I always thought shea butter was yellow. In the local Korean and African beauty stores, shea butter is bright yellow in color with a strong smokey odor. I have been working on developing my own product line for almost a year now and during my journey of learning about different ingredients that benefit our hair, I discovered that the shea butter I used in my hair at the beginning of my hair growth journey was not shea butter at all. The yellow shea butter sold in many Korean and African hair stores in the U.S. which is also known as “Golden Shea Butter” is actually Kpangnan Butter or African Butter. This butter is from a completely different tree than the Shea tree. The African Butter tree grows in the dense forests along the rivers of Togo, whereas the Shea tree grows in the open Savannah. Kpangnan butter is a good butter, but it is better used on the skin rather than the hair. Its unsaponifiable value isn’t as high as shea butter, making shea butter a more appealing choice for use on the hair.
I also noticed that the kpangnan butter is a lot greasier, has a much stronger odor, and is more “gritty” than shea butter. Unrefined shea butter is slightly softer than cocoa butter, is ivory in color, and the odor is very faint. It absorbs easily and reminds me of cocoa butter some what.
Sometimes you may come across “actually” shea butter, which has been dyed yellow in color because some people prefer the yellow kind. The reason? Some people actually believe real shea butter is yellow(like I did) so merchants may dye it to make better sales. I for one would rather purchase the butter undyed or tampered with in anyway. That way I am sure that I am getting actual shea butter and not kpangnan butter.
Overall, both butters are beneficial to the hair and skin. It is really your decision on which you like best. Just know that when you walk into that beauty supply store looking for shea butter, you may not find it. Instead you will have a tub of kpangnan butter label as shea butter because most local merchants are ignorant to the fact of what they really have on their hands and don’t have time, let alone care to do their research.