You are currently viewing How to Identify Original (or Fake) Unrefined Shea Butter

How to Identify Original (or Fake) Unrefined Shea Butter

There are tons of people selling shea butter everywhere – online, in the markets and on the streets. And the truth is that adulterated shea butter abound in the market (even online). How do you spot the original from the fake?

In this post, I’ll give you some pointers, to help you know the difference and ultimately help you avoid losing money.

Features of Unrefined Shea Butter (Plus Differences with Refined Shea Butter)

On our online shop (here on, we sell raw and unrefined shea butter that is suitable for the formulation of assorted soap and personal care products, and for making whipped shea butter for hair and body. Here are the features of our unrefined raw shea butter, and how it differs from the refined variety.

Smell: Raw unrefined shea butter has a nutty and smokey smell.  Refined shea butter has been processed to remove the natural shea butter nutty smell, making it odourless.

Colour: Unrefined raw shea butter has colour (off-white/ ivory/ beige; cream/ colour; light yellow or turmeric-yellow colour; white, light green). Raw shea butter that is coloured (yellow, green) is due to how they are preserved. On the other hand, refined shea butter is pure white due to being bleached which removes its natural colour. It’s important to note that some natural organic shea butter comes in white colour. 

FACT: The raw shea butter we grew up to know in Nigeria is ivory or creamy (off-white) shea butter. In some parts of Nigeria, you’ll find yellow shea butter, but yellow shea butter is common in Ghana – the fact is that the yellow colour is obtained by adding either palm oil or Borututu roots during processing (which also add skin-loving benefits).

Form: Our raw shea butter is hard or solid like butter in normal/ room normal room temperature and melts when exposed to a temperature from 34 to 38 degrees (centigrade). Also, our shea butter is good quality that melts at body temperature, and so melts into skin on contact with your body.  Due to its low melting point, street hawkers and shea butter sellers in Nigerian village markets would place them in a bowl of water (to keep them semi-sold in the hot sun). HINT: If your shea butter is keeping solid or hard in the hot sun, be suspicious (it could have been mixed with wax).

Properties: Unrefined shea butter has all its healing properties intact. Refined shea butter has been stripped of some (but not all) of its healing benefits.

Texture: Unrefined shea butter is smooth and creamy in texture, without lumps. Refined shea butter is a bit grainy.

Skin-Feel: We stock original shea butter, which unlike the fake adulterated ones, feels soft and creamy to the touch, easily spreads to melt between your fingers and absorbs straight into the skin when you apply it. Like any original shea butter, our shea butter does not leave your skin greasy.

Shelf Life and Storage: Unrefined quality shea butter will not go bad for up to 1 to 2 years and more.  Refined shea butter has a shorter shelf life. I have used shea butter that stayed fresh for up to 4 years – no change in smell or colour.

Where Refined Shea Butter is Largely Used: Refined shea butter is desired mostly by cosmetic manufacturers and food processing factories (mostly by the chocolate industry), due to its colour and lack of odour. If you are looking for shea butter for personal use or for desire its healing properties in your DIY formulations, be sure that the shop you’re buying it from is revealing the ‘type’.

Which Country is the Largest Producer of Shea Nuts and Shea Butter?

Do you know that Nigeria alone produces about 57% of the overall World Shea Butter production. That is, over half of the World’s Shea Butter comes from Nigeria, with the Shea Nut trees scattered across over 5 million hectares in the wild. That makes Nigeria the largest producer of Shea Nuts in the World. Behind Nigeria are Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo. [Source 1, Source 2]

SOURCING: Our Shea Butter is ethically and carefully sourced from women micro-businesses and local women shea butter cooperatives in Nigerian villages where shea nut trees are in abundance.


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.

Leave a Reply