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How Do I Choose the Best Shea Butter Soap?

By Kristeen Moore
Updated: Feb 12, 2024

Shea butter soap is a product that is originally derived from tree nuts indigenous to western parts of Africa. Unrefined shea butter is the best product of choice if you want pure soap that contains all of the natural benefits of the nuts. Black soaps are an indication that the shea butter has not been processed, although yellow versions can also be unrefined. You might consider purchasing fair trade soaps directly from Africa as opposed to mass-produced brands that are sold in stores. Although shea butter itself is generally safe, you should discontinue using a particular product if you experience any side effects.

The best brands of shea butter soaps are ones that are unrefined. Many mass-produced shea butter products are processed with chemicals in order to easily make greater quantities and to change the look of the soap. One of the primary downsides to refined shea butter soap is that it is often stripped of its natural moisturizing and healing properties that are often used to treat a variety of skin ailments, such as eczema and infections.

Another way to identify the best quality shea butter soap is by its visual appearance. Black soap indicates that the shea butter has not been bleached, which is often done to make the product more visually appealing. Freshly made black soap might also have a natural odor to it. As black soap ages, it sometimes turns dark yellow, but this still indicates that it is unrefined. You will want to avoid white shea butter soaps because they are generally processed with bleach and preservatives in order to extend their shelf lives.

Some consumers prefer to purchase fair trade shea butter soap online because the majority of the proceeds benefit the people in West Africa who actually process the nuts. Fair trade shea butter soaps might be pricier in the short term because they are not mass produced, but you will likely receive a better quality product. Many supermarket brands of shea butter soaps often contain very little of the ingredient, which does not benefit you or the nut processors.

Pure shea butter soap is generally considered a safe and mild product, and unrefined kinds are particularly beneficial if you have sensitive skin. Marketers of these types of soaps claim that the ingredients can heal various skin ailments, but you should discontinue using a product if your condition does not improve or if it worsens overtime. Although shea butter allergy is considered to be rare, some of its symptoms can include itchiness and red rashes.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Heavanet — On Dec 26, 2014

@spotiche5- You can find all kinds of soaps that have shea butter in them, but they are more than likely not going to be unrefined. I don't think that most retail stores carry this type of specialty product. If just want a soap that has shea butter as an ingredient, you shouldn't have any problems finding one where you typically shop.

You might want to check out any fair trade stores in your area for unrefined shea butter. If you don't have one that specifically indicates that it sells fair trade items, you should try looking at your local natural products store. Usually these stores carry fair trade items, and are very likely to keep unrefined shea butter in stock. You will be able to rest assured knowing that the product is pure and made by people who were treated and paid fairly.

By Spotiche5 — On Dec 25, 2014

I have ordered unrefined shea butter soap directly from a shop in Africa, but I would also like to be able to find it closer to home. Are there any types of stores that keep it in stock?

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