Is Shea Butter Comedogenic? Or Non-Comedogenic?

Published Categorized as Shea Butter
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So you’ve been hearing all about how brilliant shea butter is for your skin. Perhaps, you are thinking about using it in a face cream and are now wondering does shea butter clog pores?

There is a lot of talk about how brilliant shea butter is for dry skin, but it’s natural to be more hesitant to use a new product when your skin is on the oily side. While there are some reports of positive experiences in response to does shea butter help acne, no one wants to apply something that will make acne worse.

In this article, I cover all the facts to answer the question is shea butter comedogenic, so you can make your own educated choice about whether to use shea butter on your skin or not. I also discuss other similar butters like mango butter and cocoa butter so you can consider other options.

But first, I’m going to describe exactly what shea butter is and what comedogenic and non-comedogenic mean so you have all the facts.

What Is Shea Butter?

The short answer is that shea butter is a natural product created from fat extracted from shea seeds. Shea seeds are inside shells found inside fruit which grow on shea trees, primarily in their native West Africa.

That can sound quite straightforward but it’s not that easy to get the great quality shea butter you’d want to use on your skin.

First of all, the collected shea seeds are dried out. They then need to start the process of extracting the fat. There are two main ways to do this. One produces what is called refined shea butter. This is done with high-heat, and often chemicals as well, in factories.

It’s the cheaper and easier way to produce shea butter. The shea butter is white and odorless, but also is lacking most of the nutrients that makes shea butter awesome.

The other process produces unrefined or raw shea butter. This can be processed by hand or using mechanical processes in a factory which doesn’t destroy the majority of the nutrients. This is the type of shea butter generally recommended for skincare.

In this process, the dried shea seeds are ground into powder and roasted. This is then ground into a viscous substance which is kneaded while adding water.

At this point it starts looking more like shea butter as it is whipped while adding more water. This causes the oils to coagulate together at the top while the water sinks to the bottom.

This separation makes it possible to take the oils out. They are then boiled to remove the remaining liquid. This also causes any impurities to rise to the top where they can be removed.

Finally, shea butter remains! It is strained and left to cool and solidify.

Raw shea butter is solid at room temperature and an off-white/ivory color. It has a creamy consistency which is easy to spread, full of nutrients and fatty acids.

Read more about the differences between refined and unrefined (or raw) shea butter here.

Shea butter has been used for centuries for things like soothing, smoothing and moisturizing skin. It’s also been used to combat acne… But is shea butter non-comedogenic? Is shea butter good for acne?

shea butter
Shea butter

What Does Comedogenic Mean?

If you are confused what I mean when I talk about whether shea butter is comedogenic, don’t be. Saying a product is comedogenic means that it tends to clog pores and cause comedones (otherwise known as blackheads). So comedogenic products are generally best avoided by people with problem acne.

What Does Non-Comedogenic Mean?

Non-comedogenic means exactly the opposite. If a product is non-comedogenic then it is not likely to clog your pores. So non-comedogenic products can be better for people with oily skin and acne problems.

Is Shea Butter Comedogenic? Is Shea Butter Non-Comedogenic?

So does shea butter cause acne? Or are reports that it’s good for acne true?

This is not easy to answer.

Not Enough Research To Say 100%

Shea butter has not been researched enough scientifically to know for sure whether it’s comedogenic or not. So it has not been officially classified. However, we can look at the makeup of shea butter to get some ideas. Academics think that it probably is comedogenic.

Since it hasn’t be scientifically proven to clog pores, shea butter is not classified as comedogenic.

However, if you Google, you’ll likely find sites claiming it is or isn’t and giving you a shea butter comedogenic scale rating. To reiterate, this hasn’t been proven and any rating is guess work.

Generally, shea butter is believed to have a rating between 0 and 2 out of 5 where 0 means it won’t clog pores and 2 means a moderately low likelihood. However, again, this is not proven.

To get a better idea of the answer to can shea butter cause acne, we can look at its constituents. The following fatty acids are in shea butter:

  • Oleic Acid – This acid is likely to be the main reason why shea butter may clog pores. It’s already naturally found in our skin’s sebum which coats our outer layer of skin. Applying more regularly can be disruptive to this layer and, while it’s been found to be great for dry skin and to have anti-inflammatory properties, it’s a product to avoid for oily skin.
  • Stearic Acid – This can be converted into oleic acid in the skin and then can cause problems for oily skin as above.
  • Palmitic Acid – Again, this acid can be converted into oleic acid.
  • Linoleic Acid – This oil is the most recommended for oily skin. It has been found to be naturally at lower levels than usual on skin that’s prone to acne. High levels of this acid in a product can be good for oily skin, but it is only at a low level in shea butter.

We can also look at its consistency. Being a butter, it creates a barrier of oil on your skin. Even though these are healthy oils, this barrier could clog your pores especially in people that already have problems with acne.

So Does Shea Butter Clog Pores?

Because shea butter contains oil and because of its consistency, it’s safe to believe that it probably is comedogenic. Shea butter is probably at the lesser end of butters and oils that can cause issues but it’s right to be careful before using it on oily skin. This is backed up by the American Academy of Dermatology.

If you want to give it a go, do a sample test on a patch of skin with shea butter. Pore clogging and general skin health after using can be tested this way.

Does Shea Butter Cause Acne When Mixed With Other Ingredients?

Do things change if shea butter is in a cream or lotion? Is shea butter bad for acne if it’s mixed with other ingredients?

Well first of all, remember it’s not proven shea butter is bad for oily skin. But assuming it is, it doesn’t mean that shea butter mixed with other ingredients will cause problems.

This research paper found that just because ingredients of a product are comedogenic doesn’t mean the end product is.

So it really depends what you are mixing with the shea butter.

Are Other Butters Like Mango Butter And Cocoa Butter Comedogenic?

If you are feeling unsure about using shea butter now, you may be wondering if similar butters like mango or cocoa may be better to use.

First of all, cocoa butter is considered highly comedogenic and one of the worst oils for acne, so it is going to clog your pores. If you have oily skin, you should avoid this.

Mango butter is not conclusively comedogenic. Much like shea butter, it has not been proven either way. Like shea butter, it also is high in oleic acid and has stearic acid so is likely to clog pores, just not in high levels like cocoa butter.

Conclusion

I hope you have this guide to all the answers to does shea butter clear acne useful. While, unfortunately, I can’t give you a clear cut yes or no to whether shea butter is good or bad for acne, there is reason to be weary when it comes to using shea butter on oily skin.

I hope this article has helped you work out the best answer to using shea butter on oily skin for you.

Find more useful guides to using shea butter here and an in depth guide to how to use shea butter on your feet here and on your lips here.

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By Cara Davis

Cara Davis is a food lover and health fanatic who likes to make life as stress free as possible - thus why she loves to eat quick and healthy!