Does Shea Butter Go Bad?

LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Whether you’ve cleaned out your bathroom cabinet and found a jar of shea butter hiding in the back that you’d forgotten you had, or you are contemplating buying a bulk order, you’re probably wondering – does shea butter go bad?

All body products eventually expire, including shea butter, which should last anywhere from 24 – 37+ months. The shelf life of your shea butter will depend on which type of shea butter you are using and how you are handling and storing it.

In this article, we are going to talk about the differences between shea butters. We’ll look at their shelf life and how to tell if your shea butter has gone bad. We’ll also give you some tips for proper storage and handling to ensure you get the longest shelf life from your shea butter.


What is Shea Butter?        

Organic Shea Butter

Shea butter is a natural fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea tree. Shea butter is solid at room temperature and is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids. Its smooth, easy spreading consistency soothes and conditions the skin, making it a fantastic natural moisturizer that typically does not clog pores and is ideal for all skin types.

Shea butter contains triterpenes, which are thought to fight against collagen fiber destruction. They help prevent skin from aging and boost collagen production to minimize existing fine lines and wrinkles. 

Shea butter also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help control and minimize flare-ups of certain skin conditions, like eczema.

It’s also used in the chocolate production industry as an alternative to cocoa butter.

Although all shea butter comes from the nut of the shea tree, you may have noticed that it comes in different colors – usually white, ivory, and yellow.

Knowing which type of shea butter you are using will help you determine its shelf life.

There are two main types of shea butter:

Raw/unrefined shea butter:

Raw shea butter is extracted and prepared without the use of chemical preservatives. Raw shea butter has a distinct nutty/earthy smell that not everyone is a fan of.

It contains impurities and is not always uniform in consistency.

Refined shea butter:

Refined shea butter does not have an odor. It’s been processed to remove impurities, give it a smoother texture, and preservatives are added to increase the shelf life.

Most cosmetics and body products that contain shea butter use the refined version for these reasons.

However, though it will still retain its ability to moisturize, the refining process strips shea butter of almost all of its natural vitamins and healing properties.

Is shea butter naturally white or yellow?

Raw shea butter is naturally an ivory color.  Yellow shea butter is also raw but has had roots of the borututu tree added which acts as a natural preservative. Those roots give it its yellow color.

If your shea butter is white, then it’s been refined.

Which shea butter is better, white or yellow?

“Better” is a subjective term! One might say that white refined shea butter smells better and might even feel better. But if we’re talking in terms of vitamin content and healing properties, then raw shea butter, which can vary in color from ivory to yellow to even green or grey, depending on where and how it’s produced, is definitely better in this respect.

Does Shea Butter Go Bad?

Wonderfully Natural Shea Butter

Because it’s made with natural ingredients, all shea butter will go bad eventually.

Raw shea butter has a shorter shelf life than refined shea butter because of the lack of chemical preservatives. It will last about 24 months from the time it was produced and packaged.

Refined shea butter can last 37 months or longer.

How to tell if shea butter is bad

It’s easier to tell if refined shea butter has gone off because it will be apparent from the color, texture, and smell.

Though raw shea butter is naturally pungent, it should not smell rancid. If raw shea smells like rotten food or vinegar, then it’s bad and time to toss it out.

How to maximize your shea butter’s shelf life

Store your shea butter in a cool, dark place, out of direct sunlight.

If you live somewhere with fluctuating temperatures, storing your shea butter in the refrigerator will prevent repeated warming and cooling, which can cause the butter to develop a grainy texture.

Store in an air-tight container.

handle only with clean, dry hands to avoid cross-contamination and prevent bacteria and mold from breeding.

Buy a good quality shea butter.

Take Away

Does shea butter expire? Yes, it does!

How long does shea butter last?

If you follow the handling and storage advice above, raw shea butter can last up to 24 months.

See also:

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).