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Shea butter is a fantastic ingredient for moisturizing and healing. It can be a main staple in your skincare routine. Your shea butter is most likely a light yellow shade. But you may have noticed your shea butter changing and wondered, “why does shea butter turn white?”

In this article we explore why shea butter can turn white, what this means, and what you should do.

Why does shea butter turn white?

Shea butter is a fat made from a shea tree which can be used on the skin, hair and body. Its benefits include anti aging, protection from free radicals, plumper skin and reduction in acne.

Have you recently bought shea butter and wondered, “why is my shea butter white?”.

When purchasing shea butter for the first time it’s hard to know what to expect,as shea butter comes in both white and yellow. If your shea butter is an ivory white this means it’s refined, meaning it’s been processed so that all impurities have been removed. Unrefined or “raw” shea butter is more natural and appears as yellow.

Compared to refined shea butter, raw shea butter has more nutrients and vitamins. African shea butter or raw shea butter turns white due to either changes in temperature when storing, or oxidation when opened.

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Does white shea butter mean it’s expired?

Shea butter turning white doesn’t necessarily mean that the shea butter has expired.

When storing shea butter incorrectly or opening for consistent use, the shea butter can lose its strength in vitamin A. This will mean that the white shea butter won’t be as healing, but it’s still a great moisturizer for the face and body.

Like all skincare products, shea butter can expire as it’s an active ingredient and may become unsuitable to use on the skin. The expiration date on shea butter is on average two years from when the product was packaged and six months from when it was opened. This is based on how the product is stored and used.

Has my shea butter gone bad?

There are several factors to consider when asking if your shea butter has gone bad.

  • The smell will be ‘off’
  • The product will separate creating lumps
  • The oil may be sitting at the top of the product
  • Shea butter turning white
  • The butter doesn’t melt onto the skin and has a grainy consistency

Does shea butter ever go bad?

Does shea butter ever go bad? The answer is yes, and it’s not uncommon.

The fats within the shea butter can break down and create product discoloration and a lumpy consistency. This can also alter the smell. Often this breakdown can happen quickly if the product has been made poorly, with not enough water added at the production stage.

If you want to find a quality shea butter, we have some highly recommended and reviewed products:

To allow your shea butter to have a good shelf life for as long as possible it’s best to store it in a cool, dry place with an airtight lid. Keep your shea butter away from the fridge as it can turn solid and clumpy.

shea butter in a bowl

Is rancid shea butter bad for you?

If your shea butter smells rancid it may be time to chuck it away and buy new. Using any expired product has risks of causing skin irritations and bacterial infections. Rancid smelling shea butter can be saved but it may have lost some of its effectiveness.

Expired shea butter can also lead to clogged pores along with possible risks of allergic reactions. Though allergic reactions to shea butter are rare due to its lack of fragrance, coloring or chemicals.

What does rancid shea butter smell like?

Natural shea butter has an earthy, smoky scent, close to a barbecue smell. When shea butter turns rancid, it starts to smell like ‘off’ food rather than its natural smoky or nutty scent. Rancid shea butter would not smell earthy or nutty, it would smell very bad.

How to fix rancid shea butter

There are ways to fix rancid shea butter to continue its use as a moisturizer!

  • Add two tablespoons of unscented lotion to your tub of shea butter.
  • Mix the ingredients until the shea butter returns to its original texture.
  • Let the shea butter sit for 24 hours before use.

See the video below to find out more about grainy shea butter and how to fix it:


Why does shea butter smell smoky?

Shea butter smells smoky due to the process of making it. Shea butter is made over open fires and if this smell is detectable, that’s a sign that it’s fresh.

Is white shea butter better than yellow?

We know you can get different shades of shea butter, but which is best? Is white shea butter better than yellow?
Most people consider that the raw yellow-colored shea butter is much better due to its lack of processing. This means that it has more nutrients and vitamins packed into it, making it better for healing. Yellow shea butter can come with more of a smoky pungent smell, whereas white shea butter has a subtle nutty scent.
The answer to “is white shea butter better than yellow?” depends on your preference and needs. White shea butter is used more in cosmetics as a moisturizer, whereas yellow shea butter is better as a healing ingredient and deeper moisturizer.
See the video below that compares the two shea butters:

White Shea Butter can be Okay!

In conclusion, the coloring of shea butter isn’t the only factor to consider when asking if your shea butter has gone bad.

It’s a good idea to separate a small part of your shea butter into a different tub if you want to use it consistently so that your main tub of shea butter doesn’t get too exposed to bacteria.

Have you had many experiences where your shea butter has turned white? In your opinion, is yellow shea butter better than white?