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To find the best shea butter oil, consumers simply need to consider the consistency, color and aroma of the oil, as well as the additives used, if any. These factors must be taken with a grain of salt somewhat, however, because the value within individual shea nuts is so variable.
The color of shea butter varies greatly based on the shea nuts used. It can be yellow-grey, off-white, cream or even yellow. Shea butter oil hue thus is not a precise way to tell if the product is of the best quality. However, coloring does indicate how much the butter has been processed, and this can impact consumer choice. The more refined the shea butter is, the less color the butter and oil usually has, with highly-refined shea butter being white.
Processing of shea butter oil removes some of the helpful components within the butter. Subsequently, for consumers who want shea butter that has the most benefits for skin and hair, unprocessed raw shea butter oil is the best. Some people dislike the distinctly nutty aroma shea butter products have, however. For these consumers, refined shea butter oil is better because the refining process removes some of the odor.
When considering the odor of a shea butter product, an important note is that the aroma fades as the shea butter oil ages. If the shea butter has not been refined but has no smell, then the butter might be too old to provide as many medicinal benefits to the skin and hair. Additionally, similar to any nut oil, shea butter oil can spoil and go rancid. Any product that smells "off" or has moldy or mildew-like aroma is almost assuredly old and should not be purchased.
Shea butter melts into shea butter oil at roughly body temperature, so in essence, there is little difference in shea butter cream and shea butter oil. If a person buys shea butter in a solidified state, the product should have a smooth, creamy consistency. Shea butter cream or oil that has a grainy texture is not necessarily bad; this simply indicates that the temperature in the storage environment allowed inconsistent resolidification of some of the product. It can indicate improper storage and necessitate remelting of the cream or oil to remove the grains at home. Some shea butter products have additives to prevent this.
Considering additives, consumers must be wary of oils generically labeled as shea butter. Sometimes manufacturers put only a very small percentage of shea butter oil in these products and want to capitalize on the known benefits of the oil. These products are not necessarily bad, but because the percentage of shea butter is lower, the product may not offer the same level of benefits, depending on the ingredients. Additives sometimes can decrease the medicinal value of the butter. The best products often are ones that are 100 percent shea butter oil, or which have shea butter listed first on the ingredient list.
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