But for those you dread the repulsive scent of shea butter, they should rather choose cocoa butter.


As shown in this review, both products differ in physical characteristics and healing benefits. Your choice will, therefore, depend on your individual motivation for wanting to try these kinds of butter. 

Which butter is best for skin?

Shea butter works best as an antidote for skin dryness, rashes, eczema, and many dermatological conditions. Kokum, Mowrah, Mango and Babassu kinds of butter are also equally good for the skin.

How about Cocoa kinds of butter? They’re also good for healing skin dryness. 

Because they contain higher concentrations of antioxidants, cocoa butters slow aging. This is good news for people who want to live long to see their grandchildren.

For those who want to heal their scars, stretch marks, and acne — shea kinds of butter are more effective since they don’t clog to the skin.

Finally, people who are allergic to cocoa beans and shea nuts should try to stay away from their kinds of butter. Use alternatives like mango butter or kokum butter.

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