We came across a really interesting article on SheaButterLicious discussing the difference of yellow and white Shea Butter. Short, simple and to the point.
"I am often asked what is the difference between Yellow or White Shea Butter, which is better yata yata... First Shea butter comes in those small nuts and the color is an off white or beige or ivory kind of color. They parboil the shea nuts and then it goes to a milling process. You can actually search for videos of women making the Shea butter in a more detailed process (Google or Youtube). I am not going that far into the details just briefly to explain the yellow coloring. So the yellow and white come from the same Shea Nuts but are processed differently. For the yellow shea butter, a root from the borututu tree is added in the milling process, and gives it that turmeric yellow color. Some think palm oil is added to give it that yellow color but no palm oil is required to make yellow Shea butter, it goes through the same process as the white shea butter. Therefore they both have same qualities. FYI some African make a tea from the bark of the borututu tree that is said to help with liver functions.
So again, the yellow and white shea butter are from the same Karite Tree but are processed differently. The Karite tree is grown in Central and Western Africa. Some people confuse Kpangnan African Butter with Shea Butter because it is also yellow. You will find some vendors selling this butter under the name Yellow Shea Butter, most don't know the difference but some do, but will tell you it is the same because of the popularity of Shea Butter. Kpangyan Butter is grown in Central Togo and is used for skin care.
Now Shea Butter also has different grades, Grade A is usually referred as the white unrefined 100% Raw Shea Butter it can be consumed and used in the cosmetic arena. It contains more Shea nuts than grade B Shea butter. Now Grade B Shea butter comes in white and yellow but has *less Shea nuts ( I know kind of hard to explain), it actually seems softer than grade A. Grade B shea butter can not be used for consumption only in cosmetics. * I think the meaning of less nuts is that through the process the Shea Butter Nuts get smaller. So that is what's meant by it has less Shea butter. Remember they parboil the nuts, let them dry, sort them, mill them, boil them, cover and let them sit again, so as the process goes on the butter balls get smaller.( Sorry trying to explain as simple as possible.)
Refined Shea Butter - cleaned, bleached, and deorderized - can not be used in cold process soap but can is usually added to cosmetics such as lotions and creams.
Unrefined Shea Butter - as it is smells nutty and is off whitish, can be used in cosmetics and cold process soap.
There is even Organic Shea Butter, this where some might disagree with me which is fine, I think that's a bunch of Hooplah. If its is 100% Raw Shea Butter then it is just the same quality as Organic, it is the same Karite tree. I feel its just another reason to charge you extra money."