How to Store Shea Butter: A Guide for Beginners

In this article you will learn Learn how to store shea butter the right way so you can keep it for a long time.

What is Shea butter & Benefits

Shea butter is a natural ingredient harvested from the fruit of the wild shea tree and used in many different ways. It is used as a moisturiser, for skin care, and even in cooking. It is a natural emollient which has a high melting point and can remain solid at temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.

The health benefits of shea butter are many and they include: Skin soothing, strengthening, moisturizing. It is used in the treatment of eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and just about any skin complaint that you may have. It contains the natural Vitamin A as well as E and F with antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage.

It is a fantastic product for those with dry skin. The fatty acids in it are perfect for treating dry skin and it will also provide antiinflammatory benefits. The best bit, you will see its benefits straight away because of how rich and thick it is. 

Many use it to reduce stretch marks as well. I use it for many of my own products and could not imagine life without it. Cocoa butter comes next, but I personally love Shea because of its comedogenic rating, which is 0.

Shea Butter Shell Life

Shelf life can depend on factors like country of origin, how good the harvest was at first and time spend under different weather conditions.

As a general rule, ake sure your Shea butter is in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. 

How long will shea butter last?

Raw Shea butter (unrefined) can last up to 1 or 2 years while refined Shea butter will last a good 2 years and even a longer. This is a rough estimate but it will help you get an idea.

In my experience, If properly stored, your butter can last you for for more than 2 years. I live in a hot country and mine has lasted for around 3 years (kept in a cool cupboard and always, always with the lid tightly on). 

At around two and a half years my unrefined Shea butter started to go rancid. 

How to tell if your Shea butter has expired?

As time goes by you must watch out for rancidity (natural oxidation), which occurs when plant oils break down and lose its efficacy. This is why it’s important to store your butter in a cool place (like a dark cupboard or even the refrigerator). To tell if it has gone rancid simply  rub a little of the butter between your fingers and smell it. If it  smells like coconut and nutmeg, it is still good. If it smells sour or tangy, throw the butter away as this means that oxidation has occurred.

Another type of contamination that it can get is from bacteria. This study discovered the following microbes in a sample: five fungal species (Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium species, Mucor species and Trichoderma species) and three bacterial species (Citrobacter freundii, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa species). Changes in colour and viscosity where noticable.

When I manipulate the butter to make my cosmetics I’m confident I would notice changes in scent and texture so if your Shea butter feels, smells and looks the same as when bought I wouldn’t worry about it. At least I don’t with mine.

Does it loose properties as time goes by?

Shea Butter loses some value over time as the natural ingredients lose their benefits. If it has been sitting for a long period of time it can be less effective. 

What is the best way to store shea butter? Shea butter storage

The easiest way to store Shea butter is to leave in the container it came packed in and place it: in a cook, dark area.

Can I store it in the fridge? 

You can store it in the fridge if where you live gets really hot.

Can I freeze it?

Yes, it can be frozen. It is important to note that when you are thawing the product, it will have a different consistency than before because of the water content in it. If possible try not to freeze it. But I’ve had to freeze oils that I wasn’t going to use and wanted to keep ‘safe’, so the freezer came to the rescue.

A Few Tips

Processed within the last 6 months

When you buy your butter make sure it has been processed within the last six months to ensure its effectiveness as much as possible.

Refrigerate for Peace of Mind

If not using for a while just place it in the refrigerator for peace of mind. Just make sure you take it out of the fridge to warm up before applying it on your skin – otherwise, the  butter will be too cold and more difficult to manipulate.

‘Shea Butter Weeks’

Shea Butter loses some value over time as the natural ingredients lose their benefits. If it has been sitting for a long period of time, then it can be less effective. Try to make the most of it and apply all over your body, face (at night is very effective) hair ends, elbows, lips, ankles, etc. That way you go through it quicker and make the most of it. At the end of the day, it is there for you to use it!

Avoiding the Plastic Container

My Shea comes in a plastic container. Hopefully this will change over time. If possible, buy in containers that are not plastic (i.e. glass). 

PRO TIP: Melt the butter using the Bain Marie method, add 0.5% of pure Vitamin E oil, pour over storing container (dark) and let it solidify again. The Vitamin E  has natural anti-oxidant properties which will help prolong the shelf life of your shea butter. Do this only if you’re REALLY worried about your butter going rancid or if you think you won’t use it for a long time.

How to keep it from hardening

Shea butter will harden when kept in cold conditions due to the natural content of its fat. To soften you can:

  • Use skin-safe oils (e.g. grapeseed, jojoba, sweet almond, or olive oil) to soften it again and ‘knead’ until you have the consistency you want. Your body will also absorb it easier
  • Leave it in the container into which it came and place it in a warm area after opening it
  • Place your container in a warm bowl of water to melt the butter before using
  • Place the container with the butter in hot water

The above are all simple and effective methods – but you need to find out what works best for you. Personally, I either soften it with my fingers if using only a small amount or melt using the Bain Marie method if I need more to make my skincare (which uses around 3% Shea butter).

What can I do with my extra butter

Have lots of Shea butter left over from one use and not sure what to do with it? You can:

1) Refrigerate or even freeze if you really don’t know when will you use again
2) Make lip balms. This is such a natural product that basically everybody needs. Here’s my all-time-favourite recipe, which by the way I need to make again very soon

To make lip balm: 
I have done this for many many years and it works beautifully.

40% Unrefined Shea butter
40% Coconut Oil
20% Beeswax
A few drops of Vitamin E Oil to delay rancidity (Optional)

Place all ingredients in a heat-proof bowl and melt them using the Bain Marie method. Make sure to stir well and when everything has mixed properly simply pour into jars or tubes. I used these jars. Leave to cool and use to your heart’s content.

3) Make your own homemade body butter. Personally, I like to make my own body butter with Shea if I’m using it for moisturising (or even for cleansing), as the consistency is more thick and rich. It is also good to make sure you use pure ingredients and use the butter on its own (or with other oils like coconut or sweet almond) rather than worrying about the presence of parabens or mineral oil if you’re making some lotion that’s suitable for people with very sensitive skin.

To make this homemade body butter simply melt She butter in a Bain Marie or similar container, add coconut oil or sweet almond oil, let cool is done. Lastly, add 5-10% essential oils depending on your preferences.

5) Combine the butter with other natural ingredients for body care products
I have used 2%-3% Shea butter in face emulsions (day and night creams) with great success since it has excellent moisturising properties. If you don’t have your own recipes you can simply mix your facial cream with Shea butter. It might not be using a lot of your extra butter but it is an idea and you might benefit greatly from it. When combining it with other ingredients to create a cream you’re adding so many extra benefits to your routine!

6) Experiment with various recipes and methods
This is an excellent way to use extra butter and see what works best and also see if you might like to develop your own recipes. It’s fun and can be very rewarding if you enjoy trying new things or even just making different products from lotions, creams, etc.

Last Words…

Shea butter is an amazing ingredient (unrefined shea butter is what I recommend). I do love it so so much and also love that I’m able to use it on my body, face and hair. It can be kept safe for very long periods of time if you know how to best store it. It’s quite the multitasker and will provide natural protection to your skin, hair and nails whether you’re using it on its own or in your recipes.

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