Shea butter is one of my favorite ingredients for DIY skin care. It works well to soften, soothe and moisturize skin and is easy to work with as well. I always keep some shea butter nearby so I can whip up my favorite product when I run out.

However, this means that I have had to ask at times does shea butter go bad? Especially when I have found a container at the back of the cupboard that I had forgotten about.

While the quick answer to can raw shea butter go bad is yes, it’s important to understand why that is and how that works so you can quickly detect any problems with your shea butter and help stop your shea butter from going bad in the first place.

To help you do this, I have written this guide to everything you need to know to answer does raw shea butter go bad including how to tell when it has gone bad (or rancid), how long shea butter lasts and how to store shea butter for its maximum shelf life.

But first, let’s understand exactly what shea butter is.

Does Shea Butter Go Bad?

What Is Shea Butter?

Shea butter is a popular (and fantastic) ingredient in skin care and beauty, but what is it?

In basic terms, it’s fat extracted from nuts on a shea tree which are native to West Africa.

More specifically, shea trees produce fruit. Inside this fruit are seeds within shells which are removed and dried. At this point, shea butter can either be refined in factories or continue to be handmade.

In the handmade process, the seeds are ground into powder and then roasted. This roasted powder is then ground into a viscous substance.

Water is then kneaded into this substance and the substance is whipped while adding more water until the oils coagulate on top and the water is on the bottom.

The coagulated oil is taken out and boiled. Impurities rise to the top and are removed. The remaining shea butter is strained and then left to cool and solidify.

Shea butter is solid at room temperature and is usually an off-white or ivory color.

It’s easy to spread and has a cream-like consistency which is full of nutrients and fatty acids. These properties have ensured it has been used for centuries for soothing and moisturizing skin.

It’s been applied for acne, dry skin, burns, dandruff and more. It’s also used as fat in cooking in Africa but it’s not recommended to eat the product found in other countries.

Shea butter in bowl
Shea butter

Read more about how shea butter is made here.

Refined vs Unrefined Shea Butter

Two types of shea butter are often mentioned, refined and unrefined or raw shea butter.

The latter is the type of shea butter produced by the method above when chemicals aren’t used to create the shea butter. This is the best type of shea butter as it contains the most nutrients and benefits.

Refined shea butter is extracted with high-heat and solvents which destroys much of the nutrients and benefits of shea butter. It also removes color and odor.

Click here to buy shea butter now and click here for the full differences between refined and unrefined shea butter.

Does Shea Butter Go Bad?

So does shea butter expire?

Yes. Shea butter contains fats and oils so it can go rancid which is a process where the fats and oils decompose when exposed to air, light or moisture. It causes the shea butter to taste and smell bad and lose many of its benefits.

How long this takes depends on how well it is stored. Keep reading for how to stop bad shea butter.

How To Tell If Shea Butter Is Rancid

There are two things you can do to tell if your shea butter is bad. Basically, you should examine and smell your shea butter. If your shea butter is bad at any step along the way in this process, toss it out and don’t bother continuing to the next step.

Step 1: Examine The Shea Butter

Does it look its usual off-white/ivory color? If it’s discolored or has any mold then it’s time to toss your shea butter.

While shea butter won’t grow mold all by itself, this can happen if it comes into contact with water.

Step 2: Does Shea Butter Smell Bad?

Smelling your shea butter is the best test of whether your shea butter has expired.

If your shea butter smells bad, toss it out.

Note that shea butter naturally has a smoky and nutty smell so you should expect to smell this. What you are looking for when working out does shea butter spoil is a sour, vinegar or rotting food smell that makes you want to gag.

With this, I recommend trusting your gut. If it makes you feel bad at all, rather than think of a BBQ-like smell, throw out your shea butter.

How Long Does Shea Butter Last?

How long shea butter lasts depends on whether it is refined or unrefined/raw shea butter.

Generally, unrefined shea butter lasts about 24 months from manufacturing. Refined shea butter can last longer.

These general timeframes assume you store shea butter correctly as per guidelines below. The problem can be that you don’t know exactly how the shea butter was transported from its country of origin to you and how well it was stored during that process.

It’s also important to note that if you have unrefined shea butter, there is likely to be differences between how long each batch lasts because no two batches are exactly the same.

These timeframes are just guidelines and you should smell and examine your shea butter as instructed above if you are concerned it could be bad.

Type of Shea ButterShelf Life
Unrefined2 years
Refined3+ years

Keep in mind that while the shelf life of refined shea butter may make it seem attractive, it is just not the same quality as unrefined shea butter at all and isn’t recommended.

How To Store Shea Butter

Shea butter in an airtight container
Shea butter in an airtight container

Shea butter can deteriorate when it’s exposed to light, air and moisture so you should store your shea butter to stop this from happening.

The most important thing is to store your shea butter in an airtight container. This can be plastic or glass as long as it is airtight.

You should also store your shea butter in a dark, dry, cool pantry to help maximize its shelf life. Ideally, shea butter should be stored at less than 75 degrees F so if you live in warmer climates, consider keeping it in the refrigerator. In cooler climates, this is not necessary.

This is because at 75 degrees, the shea butter will start to melt and if it keeps melting and solidifying again, this will affect the quality of the shea butter and can lead to it being grainy.

It is possible to freeze shea butter but it’s not necessary since it will be fine stored in a cool environment.

Read my full guide for how to store shea butter here.


Shea butter is a popular and useful ingredient for skin and face care. While, unfortunately, the answer to can shea butter expire is yes, raw shea butter generally lasts for around two years so you have plenty of time to make use of your shea butter.

I have also explained to you how to store your shea butter to keep it good for as long as possible and how to tell if your shea butter expires.

Find more useful guides to using shea butter here and how to store shea butter here.


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