Why Does Shea Butter Smell (And How To Prevent It)

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Shea Butter has incredible properties and is a key ingredient in many hair care products as well as skincare products. However, Shea butter also has a very distinctive smell and can sometimes be off-putting. In this article, we explain what causes Shea butter to smell and how to prevent it from doing so.

Why Does Shea Butter Smell

Shea Butter is made from the nuts of Shea trees and its natural smell should, therefore, be nutty, earthy and fragrant.

However, many things can cause Shea Butter to smell pungent and this can be due to one of the following reasons:

  • Poor quality Shea Butter
  • Chemically treated
  • Not raw
  • Not ethically sourced
  • Incorrect storage
  • Nuts harvested too early

Let’s take a look at how you can identify high quality Shea Butter from poor quality and what you can do to prevent your Shea butter from smelling.

What is Shea Butter?

Shea Butter is a fat that is extracted from the nuts of Shea trees and it has a very creamy consistency.

The Shea tree can only be found in Africa and African women have been using Shea butter for many purposes for a very long time.

The natural colour of raw Shea butter is ivory but after processing, it becomes white or off-white in colour.

If the colour of your Shea butter is yellow,  it means that palm oil or some other essential oil has been added to it.

Also Read: 4 Amazing Benefits Of Using Chamomile For Hair

Uses of Shea Butter

There are numerous uses of Shea butter:

  • In the western world, Shea butter is widely used cosmetologically. It is a key ingredient found in moisturizers, massage oils, hair conditioners and lip glosses.
  • Shea butter is also used in making soaps so your body can be moisturized whilst being cleaned.
  • In African countries, shea butter is used for medical purposes like skin ointments because it is believed that it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
  • African women also use it in cooking for added taste or even just as a substitute for cooking oil.

Benefits of Shea Butter

1 Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Bacterial Properties

Shea butter has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and hence people with certain skin conditions find it very useful.

Shea butter is also known for its abilities to help with stretch marks, dermatitis and heal burns and injuries.

2 Conditioning Properties for Hair

Shea Butter is used in many hair products and works great as a moisturizer for dry or damaged hair.

There’s even a haircare range called Shea Moisture which is dedicated to the ingredient.

Shea butter can also be used to soothe dry or itchy scalp and even help with dandruff.

Shea butter can also help your hair against heat damage as Shea butter is absorbed into the hair and coats each hair strand.

This helps protect your hair from heat styling tools such as straighteners or curling tongs.  

Also Read: How To Use Castor Oil For Protein Sensitive Hair

3 Vitamins

Shea butter contains Vitamins A and D which have antioxidant properties and help in cell regeneration and cell growth. Triterpenes acid is also good for hair and skin.

4 Removes Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Triterpenes are present in Shea butter and helps with collagen production.

This makes the skin look plumper and also helps  reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Shea butter is a great natural moisturizer and absorbs rapidly into our skin. It is also called a refatting agent and can be used for smoothing both skin and hair.

5 No Allergic Reactions

The allergic reactions to Shea butter are quite rare and is close to 1%.

People who are allergic to nuts are usually not allergic to Shea butter.

6 Suitable For all Skin Types

Shea butter is a suitable moisturizer for all skin types, whether you have dry, oily, normal or combination skin.

The stearic, oleic, linoleic and palmitic acids also helps with dry skin.

Shea Butter is interestingly very good for oily skin as it contains acid which creates a good balance for your skin.

Natural Shea Butter Smell

Shea butter smell

The natural scent of shea butter is nutty, and it ranges from mild to a wild earthy scent. This scent is very particular and can be a bit pungent.

The reason for the natural nutty smell is that shea butter comes from the nuts of Shea trees.

The shea tree takes almost 15 years to bear fruit. These nuts are dried and stored in different ways and one method is to keep them underground.

During this time, the nuts can start to grow again or even begin to rot which can spread the potent smell to the entire nut harvest.

Also Read: How To Use Moringa For Hair Loss (For Best Results)

This pungent nutty smell is not pleasant for most people however after using it for a long time you will adapt to the smell.

Don’t be alarmed if your Shea butter has this strong pungent smell as it doesn’t mean that the Shea butter is poor quality or that it can’t be used again.

Why does Shea Butter Smell?

There are times when Shea butter smells due to other reason. The smell should never be unbearable and Shea butter should definitely never stink.

If you have Shea butter which smells very bad, it can be due to one of the following reasons:

Extracted Using Dirty Water

One of the main reasons why the Shea butter stinks is that it has been extracted using dirty or muddy water.

If the water that is used to boil Shea butter is also dirty, then it would cause Shea butter to smell bad. The water used to boil Shea butter must be clean and pure.

Not Properly Stored

Shea butter melts at body temperature so it is recommended to store it below this temperature.

If Shea butter is not stored properly such as in a fridge or a cool place, it will lose its properties and will start to smell bad.

The best temperature to store Shea butter is below 20 degrees.

Poor Quality

If certain chemicals are added to preserve or remove the natural scent of Shea butter, it can cause a very bad smell.

A Shea butter that has been poorly chemically treated will always stink.

If preservatives have been added in higher quantity than usual, then your Shea butter will also smell off.

It is in fact often that the smell of the Shea Butter can tell you whether or not you have purchased a genuine product.

Not Raw and Heated

Shea Butter is temperature sensitive and hence should never be heated.

If Shea butter is heated and is not raw then it would lose all of its effectiveness and begin to smell.

The vitamins and its healing properties are also lost during the healing process.

Early Extraction

The Shea tree nuts should be extracted before they are fermented. If the nuts are fermented before extraction, then it would give Shea butter a rancid smell.

Not Ethically Sourced

Shea butter must be traditionally sourced.

This includes: Extracting it before it ripens, boiling it, crushing, grinding it, kneading it, forming it into butter and then finally collect and package it.

Shea butter should also be ethically sourced so that the labourers are paid fairly.

Not only is this morally correct, but this way, labourers take pride in the quality product they are producing.

Also Read: 7 Reasons Why Hair Products Stop Working

How To Prevent Shea Butter From Smelling

You should always make sure that you buy unrefined Shea butter because refined Shea butter doesn’t contain the same amount of natural vitamins and healing properties.

Of course, unrefined Shea butter will still carry a nutty, earthy smell but there are things you can do to prevent your Shea Butter from having that pungent, rotting smell which often puts people off:

Buy Only High-Quality Shea Butter

A high-quality unrefined Shea butter has a fragrant, nutty smell and is absolutely worth the purchase.  

A high-quality Shea butter will not smell bad and has a general shelf life of more than 24 months.

Store Correctly

Shea butter products must be stored correctly they are quite temperature sensitive.

As Shea butter melts at body temperature (37 degree Celsius), it is recommended to store Shea butter in less than 30 degree Celsius or even better, in a fridge.

Never keep it near a stove as high temperature can cause Shea butter to ferment and begin to smell.

Use Alongside Other Hair Products

If you use Shea butter products for your hair, you’ll find that many of these products already contain other fragrances to hide its natural nutty smell.

Shea Moisture is such a brand and all of their products contain natural organic Shea butter.

The brand is particularly popular amongst followers of the Curly Girl Method.

However, if you are using raw Shea butter or concentrated Shea butter products, you can use other hair care products to disguise the smell.

If you use Shea butter for your hair, use a fruity conditioner or hairspray with a different scent.

If you have curly hair, try using a curl crème or a gel which has a fragrant scent. You can also use essential oils such as mint or lavender to hide the smell of Shea butter.

In conclusion, don’t let the smell of Shea butter deter you from using it in your daily haircare or skincare routine.

The benefits far outweigh the cons of the nutty smell and there are many ways to prevent your Shea butter from smelling.

shea butter smell

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using.



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