Is there a difference between oil, wax and shatter? While they’re all technically the same thing in a different package, here’s a complete breakdown on the difference between oil vs wax vs shatter.

What is oil?


Cannabis oils are made in a solvent extraction with butane or CO2. After extraction, you’re left with a cannabis oil that can be altered and transformed into many different types of concentrates. But at the end of the day, all cannabis extracts start as oils. Some cannabis oils are then distilled and sold as vape cartridges or made into edibles.

What is shatter?


Shatter is a solvent-based concentrate made with butane or CO2 in a closed-loop system. The butane evaporates out of the final product when the shatter is poured on a tray. As it hardens, the butane evaporates away leaving behind a translucent amber to yellow-colored product that can be broken like glass. Shatter may also be called pull-and-snap if it takes on a taffy-like texture at the end. Like wax, shatter starts out as cannabis oil. The main difference is that it is poured on a flat surface to harden.

What is wax? 


Wax is a solvent-based concentrate made very similarly to shatter using butane or CO2 in a closed-loop system. It’s made almost identical to shatter with the key difference being that the processor agitates the cannabis oil before purging the butane out of it. This agitating, whipping, or aerating before the final pour creates for a soft, opaque concentrate that comes in a variety of different textures and colors that are determined by how the strain will hold up to heat and moisture during the purging process. If it gets whipped, it’ll turn smooth and go by names like budder, batter or icing. If it’s aerated, it’ll harden and become crumble, sugar wax or honeycomb.

Wax vs oil vs shatter comparison 

How do you tell the difference between oil, shatter and wax if they’re all just different versions of cannabis oil? You’re going to look mostly at appearance and texture. You can also look at how they’re made and how they’re consumed. Below we’re breaking down all the key differences between the three.

Oil  Wax  Shatter 
  • Liquid oil ranging in shades from dark brown to golden yellow or clear. 
  • Usually found in the form of vape cartridges or liquid tinctures at the dispensary
  • Opaque cream to yellow in color 
  • Usually found in a glass concentrate container to seal in moisture and keep the texture intact. 
  • Translucent amber to light yellow in color
  • Often found in a thin sheet of parchment paper and brittle to the touch  
  • Thick, resinous oil
  • More liquid than solid  
  • Various consistencies from soft and scoopable (like yogurt) to soft and crumbly like (brown sugar)
  • Brittle 
  • Breaks into pieces 
  • In some cases it may pull and snap but shatter always has a breakable consistency
How they’re made 
  • Trim or flower is blasted with butane or other hydrocarbon gasses or CO2. 
  • Cannabinoids and terpenes are separated from plant materials during the extraction process. 
  • Once extraction is complete, oil is purged of residual solvents through evaporation. 
  • Some oils undergo the distilling process which removes all flavor and color from the oil to leave behind pure cannabinoids. Distillate is usually used to make edibles. 
  • Trim or flower is blasted with butane or other hydrocarbon gasses or CO2
  • The oil from the extraction is then either whipped/aerated under heat to create softer, cake-batter like waxes or it’s left to dry into a crumbly texture. 
  • As it dries, the leftover solvents and hydrocarbons are evaporated away. 
  • Trim or flower is blasted with butane or other hydrocarbon gasses or CO2
  • The oil from the extraction is laid out on a sheet to allow the butane to evaporate out of the concentrate 
  • It hardens as it dries and all remaining hydrocarbons evaporate away. 
How they’re consumed 
  • Vaporized in vape pens 
  • Distilled and made into edibles, tinctures, or topicals, then eaten or applied to skin
  • Dabbed 
  • Vaporized 
  • Dabbed 
  • Vaporized 
Other names 
  • BHO 
  • Cannabis oil 
  • THC/CBD oil 
  • Distillate 
  • Hash oil 
  • Honey oil 
  • Wax 
  • Crumble 
  • Budder 
  • Honeycomb
  • Sugar Wax 
  • Batter or icing 
  • BHO 
  • Pull and snap 
  • Glass 


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Ben Walker writes for Stoner Things, covering the cannabis culture from a unique perspective. He doesn't just offer insights into the world of weed, but also provides hands-on reviews and tutorials for the latest products. With a decade of experience spanning cultivation and market trends, Ben advocates for informed and responsible cannabis use. His work goes beyond navigating the ever-changing cannabis landscape; it's about education and community development done right, coming from a place of knowledge and respect. If you want to stay up-to-date with cannabis trends and learn from an experienced guide, Ben's work is an invaluable resource.


  1. I grew up in the S.F. Bay area back in the sixties, and have been smoking for a long time now. But my question is this: I see video’s of people smoking dope in this typical fashion where they are totally enveloped within this thick cloud of smoke, as a result of exhaling what seems to be a high percentage of that which they initially inhaled. Now, to me, this seems highly wasteful as I have always endeavored to hold in as much as I possibly could. However, I am in my seventies now, and have what is medically termed as the onset of C.O.P.D. and in my last Pulmonary Function Test I was only able to exhale about half of the volume (of air) that I was able to take in. They call that a pulmonary obstruction, and I was wondering if I somehow inadvertently caused that condition myself by holding in the vast majority of smoke, instead of exhaling the large volume which I observe all these other people exercising? Granted, I have always smoked tobacco, and I also spent a number of years as a wildland firefighter with the Forest Service. However, during that period of time (in 1988) I was selected for a position as a structural Firefighter, but failed the pulmonary function test (at 69%) and was subsequently not hired for the position.


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