If you're one of those people who genuinely like to use natural products for maintaining their skin and beauty, then I'm sure that you would have come across the Coconut oil vs. Shea butter debate. You must have found yourself wondering which of these is a better option for you and which one should you use. On the other hand, if you are not an organic beauty product enthusiast but have an interest in cosmetics and in general, bodily well-being then you also must have wondered that in this oil versus butter battle, which product what you want to be a part of your daily use cosmetics or even your culinary experiences.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is extracted from the seed that is also known as the fruit of the Coconut Palm tree. At room temperature, this oil as it is made up of medium-chain saturated fatty acids is solid in structure. It is used across the food industry in cooking as a healthy alternative to other forms of fats, especially animal-derived fats. Due to its moisturizing abilities and structural strength, it is also very commonly used in the cosmetic and beauty industry.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a fat that is derived from the nut or seed of the Shea tree that is grown indigenously in the African continent. It is widely used in the cosmetic industry especially when it comes to the production of body creams, facial moisturizers, lotions, and treatments for dry lips. In its true organic form, it has an off-white or ivory color and is easily spreadable on the human skin as it melts as soon as it comes in contact with it, due to the temperature difference.
Coconut Oil vs. Shea butter
Now that we know the origin of Coconut oil and Shea butter let us now differentiate between these two based on different structural and beneficial properties, which will eventually help you in choosing the right option that is appropriate to cater to your personal needs.
By skin suitability, we mean the horizon of the different types of skin that can benefit from the use of Shea Butter and Coconut oil. Coconut oil is comedogenic in nature and can block pores thus causing acne, therefore it is not suitable for sensitive and oily skin types. On the other hand, Shea butter is non-comedogenic and hence can be used easily by all skin types whether dry, normal, sensitive, or acne-prone.
When it comes to moisturizing properties, Coconut oil is considered a good moisturizer due to the abundance of vitamin E in it and due to the greasy texture, which helps lock in moisture especially in extremely dry weather, and acts as a sealant on dry skin. On the other hand, Shea butter also has great moisturizing properties and is not so heavy and it's quick absorbing. It has collagen and elastin-boosting anti-oxidants that help renew your skin and provide a natural SPF of 7- 10 against harmful rays.
Anti-bacterial Properties and Anti-Inflammatory
Coconut oil is loved by its users due to its anti-bacterial properties. It has been proven effective against fungal and bacterial infections of the skin such as athletes' foot, eczema and in some cases has shown efficacy against psoriasis as well. When it comes to Shea butter, it enjoys anti-inflammatory properties which help calm down irritated and inflamed skin against reactions to environmental factors, hives, and insect bites, etc.
Solidification and Melting Point
Coconut oil solidifies at 25 degrees Celsius and in temperatures greater than 25 degrees Celsius it's in liquid form hence at room temperature it's solid. When it's a solid due to the presence of fatty acids in it, it's structurally a strong media. Shea butter has a melting point of 34 to 38 degrees Celsius. It means it is also solid at room temperature but as it does not contain medium-chain fatty acids in abundance as compared to Coconut oil, therefore it has more of a balmy and malleable texture at room temperature which makes it a better choice when it comes to easier skin application.
Use in Cooking
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, compiled with its medium chained fatty acid structure, it is a preferred alternative to saturated animal fats in cooking as it provides gut improving properties and is easily digestible. Shea butter despite being used in Africa for cooking, is not as widely accepted as a cooking fat medium or vegetable fat for culinary use in other parts of the world.
500 grams or 550 ml of organic, cold-pressed, and extra-virgin Coconut oil that is also USDA approved starts at $14 depending on the brand. Whereas, the best quality, responsibly sourced, organic, and fair-trade certified Shea butter such as that provided by Barakah starts at $21.59 for 500 grams. Shea butter is the more expensive option and a lot of it can be attributed to its responsible sourcing from Africa.
Which is the Better Moisturizer – Coconut Oil or Shea Butter?
Coconut oil or Shea butter, the question remains at which of them is a better moisturizer but unfortunately, the answer to this question is not that simple. Both that is Coconut oil and Shea butter provides great moisturizing properties and other skin benefits. While Coconut oil enjoys data popularity when it comes to anti-bacterial properties, Shea butter makes up for this with its anti-inflammation properties.
Given the benefits of Coconut oil, people among us with dry skin especially those suffering from eczema or extreme patchiness in winters would choose Coconut oil over Shea butter but what if they have sensitive skin that might be allergic to the heavy structure and greasiness of Coconut oil. In this case, of course, you would want to suggest Shea better to them because of its anti-inflammation nature that will help calm down the sensitivity of the skin and as it is quick-absorbing in comparison to Coconut oil, and does not leave behind a greasy, it would be preferred choice of those who are on the move and want a quick solution to dry elbows and a light edition to their daily skin.
Now talking about the fatty acid-based structure of Coconut oil which is comedogenic hence can block pores and cause acne, which of course makes it highly unsuitable for acne-prone skin. This is where Shea butter takes the lead as it is non-comedogenic in nature and therefore it can be used and enjoyed equally by people of all skin types. Lastly, comparing them in terms of their use in culinary situations, Coconut oil takes the lead due to its health benefits and ease digestive properties whereas Shea butter despite being used as a cooking oil alternative in different regions of Africa does not impart the same health benefits.
Both naturally occurring vegan fats provide numerous health and beauty benefits to us. The choice between the two solely depends on our personal needs and how appropriately one of these addresses them. Just like any other product, no matter how organic we would suggest that you consult your dermatologist before making any of these a part of your skincare routine and as far as the use in cooking is concerned, your General Physician should have the final opinion based on your health situation.