Cocoa Butter vs Shea Butter: Which Is Better for Your Skin?

Cocoa butter and shea butter are the most used moisturizers in the world as it is contained in almost every lotion on the market. Owing to their numerous skincare benefits. Although each natural cream has its distinctive features, people have wondered which among the two are best for their skin.

In this blog, we’ll explore the unique benefits of Cocoa Butter vs Shea Butter. And leave you with the decision on which is best for your skin.

Ready? Lets’ go!

Also Read: Everything You Need to Know About Cocoa Butter!

Cocoa butter Raw unrefined 100% pure
Cocoa butter Raw unrefined 100% pure
African Shea Butter from Ghana
African Shea Butter from Ghana

Origin of cocoa butter and shea butter

Before we go in-depth on the uniqueness of each substance, let me remind you about its origin.

As might be highly branded, Cocoa butter is an extract of the cocoa bean, from the tree Theobroma cacao, mainly cultivated in parts of West Africa and native to south and central America. Cocoa beans are widely used for chocolate around the world.

Also Read: Does Chocolate Come From Cocoa Beans? A Complete Guide!

Cocoa butter is what you get from the whole cocoa bean after the part that’s made into a cocoa powder has been detached, explained Cynthia Bailey, MD.

Contrariwise, shea butter is extracted from the nut of the shea butter tree known as the karite butter or Vitellaria paradoxa. The shea tree is cultivated only in central and west Africa. In Ghana, the shea tree grows only in the northern part of the country. The kernels of the shea tree’s fruit contain fats that are extracted and made into shea butter

Shea butter trading in northern Ghana continues to record massive job creation opportunities for more women in northern Ghana.

Shea butter vs Cocoa butter: So which is better?

While unrefined cocoa butter has a strong chocolate scent, unrefined shea butter has a slightly nutty scent. Refined cocoa butter has a minimal scent as compared to unrefined cocoa butter, which makes it possible to combine it with other ingredients without worrying about changing the final product.

Cocoa butter is expensive due to its extended shelf life of about five years. In some cases, because it is oiler and comedogenic, the use of cocoa butter may cause acne since cocoa butter tends to clog your skin pores. Hence, it is not a good choice to be used in the face of people who suffer from acne.

Cocoa butter does not melt at room temperature, unlike shea butter which melts during hot weather and forms a solid texture during cold weather.

Pure Shea butter has most of its natural ingredients intact, but due to high levels of solvents used in refining shea butter, refined shea butter is white and has less nutritional value. It is important to know the difference so you don’t end up buying refined shea butter instead of raw shea butter.

Shea butter has a lifespan of about one to two years, losing its effectiveness over time due to the breakdown of its natural ingredients.

All you have to do to prolong its lifespan is to store it in an airtight container and not in the fridge. Owed to its nutty smell, you can choose to add essential oils to shea butter to enhance the smell.

Both cocoa and shea butter have fatty acids that improve skin elasticity and moisture retention, but there are differences in the plant oils.

Best cases to use cocoa butter on your skin

1. During aromatherapy

It is best to use cocoa butter due to its natural pleasant chocolate scent.

2. To treat skin rashes

Also, Cocoa butter contains cocoa mass polyphenol (CMP), which plays a major role in easing dermatitis and skin rashes. In some cases, the CMP may reduce the growth of tumors and cancerous cells. Continuous use of cocoa butter will lighten stretch marks and may even prevent their formation.

Also Read: Does Cocoa Butter help with Stretch Marks?

So if you have stretch marks due to weight gain, the use of certain cosmetics, or childbirth, you should consider using cocoa butter on your skin.

Best cases to use shea butter on your skin

1. For skin repair

Similarly, shea butter is rich in vitamins A and E and is beneficial for skin repair.

2. To reduce skin inflammation

Some studies indicate that using shea butter for skin adds cinnamic acid, which reduces skin inflammation and keeps tumors away.   Shea butter also acts as a natural sunscreen, protecting you from the strong ultraviolet radiations in the hot sun in Africa, as well as potential skin damage.

3. To get rid of dark spots

You can also get rid of skin discoloration, rashes, and dark spots using shea butter.

Also Read: Does Cocoa Butter help with Dark Spots?

Shea Butter face Mask - Quick Recipe

Comparing cocoa butter and shea butter; which has the best features?

1. Melting 

Melting explains a state whereby a substance transitions from solid to liquid influenced by heat. The heating process may be characterized by fire or temperature or weather. For example, ice melts when the temperature is warm or hot.

For cocoa butter, it’s the best value for its melting properties; it withstands fragility despite rising in temperature. Containing 57-63 % saturated acid, cocoa butter’s brittleness has made it one of the most stable fats. As such it’s used in chocolate production to keep it firm until dissolved in the mouth.

Thus to get a liquid unrefined cocoa butter, it is best to use indirect heat by placing the cocoa butter in an inner pan placed in hot water. 

Unlike cocoa butter, shea butter melts at room temperature between 31-38 degrees celsius and often becomes liquid as the temperature rises. As such, many vendors in the open market in Ghana would efficiently pour ice cold water on it to keep it solid.

Consequently, when it comes to the melting characteristics of both cocoa and shea butter, cocoa butter takes the lead in comporting itself against rising temperatures.

2. Fatty acids

Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat, according to KidsHealth. In simple terms, fatty acids help our bodies to store energy.

Cocoa butter has roughly 25% palmitic acid, 3% linoleic acid, 35% stearic acid, 35% oleic acid, and 2% other fatty acids. While stearic and palmitic acids are saturated fatty acids, oleic are monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids, and linoleic acid is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid.

These fatty acids in cocoa butter aid in developing a protective barrier in moisturizing and keeping the skin from dryness.

Unequally, unrefined Shea butter contains five main fatty acids, including palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid and arachidic acid. Both stearic and oleic acid together amount for about 85-90%, providing firmness, brittleness and softness of shea butter on the skin.

3. Healing properties

Cocoa butter is traditionally proven to aid in healing wounds and restoring the skin to its original state. Similarly, Due to its rich moisture and protective oil-based,  it’s best used in treating skin conditions such as eczema, easing itching.

Similarly, shea butter is also known for its healing properties due to the presence of fatty acids as discussed above. Raw unrefined shea butter is favorable for treating skin conditions such as rashes, scars, stretch marks and acne. 

While every skin type or condition will require unique properties of either cocoa or shea butter, it’s best to use shea butter for both skin and face.

4. Vitamins

Cocoa butter contains a high amount of vitamin D; the same vitamin needed by the body and most exposure to the early morning sun. Also, cocoa butter contains a small amount of vitamin K, helping to build strong bones.

It is also rich in minerals such as potassium, iron, and zinc for lower blood pressure, supporting red blood cells’ immune health activities. 

Similarly, raw shea butter contains vitamin A, F and E which helps to treat skin conditions such as dermatitis, premature aging and keeping your skin soft.

Thus shea butter contains more beneficial vitamins than cocoa butter.

Benefits of using cocoa butter on your ski

1. Cocoa butter reduces aging wrinkles

Cocoa butter has high levels of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals formed as a result of cell metabolism. The high presence of radicals on the skin is the reason why you have damaged skin cells and more wrinkles.  As such, cocoa butter which contains cocoa mass polyphenol (CMP), according to research, may help protect your skin from premature damage and aging. It may help promote the overall health of your skin.

Also Read: Cocoa Butter for Face Wrinkles: Does it Help?

2. Reduces dry skin problem

People with dry skin problems can use raw cocoa butter because of the ease of absorption into the skin and firm texture, significantly improving the appearance of the skin.

3. It contains saturated fats

Cocoa butter consists primarily of saturated fats, including oleic acid palmitic acid and stearic acid which act as an emollient. When applied to the skin by lotions, creams, or bath oils, emollients can soften the skin and help it improve its texture.

4. Fade dark spots and skin

Daily use of cocoa butter will help moisturize, smooth, and soften rough and dark elbows, knees, hands and feet, especially for black or Africans.  Regular use will also help to fade the darker skin on these areas, giving elbows and knees a more even skin tone.

Benefits of using shea butter on your skin

Shea Butter Benefits For Skin

1. Repairs dry skin

Shea butter can treat many skin issues ranging from dry skin. Shea butter is anti-inflammatory as well, which makes it useful in the treatment of eczema. Prolonged use of shea butter evens your skin tone from sunburn.

2. Shea butter reduces diaper rash in babies

On the other hand, shea butter can reduce diaper rash, blemishes, itching, wrinkles, and dryness, as such it is best to use it on newborn babies. Many mothers in Ghana use shea butter from the first three to five years on their new babies, resulting in smooth, soft and shiny skin.

3. Shea butter reduces razor burns and scars

It can also be used as a shaving cream to reduce razor burns. Shea butter does not stick on the skin and may help reduce acne, scars, and the appearance of stretch marks.

4. Shea butter contains Vitamin A, E and K

Essential vitamins that are needed by the skin, such as vitamins A, E and K, are found in shea butter, helping to maintain healthy and clear skin. Omega 3 fatty acid, also present in shea butter, protects and revitalizes your skin.

5. Shea butter has saturated fatty acids

Mostly oleic, stearic, fatty acids, and palmitic acids, Shea butter helps repair the lost lipids in our skin’s barrier, or stratum corneum. Again, Shea butter is a great emollient moisturizer and barrier repair cream

The oleic property is Shea butter may even have some healing properties useful in the treatment of burn wounds, although there is no scientific research to back this claim, traditional use for the said purpose in Africa has proven true.

6. Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer for your scalp and hair too

Shea butter can be used as a moisturizer for dry scalp and hair treatment.

Combined benefits

Since both shea butter and cocoa butter contain vitamin E, they can help lighten dark spots. Although they are not a replacement for certain skin lightening agents, such as hydroquinone or kojic acid, a combination of cocoa and shea butter would go a long way.

Also Read: Does Palmers Cocoa Butter Lighten Skin? What I Wish I Knew!

They also have antioxidant properties so they can protect the skin from premature aging by the sun. This premature aging manifests as wrinkles and dark spots. Also, they can decrease inflammation, which can cause hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Both shea butter and cocoa butter help to remove stretch marks or striae but there is a lack of quality evidence to support this.

Bottom line

Shea butter and cocoa butter are both good, naturally derived fats that can be used separately or together to make a super powerhouse moisturizer.

With the information discussed above, you can decide which among the two is best for your skin, however, shea butter obviously has more benefits compared to cocoa butter.

In some cases, the use of cocoa or shea butter may trigger an allergic reaction; therefore, when buying, getting to know what each ingredient on the package will help solve your skin challenges.

Most importantly. If you experience rare skin conditions that you think using either cocoa or shea butter cannot solve, please consult your dermatologist, who can help you choose the best option to treat your skin with confidence.

Better still, if you have acne-prone skin, stick to shea butter or another non-comedogenic moisturizing oil like jojoba oil or sunflower oil.


  • Isabella. (2019). The Difference Between Shea Butter & Cocoa Butter. Better Shea Butter.
  • Lindberg, S. (2020). Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter: How Do They Compare? HealthLine.
  • Products, M. E. (2018). Cocoa Butter Versus Shea Butter. Mother Earth Products.
  • Ruddock, D. V. (n.d.). Effects of Cocoa Butter on African American Skin. Love to Know.
  • Trent, D. J. (2021). Shea Vs. Cocoa Butter in Skin Care. Zelen Life.
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Hi, Nelson here... is the lead reviewer here at Cocoaness. A cocoa enthusiast and an ‘honest’ reviewer. I know cocoa more like you know your favorite fruit. I’m a farmer by birth because of my family’s vast cocoa farm in Ghana. In fact, I will be a chocolatier in the near future.