Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter for Skin: Which is Better?

Shea butter and cocoa butter are effective moisturizing ingredients in skincare products. While they have many similarities, these two plant-based butters also have different properties that make them suitable for different skin concerns.

Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter for Skin

Some people say that cocoa butter is better for their skin, while others prefer shea butter.  The truth is that each plant butter has its own benefits and will appeal to different needs.

If you’re confused about which is better for your skin, read on to learn the differences between shea butter vs cocoa butter in skincare to help you determine which one will work best for your skin.

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The Benefits of Shea Butter

Shea Butter and Shea Nuts

Shea butter, also known as Butyrospermum parkii butter, is a vegetable butter derived from the fruit of the shea or karite tree. Shea butter contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and moisturizing benefits, making it a favorite ingredient in cosmetic products, especially skincare products. About 5% of shea butter produced throughout the world is used in the cosmetics industry.

Shea butter is rich in antioxidants and contains vitamin A, which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and fade dark spots, discoloration, and scarring, including acne scars.

It’s also a good source of vitamin E and is rich in fatty acids. Shea butter contains approximately 45-50% oleic acid, 30-41% stearic acid, and lower amounts of palmitic acid and linoleic acids. These fatty acids help to strengthen, repair, soothe and moisturize the surface of the skin.

Shea butter also contains cinnamic acid. This ingredient is known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial benefits for the skin, so it can help relieve redness from acne breakouts and itching due to dryness and other skin conditions.

Ideal for dehydrated, irritated, and dry skin, shea butter hydrates, moisturizes, and replenishes skin. Its antioxidant benefits protect the skin from oxidative stress while targeting the signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines, and hyperpigmentation.

Shea butter in glass bowl and shea nuts

Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory benefits are especially helpful for those who have irritated sensitive skin, sunburn, or skin conditions like eczema or atopic dermatitis.

While there are some conflicting opinions on whether or not shea butter is comedogenic, since shea butter contains a substantial amount of oleic acid, if you use a concentrated amount of shea butter on your face, you may experience clogged pores which can lead to acne, breakouts, and blemishes, especially if you deal with oily or acne-prone skin.

If you would like to try shea butter on your face, consider trying a product formulated specifically for facial skin.

The Different Types of Shea Butter

Shea butter comes in many varieties. Raw shea butter is shea butter in its most natural state with a grainy texture and variable coloring. Unrefined shea butter undergoes some filtering but retains many beneficial properties like antioxidant benefits, and it retains its natural, earthy scent.

Refined shea butter undergoes processes to remove its natural scent and color. Refined shea butter is typically white and odorless (it may contain added fragrance) and has a smoother consistency than raw or unrefined shea butter. Refined shea butter may lose some of its vitamins and nutrients that offer beneficial properties for the skin.

Shelf Life: The shelf life of raw/unrefined/refined shea butter is approximately one to two years.

The Benefits of Cocoa Butter

Cocoa Butter with Cacao Nibs

Cocoa butter is a rich, creamy solid that comes from the cacao bean from the cacao tree. Like shea butter, cocoa butter is rich in moisturizing fatty acids and offers anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin.

Cocoa butter contains antioxidants like catechins and procyanidins that help protect the skin from free radicals and prevent oxidative damage, which can lead to signs of premature aging. This study examined the use of cocoa polyphenols on the skin and found that they improve skin elasticity and skin tone.

Cocoa butter also helps soothe sore or dry skin. If you are prone to dry skin conditions like eczema, cocoa butter’s moisturizing properties can help relieve itching and irritation while providing deep hydration.  

Raw Cocoa Butter in a White Bowl

Not only does it moisturize and hydrate dry skin, but cocoa butter is also regularly used in products that are formulated for fading the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

While good for very dry skin, cocoa butter has some comedogenic properties, so if you have oily or acne-prone skin it may clog your pores. It’s very hard at room temperature, so look for it in products formulated especially for the skin.

The Different Types of Cocoa Butter

Like shea butter, cocoa butter comes in different varieties based on how it is processed. Unrefined and refined cocoa butters vary in their natural composition, scent, and color.

Unrefined cocoa butter retains its natural chocolate-like scent and its phytochemical benefits. In contrast, refined cocoa butter has been processed to remove the scent. Unfortunately, refined cocoa butter undergoes processes that remove some of its benefits for the skin.

Unrefined cocoa butter is typically darker in color, while refined cocoa butter is a lighter cream color.

Shelf Life: Cocoa butter has a shelf life of approximately two to five years.

Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter for Skin

Will cocoa butter or shea butter be better for your skin, and which one should you use in your skincare products? The answer is that they both have similar benefits but unique properties.

Both have their benefits for the skin and can even be eaten as food, but slight differences in how they’re processed affect their final texture and fragrance when turned into a skincare product.

Origin

Cocoa butter comes from cocoa beans, while shea butter is derived from the seeds of the shea/karite tree.

Dry Skin

Both ingredients are used in moisturizers and other skincare products for their emollient properties. Both cocoa butter and shea butter excel at treating dehydrated, itchy, flaky, and dry skin and skin concerns like eczema.

Scent

Unrefined cocoa butter products may have a strong chocolatey scent. Shea butter has a milder scent and comes in several different forms, including raw shea (which smells like earth) and refined shea (which has minimal scent).

Comedogenicity (Clogged Pores)

While cocoa butter has moisturizing benefits for normal to dry skin types, it may clog pores. So if you have acne-prone, oily, or combination skin, you may want to opt for shea butter instead.

Texture

Both shea butter and cocoa butter are hard when they’re left out at room temperature without an emollient or another ingredient to keep them in liquid form. Cocoa butter is harder than shea butter and requires a slightly higher temperature to melt.

Shelf Life

Cocoa butter has a longer shelf life at 2-5 years, vs shea butter’s 1-2 year shelf life.

Cocoa Butter vs Shea Butter For Stretch Marks and Scars

While cocoa butter is well known as an ingredient in stretch mark creams, both cocoa butter, and shea butter will help moisturize and plump the skin, helping to smooth the look of stretch marks, scars, and crepey skin.

Related Post: Best Body Lotions for Crepey Skin on Arms and Legs

Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter Skincare Product Picks

For the Face: L’Occitane Shea Light Comforting Face Cream



L’Occitane Shea Light Comforting Face Cream is made with 98% natural origin ingredients. It contains organic shea butter, which hydrates the skin and provides powerful antioxidant protection.

The simple formula also contains moisturizing glycerin and sunflower oil, an emollient plant oil rich in fatty acids and protects the skin barrier. Vitamin E offers additional antioxidant protection.

This L’Occitane shea butter cream is lightweight and never feels greasy or heavy on the skin. While L’Occitane notes that this cream is suitable for normal to dry and sensitive skin, it does contain added fragrance.

L’Occitane’s shea butter is 100% certified fair trade and is produced by women in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

For Stretch Marks and Scars: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks



Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks combines the replenishing power of BOTH cocoa butter and shea butter to improve skin elasticity and reduce the look of stretch marks from weight fluctuations and pregnancy. Cocoa butter and shea butter soften and plump the skin and work to improve skin texture and tone.

Vitamin E moisturizes the skin, while lutein improves the hydration of stretching skin. Argan oil, almond oil, and coconut oil extracted from raw coconut nourish the skin and lock in moisture.

The cream is ideal for areas of the body prone to stretch marks like the stomach, hips, thighs, and bust areas. It moisturizes for up to 48 hours without feeling greasy on the skin. It’s suitable for all skin types but does contain added fragrance.

For The Body: SheaMoisture 100% Raw Shea Butter



SheaMoisture 100% Raw Shea Butter contains 100% certified organic shea butter that has been ethically sourced from women’s cooperatives in Northern Ghana, Africa. It’s rich in vitamins A and E and essential fatty acids that soothe and moisturize dry, cracked skin, chapped lips, and irritated scalp.

This raw shea butter also protects the hair from heat and moisturizes dry, dull tresses.

Jergens Shea Butter Body Lotion



Jergens Shea Butter Body Lotion is a classic drugstore body lotion that targets dry, dull skin for improved luminosity and radiance. It’s rich in moisturizing shea butter and glycerin to quench dehydrated skin.

This body lotion also contains mango seed butter and cocoa butter that contains antioxidants, moisturizing essential amino acids, and fatty acids. The lotion also gets a boost from arginine, an amino acid that supports skin collagen formation, is healing, and moisturizes the skin. This body lotion contains added fragrance.

Organic Cocoa Butter



This large 16 oz (1 lb) container of Certified Organic Cocoa Butter from Mary Tylor Naturals is raw and pure cocoa butter from the Dominican Republic. Its antioxidants and fatty acids moisturize the hair and skin and are great for improving the look of stretch marks and scars.

It works to improve skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis and can soothe sunburned skin. This raw cocoa butter product is solid at room temperature but melts when it comes in contact with your skin.

It is packaged in a food-grade resealable pouch to keep the cocoa butter fresh. It’s also a great natural ingredient for homemade DIY body butter, cold-process soap, lotions, creams, and lip balms.

Nivea Cocoa Butter Body Cream



Nivea Cocoa Butter Body Cream is a rich body cream that moisturizes for up to 48 hours. The ingredient list shows that this cream contains even more shea butter than cocoa butter, so you get the benefits of both emollients in this rich and creamy moisturizer. Their antioxidants and moisturizing fatty acids rescue dry skin in need of protection.

The cream also contains coconut oil, glycerin, and vitamin E to nourish and lock in moisture. This body cream has a light scent of cocoa butter and contains added fragrance.

For the Hands: L’Occitane 20% Shea Butter Hand Cream



One of these L’Occitane shea butter hand creams is sold worldwide every two seconds!

L’Occitane 20% Shea Butter Hand Cream contains a hefty dose of 20% shea butter, an impressive amount that’s perfect for extra dry skin. It provides intense hydration and locks moisture into the skin while bolstering your skin’s defense against environmental aggressors like cold winds and other environmental stressors.

In addition to shea butter, this hand cream also contains organic spring honey that soothes the skin and glycerin that moisturizes the skin. Sweet almond oil is rich in omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids and works to soothe and soften sensitive and dry skin types. It also contains moisturizing sunflower oil and antioxidant vitamin E.

Coconut oil helps to reduce transepidermal water loss and nourishes dry skin. This study demonstrated that coconut oil was effective at improving mild to moderate atopic dermatitis in children.

The formula is non-greasy and leaves a silky finish on the hands. Although a bit pricey, it’s one of the best shea butter hand creams on the market. You can also try out the 1 oz size before spending the money on the full size.

Please note that this shea butter hand cream contains added fragrance.

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Final Thoughts on Shea Butter vs Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter and shea butter both have many benefits when it comes to the skin. They contain antioxidants that protect the skin from environmental stressors such as cold air, UV rays, and pollution. They also moisturize the skin, soothe irritation and discomfort of dry and itchy skin, and can help plump the look of stretch marks and scars.

Overall, you should use either ingredient if you’re looking for an emollient product to keep your body feeling hydrated and moisturized all day long, or better yet, choose a product that contains both shea butter and cocoa butter!

Thanks for reading, and until next time…here’s to your good skin health!