Where does shea butter come from? The shea cow?
Shea Butter comes from the large brown seed of the fruit of the Shea tree, also known as the Karite tree. Karite or Shea trees are grown throughout West Africa.
What is so good about shea butter?
Shea butter is rich in Vitamins A, E & F and used primarily in skin care, lotions and creams, cosmetics and soaps.Shea Butter provides an effective barrier against damage caused to skin by sun, wind and cold weather. The moisture provided by Shea Butter allows dry skin to heal and retain it’s elasticity.
Shea butter has been traditionally used as a decongestant, an anti-inflammatory for sprains and arthritis, a lotion for hair and skin care, as cooking oil, and for lamp fuel. In much of Africa, shea butter is applied to the skin and hair as a moisturizer and is also a main ingredient in traditional black soaps.
Unrefined shea butter contains an abundance of healing ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins and a unique fatty acid profile, and is a superior active moisturizer. Unlike petroleum based moisturizers, shea butter actually restores the skin’s natural elasticity. In addition, shea butter has natural sunscreen properties and anti-inflammatory agents. Because of its amazing properties, shea butter is an excellent ingredient for soaps, lotions and creams. Perhaps it is most effective when applied to the skin in its pure state. Regular users of pure, unrefined shea butter notice softer, smoother, healthier skin. Shea butter has also been shown to help with skin conditions and ailments such as extreme dryness, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, skin allergies, fungal infections, blemishes, wrinkles, stretch marks, scars, scrapes, and more.
What is the difference between refined and unrefined shea butter?
Refined shea butter is white and odorless, the natural scent and color of natural shea butter has been removed.. In the process, the majority of the effective agents are also removed. In addition, refined shea butter has usually been extracted from the shea kernels with hexane or other petroleum solvents. The extracted oil is boiled to drive off the toxic solvents, and then refined, bleached, and deodorized, which involves heating it to over 400¡F and the use of harsh chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide. Shea butter extracted in this manner still contains some undesirable solvent residues, and its healing values are significantly reduced. Antioxidants or preservatives such as BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) or BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) may be added as well.
What does Fair Trade shea butter mean?
Unrefined shea butter is a valuable natural resource for West African and could be an important tool in empowering local communities. From Wikipedia: Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to exporters as well as higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, and gold. Fair trade is also associated with the trade justice movement, which advocates for fair trade public policies.
MORE Shea Butter Info
What is Shea Butter?
Shea Butter is only found in the tropics of Africa. It is extracted from the nuts of the Shea-Karite tree which begins to bear fruit after about 15 years; and can take up to 30 years to bear a quality crop of nuts with a high content of irremovable fatty acid. It is this fatty acid that gives Shea Butter its unique healing properties and makes it far superior to cocoa butter and other vegetable butters. Traditionally, Shea Butter was extracted by people who picked the nuts, cracked them, grilled them and pounded them. They were boiled in water for hours until the Shea Butter rose to the surface. It was then scooped into gourds and left to cool and set. Shea Butter is solid at room temperature although it quickly liquefies right around body temperature. This Shea Butter is called unrefined Shea Butter or raw Shea Butter. Since Shea Butter is an all natural product, it can vary widely in quality, appearance and smell depending on where it is produced from and how it is refined or extracted. Most Shea Butter comes from West Africa.
How Can I tell Good Shea Butter?
Pure Shea Butter can be found in three types of extractions. Also, recently, Shea Butter has begun to be graded.
• Raw or unrefined: extracted using water. The color ranges from like cream (similar to whipped butter) to grayish yellow. This is the original form of Shea Butter.
• Refined: is more highly processed. Has many of its natural components still intact.
• Highly refined or processed: solvents are used to increase the yield (hexane is an example). The color is pure white.
How should Shea Butter smell?
Shea Butter has a natural, nutty smell. Over time the smell of the Shea Butter will diminish. If an unrefined Shea Butter has almost no smell, it is probably getting old.
How do I store Shea Butter?
Shea Butter does not need to be refrigerated. However, over a period of two or three years, the Shea Butter will begin to lose some of its effectiveness. As the natural ingredients begin to break down, some of the healing benefits will be reduced, but the Shea Butter will continue to be an effective moisturizer. Store Shea Butter is a cool (not necessarily cold) place. If you’re going to use it within a couple of years, you should have no problems.
My Shea Butter melted
One of the great things about Shea Butter is its low melting point. When you apply it to your skin, it literally liquefies. However, one of the bad things about Shea Butter is its low melting point. It’s quite possible it will melt in a hot room. It may even be melted when it’s delivered to you in the summer months. If this happens, don’t worry. The Shea Butter is good. Just take the lid off of the container and set it in the refrigerator until it gets hard again. As it begins to cool, you might want to give it a stir to bring the olein (liquid parts) back into contact with the stearin (solid parts) so that the Shea Butter is uniform throughout.
What color should my Shea Butter be?
The color of unrefined Shea Butter depends on the Shea nuts used. Shea nuts will vary in color from almost white to yellow. Therefore, refined Shea Butter will vary in color. You will not be able to determine the authenticity or quality of Shea Butter based strictly on its color. There is even a naturally golden yellow colored Shea Butter. Shea Butter should never be green, extremely hard or greasy though. Most Shea Butter is a creamy color. Shea Butter that is pure, bright white is highly refined and may or may not have its healing properties intact depending on how it was refined. (note from Kathy: I use both colors, depending on the source and availability).
How can Shea Butter benefit me?
Shea Butter can provide relief from everything from just dry skin to many minor dermatological diseases (if you have a serious skin condition, you should see a doctor). It has been clinically shown to provide benefits.
Here are some of the benefits of Shea Butter for the skin:
• Daily skin moisturizer (face and body)
• Dry skin relief
• Dry scalp
• Skin rash- including diaper rash
• Skin peeling, after tanning
• Blemishes and wrinkles
• Itching skin due to dryness
• Shaving cream to reduce razor irritation
• Small skin wounds
• Skin cracks
• Soften tough skin on feet (especially heels)
• Stretch mark prevention during pregnancy
• Minor burns
• Sun and wind protection
• Even skin tone
• Reduce blemishes and scarring
• Eliminating scalp irritation from dryness or chemical processing
• Preventing bumps after shaving
• Reducing acne
• Absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue
• Helps restore elasticity to skin
• Restores luster to hair
How does Shea Butter benefit my skin?
Shea Butter nourishes the skin with Vitamins A, E and F. Vitamins A and E help maintain the skin and keep it clear and healthy. They are particularly helpful for sun damaged skin. They help prevent premature wrinkles and facial lines. Vitamin F acts as a skin protector and rejuvenator. It soothes rough, dry or chapped skin and helps soften dry or damaged hair. Shea Butter is high in unsaponifiables (a type of fat). Shea Butter has between 7-12% unsaponifiables. For comparison, avocado oil, a well known skin conditioner, has between 2-6%. This high level of unsaponifiables is one of the properties that makes Shea Butter so invaluable in treating the conditions listed above. Also, Shea Butter easily penetrates the skin allowing the skin to breathe and not clogging pores. Shea Butter has a high level of cinnamic acid, a natural sun screen. So, it provides some degree of protection from the sun. Shea Butter is also anti-inflammatory making it useful in treating rheumatism.
Is all Shea Butter the same?
All Shea Butter is not the same. Shea Butter loses some of its healing properties as it sits on the shelf, so very old Shea Butter is not as beneficial. Refining techniques will vary. Highly processed Shea Butter will not be as effective. Sometimes Shea Butter is mixed with other ingredients that reduce its benefits. Then, there are those products that add very little Shea Butter but prominently display “Shea Butter” on the label. While Shea Butter is not very expensive, you should be aware of products that claim to provide the benefits of Shea Butter and sell for very low prices. Many manufacturers are taking advantage of the Shea Butter buzz by adding a little Shea Butter to a very inexpensive product implying you can get the benefits of Shea Butter in their product. (note from Kathy: our nose butter is approximately 98-99% shea butter!)
What can I tell by looking at the label?
Ingredients on the label should be listed in the order from the ingredient that is the most to the least. Therefore, you should look for Shea Butter products that list Shea Butter early on the list of ingredients. You should know the ingredients before you buy any Shea Butter product and should buy from a reputable source. The more Shea Butter in a product, the greater the likelihood, you will receive the full benefits of Shea Butter.
What’s the difference between raw Shea butter, refined Shea butter and highly refined Shea Butter?
The differences between raw, refined and highly refined Shea Butter lie in how the Shea Butter is extracted from the nut and how it is processed after that. Manual extraction processes leave more of the raw ingredients in the Shea Butter. After it is extracted, it can be further refined removing color and impurities that some people don’t like. This further refining can also remove some of the smell. You can think of the difference between raw Shea Butter and refined Shea Butter as being similar to the difference between wheat bread and white bread. Truly raw Shea Butter can even be unfiltered. That is one end of the spectrum. On the other end, there is Shea Butter that is extracted using chemicals that is pure white, has no smell and has lost a lot of its healing properties in the process. (note from Kathy: I use only raw or unrefined shea butter. Period.)
Do I want raw Shea Butter or Refined Shea Butter?
This is really a matter of preference. I prefer raw Shea Butter. Unless you do not like the smell of Shea Butter, we recommend you go with raw. The more the Shea Butter is processed, the higher the chance some of the “good stuff” is going to be removed. Certainly, none of the healing or moisturizing properties of Shea Butter are enhanced by the further processing to make it white and odorless. If you do not like the smell of Shea Butter, try to get refined Shea Butter that is refined without the use of solvents.
Information from Treasured Locks.