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Ivory vs Yellow Shea Butter: What Is the Difference

When buying shea butter, two colours are commonly found in the market – the ivory and the yellow shea butter. What’s the difference? Is one fake and the other original? How did they get their colours? Is one a natural shea butter colour and the other due to artificial colouring? Those are some questions I will answer in this post. Read on!

Yellow Raw Shea Butter: How It is Made (Buying Guide)

FACT #1: Shea butter in its natural form is off-white colour (ivory or cream/ beige). That is what we grew up to know in Nigeria. It’s not a pretty or fancy colour but it is the rawest form of shea butter, plain and straight from Mother nature – without any colour-enhancing additive.

My grandma and many Nigerian grandparents would swear that yellow or green shea butter are fake or adulterated because it is not common in Nigeria. But yes, some yellow shea butter is original (not fake). Test the features: does it smell nutty, does it melt and absorb easily on the skin?

FACT #2: The yellow colour version of shea butter is achieved in different ways: some makers add palm oil and some add Borututu Roots as colouring when processing the shea butter. Both palm oil and Borututu roots (a herbal extract) are natural and have beneficial nutrients. Some people call yellow shea butter ‘Borututu root shea butter’.

Summary: unrefined yellow shea butter is raw she butter that is mixed with natural additives (either yellow-coloured herbs or palm oil) and is not edible, while off-white (cream/ ivory) colour shea butter is 100% raw without additive.

FACT #3: Without the addition of Borututu root or palm oil, organic unrefined shea butter is ivory coloured or off white in colour. Since both Borututu Roots and palm oil are natural and raw ingredients that also have additional benefits,

NOTE: Across West Africa where Karite (shea) trees are native, unrefined Shea Butter can be found in varying colours – from ivory (off-white) to light yellow or bright yellow, and white.  Ivory or off-white (cream) coloured shea butter is the rawest form and most common in Nigeria.

White shea butter is not common in Nigeria, but some regions such as parts of Niger state produce white raw unrefined shea butter (and that’s from the local process, without bleaching, and with the characteristic smokey-nutty odour).  This white is not as deep as refined white shea butter, which is very white (like cotton wool) – it’s easy to know it when you see it.

Shea butter comes from shea nuts, which come from the Karite tree.  Unrefined raw shea butter comes in a few colours depending on the variety of the shea tree/ nut and how the butter is preserved.  The colour of raw unrefined shea butter depends on a number of factors including where the tree was grown, the season and the method of extraction and method of preservation.


ElsieOrganics is a supplier of cosmetic (skincare and haircare) raw materials. There's no minimum order quantity on our store. We ship across Nigeria and Worldwide.

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