Does Shea Butter Go Bad? [7 Helpful Tips To Make it Last]

Over the years I’ve produced thousands of products made with shea butter directly from our factory based in Essan, Africa, and often get asked the question, "Does Shea Butter Go Bad?" from our customers looking to store large amounts of shea butter for an extended period of time.

As a general rule, raw shea butter will go bad 24 months after it's manufactured. However, "Refined" shea butter can last significantly longer, but lacks many of the benefits from raw shea butter. Not storing shea butter correctly can cause it to expire at a much faster rate.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the lifespan of shea butter is no exception. However, there are a few things you should know.  

Below I'll tell you everything you need to know to keep your and your family safe from expired shea butter and some great tips on how to extend your butter's life span.

How Long Does it Take for Shea Butter to Expire?

Type of Shea Butter

Time until expiration

Raw Shea Butter

24 Months

Refined Shea Butter

37+ Months

Above is a quick reference guide for how long you can expect the 2 main types of shea butter to last before they expire.

Being able to identify when your shea butter is past its due date is important, and knowing what kind of shea butter you are working with can help you understand how long it will last. 

My recommendation between the 2 main types of shea butter you will come across is to always go for raw shea butter whenever you have the opportunity. For shea butter-based products, check to make sure they use raw/unrefined shea butter as apposed to refined shea butter. 

Avoid products that contain refined shea butter that go through a bleaching process. Yes, it will last longer, but it has also been stripped of almost everything that makes shea butter good for you.

Topical mixtures containing expired shea butter will be void of natural vitamins and lack the powerful moisturising properties you've come to expect from shea butter - In fact, rancid butter could end up harming your skin!  


How To Tell If Shea Butter Has Gone Bad?

If you find yourself in a situation where you can't remember when you purchased your shea butter product and don't see an expiration date on the packaging - don't worry, there is still hope. 

The smell. 

100% natural shea butter has an earthy aroma. Users of pure shea butter often described it as having a somewhat 'nutty' or 'smoky' scent.

Although the smell of raw shea butter can sometimes be a point of contention, leading people to mix in natural oils to alter the scent of their shea butter, your shea butter should never smell rancid in whatever form it is in. 

By the word "rancid" I am specifically referring to an odor similar to: 

  • Bad Olive Oil
  • Rotten Food
  • Vinegar

If your shea butter has already been infused with other scented oils, the odors to watch out for will be slightly different from what I have mentioned above.

However, the odor of spoiled shea butter will be similar enough that you should still be able to identify when your butter has expired. 

If you find your shea butter giving off any of these types of smells or similar, avoid applying it to your skin. 

The oxidation of oils present within expired shea butter will not only reduce the positive benefits we typically associate with shea butter, but the alteration of these molecules could also damage your skin.


Where To Store Shea Butter To Avoid Early Expiration?

Exposure to sunlight and high temperatures are the 2 main factors that determine the shelf life of shea butter and how quickly it expires. 

The best advice that you should adhere to when storing shea butter is: keep your shea butter in a cool and dark place. 

When shea butter is exposed to the sun's rays for long periods of time, it starts and rapidly increases the rate of oxidation within the butter. 

Likewise, constantly exposing the same shea butter to high heat can speed up the process of your shea butter expiring.

This is why it is recommended to not store your shea butter products next to outdoor windows or heating appliances, which may expose your shea butter to unnecessary sunlight or high temperatures. 


7 Tips To Keep Your Shea Butter From Expiring. 

Among organic moisturizing ingredients, shea butter has an impressive shelf life due to a large number of fatty acids and antioxidants naturally present with shea butter. Vitamin A, C, and E are all contained within shea butter and act as natural preservatives

Meaning if you take proper care of shea butter you rarely have to worry about it expiring on you before you are ready to use it. 

To help you keep your shea butter from going bad, I've listed a few tips you should keep in mind in order to extend the life of your shea butter as long as possible. 

1. Clean Your Hands Before Using Shea Butter

Before reaching for your shea butter it's always a good idea to rid your hand of any germs or bacteria that might be lingering on your fingertips.

Thoroughly cleaning your hands with soap beforehand can help to prevent germs from being left in shea butter containers and allowing bad bacteria to cultivate and causing your butter to go bad. 


2. Handle Shea Butter With Dry Hands 

Many of us get into the habit of applying our shea butter and moisturizing our skin right after a shower. While this is indeed a prime opportunity to moisturize your skin after stripping away natural oils with soap and shower gel, it's best to do so with dry hands. 

Take care to not allow water to enter into your shea butter container - even if it's just a small jar you keep in your bathroom. When we step out of the shower and place our wet hands directly into our shea butter, we invite bacteria and mold to start festering on our butter. 

As long as you dry off your hands before coming into contact with your butter, you can avoid compromising your favorite moisturizer which could make it rapidly spoil and expire


3. Use Ultraviolet Containers For Shea Butter.

It's recommended to buy shea butter products that come in Ultraviolet (UV) glass jars or containers that block the sun's rays.

UV jars help to protect your stored shea butter from prolonged exposure to the sun's rays to prevent oxidation from happening. 

This means that even if you choose not to keep your shea butter stored in a dark place, you can rest assured that the sunlight isn't causing your shea butter to expire at a faster rate. 


4. Use Air Tight Storage For Shea Butter 

In order to keep your shea butter fresher for longer, storing your butter in an airtight container is advised.

By reducing the amount of contact that your shea butter has with the air, you can greatly slow down the natural oxidation process when storing your butter in a dry and dark place. 

  • Glass Jars
  • Plastic Lid Containers
  • Food-grade Ziplock Bags

All of the above can be effective at keeping your shea butter from unnecessary oxidation and expiring quicker.

5. Use Glass Jars For Shea Butter. 

Although potentially not practical for those of us that are trying to store more than 300 grams of shea butter at a time, it's best to avoid plastic containers whenever possible.

Accidentally exposing a plastic shea butter container to excessive heat may cause chemicals in the plastics to leach into your shea butter. 

I have already mentioned that exposure to heat can reduce the shelf life of your butter, but on top of that, any harmful chemicals that make their way into shea butter from the plastic will also be absorbed by your skin.


6. Store Shea Butter In The Refrigerator. 

If you live in a country or area that regularly exceeds temperatures of 75°F (28.9°C) you may want to consider storing the majority of your shea butter in the refrigerator. 

Temperatures will often fluctuate between the day and the night, and your shea butter will go through a continuous process of melting and solidifying.

Excessive heat can lead to your shea butter expiring at a faster rate, but the repeated heating and cooling process may lead your shea butter to develop an unpleasant grainy texture. 

7. Buy Quality Shea Butter. 

Not all shea butter is created equally.

Where your shea butter is sourced from, and how it is handled will play a huge part in not only the quality of shea butter you receive, but also how long it will last before it expires. 

It's important to remember the majority of the world's shea butter is exported from Africa; a continent that is known for its heat and strong rays of sunlight - shea butter's worst enemy. 

Even the highest quality of shea butter can rapidly degenerate if it is miss-handled in those conditions, so it's important to buy your shea butter from a brand that directly sources their shea butter from Africa. 

Ideally, a brand that was both the vendor and the manufacturer would be best as they would have complete quality control of the supply chain of the shea butter you receive, and be able to ensure the quality of that shea butter themselves. 

Shea butter does expire, there is no getting around that, but it can last for a long time if handled properly.

It's important to remember that when you are looking to buy and store shea butter that you should store it in appropriate conditions to get the most out of it.

Our skin is the largest organ of our body, and it needs special care and attention. The problem is that most people aren't taught how to take proper care of their skin, which can result in dryness, itching, or rashes.

Even though there are many products on the market that claim to nourish your skin, they often contain ingredients such as parabens or mineral oil. These ingredients may be harmful to you and your family's sensitive skin.

Naturally Tribal Skincare was created with sensitive skin in mind. Our Body Foods have been specially formulated using Shea Butter to nourish, protect, and moisturise problematic skin without any of the harmful ingredients you might find in other body care brands. Our products are 100% natural making them perfect for use from birth all the way through adulthood!

Click here to learn more about Naturally Tribal Skincare and how we can help your skin.

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