What is Shea Butter?
The Shea Tree (Butyrospermum Parkii)
The Shea harvest season begins in May. The Shea fruit (pictured below) in the below picture is still unripe. In a few weeks it will ripen into a sweet edible fruit. The seed inside the fruit contains the Shea nut and within the nut is the kernel. The Shea butter is extracted from the kernel. The fruit is tasty but a bit tart and loaded with Vitamin C. Potential for a fruit juice is high. Can be eaten raw but not used much because of other substitutes available locally.
Traditional Uses of Shea Butter
Before 100% Pure African Shea Butter was introduced to the world, it was used for many other purposes besides cosmetics. Traditional healers have used Shea Butter for centuries to treat their patients, birth mothers and infants, and for spiritual cleansing. Shea Butter is also used during certain traditional ceremonies to prepare certain dishes. Despite its popularity today, traditional uses of Shea Butter are being preserved because a vast number of people in Africa and elsewhere around the world are using African Shea Butter for its intended purposes.
Shea Butter Nutrients
Naturally rich in a number of vitamins, especially A, E, F and K of which are the most popular.
- Vitamin A has soothing and hydrating properties which provides healthy skin collagen in order to prevent premature wrinkles, premature facial lines and premature slackened skin.
- Vitamin E balances and normalizes the skin. Helps keep it clear and healthy, particularly beneficial for dry or sun-exposed skin.
- Vitamin F acts as a skin protector and revitalizer. It soothes rough dry or chapped skin on contact and helps soften and revitalize dry or damaged hair. Vitamin F consists of linolenic, and arachidonic acids, which are essential fatty acids.
- Vitamin K helps aging and damaged skin look younger and healthier. Vitamin K reduces severity of bruising, improved skin elasticity, and improves dark under-eye circles.
Shea Butter Today
Today, Shea Butter is acknowledged all over the world for its nourishing, enriching and toning properties for skin & hair. Like every good product, traditional African Shea Butter has been converted into refined, processed, industrialized, extra refined, as well as ultra refined. The commercial method of extracting Shea Butter has also added to the perplexity of Shea Butter.
Shea Butter is used as an ingredient in soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hair relaxers, lotions, hand & body creams etc... There is nothing wrong with using Shea Butter as an ingredient as long as it is Unrefined Shea Butter and not processed or refined. If Shea Butter is added to products and the portions are generous along with other natural and/or organic ingredients, the product is good. However, when the Shea Butter is not listed as a RAW ingredient, and is listed as one of the last ingredients, it is not worth buying. Unfortunately, many companies will use Shea Butter to market their products using scarce amounts of Shea Butter which may ultimately be refined and/or processed. Processing/refining Raw Shea Butter takes away it's natural healing properties. It is important to preserve the ancient methods of Shea Butter by using it in its RAW state rather than processed.
Shea Butter Benefits
- Helps cell regeneration and capillary circulation which favors the healing of small wounds, skin cracks and crevices, and restructuring effects on the epidermis.
- Soothes and reduces inflammatory scalp & skin irritations such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dermatitis, dermatoses, acne, rash, minor scrapes and burns.
- The anti-elastics characteristic penetrates deep into skin to help restore elasticity in stretch marks and scars.
- Evens skin tone by eliminating the dark spots caused by the harmful UV rays of the sun.
- Displays a protecting role against UV rays because of its content in cinnamic acid and can thus be incorporated in solar products, hence used as a natural sunscreen.
- Doesn't clog pores & block hair shaft, like various other petroleum based products.
- Moisturizes & protects skin & scalp, especially over processed & heat treated hair.
- Reduces inflammation for those who suffer from arthritis, tendonitis, rheumatism and aching muscles.
- Eases colds because it decongests nasal mucous tissues; therefore, it is safe to put in eyes, and nose.
Note: We highly recommend the ivory/almond pale to light grey ORIGINAL White/Ivory Shea Butter for those who suffer from Psoriasis, Eczema, and Rosacea. With the 20 years of experience that Organic Beauty has had with African Shea Butter, the ORIGINAL White/Ivory Shea Butter is what works best for people who suffer from these skin ailments.
Types of Shea Butter and Colors
UNREFINED Shea Butter COLOR ivory/almond pale to light grey. The color of Unrefined Shea Butter depends on the Shea Nut itself. Due to the nature of the nuts, the color of Unrefined Shea Butter may vary. Dark Yellow colored Shea Butter has a root extract added to it.Ivory White Shea butter is pure Shea butter, which is mostly used for cooking and total body care. The yellow butter becomes yellow because of the roots that are added during the butter extraction process, and is favored in the south of Ghana for the making of cosmetic products. Yellow butter is considered to be softer than white butter by several women traders. Lovett (2005) dictates that there is no difference in texture between the different colored butters when taken into labs for testing. The yellow color of the butter is said to make it more attractive for the use in skin products.
As far as properties & benefits are concerned, there is no difference between the various colors yielded in Unrefined Shea Butter. One cannot judge the quality and authenticity of Unrefined Shea Butter solely based on color, i.e., ivory/almond pale to light grey and/or natural yellow. Texture and quality is imperative when purchasing / using Shea Butter. Try not to base your knowledge of Shea Butter by color first. Look at quality, texture, and tune into your senses. It should have a natural semi-sweet nutty scent. It should not smell like an expired grease (lard).
REFINED and/or PROCESSED - Bleached, deodorized, refined. Hexane is used to extract more Shea Butter. Sometimes further processing is required to remove the hexane contaminated Shea Butter. Refined and/or processed Shea Butter is white (Do not confuse with ivory/almond to creamy beige, light grey cream). Usually in lotion bottles, shampoos, hand creams, etc... There are many beauty products processed using formaldehyde. Yes, you heard it right! Formaldehyde!
Processed -vs- Unprocessed Shea Butter
WHAT IS HEXANE? It is a toxic chemical produced in a petroleum refinery and is a by-product of gasoline. It is mainly used as a solvent to extract edible oils from seed and vegetable crops like soybeans, peanuts & corn.
WHAT IS FORMALDEHYDE? It is a simple chemical compound made of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, with the formula CH2O. All organic life forms--bacteria, plants, fish, animals and humans--make formaldehyde at various levels. Formaldehyde does not accumulate in the environment or within plants, animals or people, as metabolic processes quickly break it down in the body and the atmosphere. First used as a biological preservative more than a century ago, formaldehyde has since become an essential part of the production of hundreds of beneficial products that are used every day in homes and factories. Formaldehyde-based technologies are an important part of the U.S. economy, as they are used to produce a wide range of materials.
Click here to read about a study conducted this year by Canada’s Environmental Defense Group. The study shows that there is an alarming presence of dangerous substances found in cosmetic products and how they cause skin ailments such as rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, skin cancer, acne and various other health problems not related to skin, i.e., cancer, and various other diseases.
SHEA BUTTER TEXTURE
The texture of Shea Butter is smooth. Fresh Shea Butter is usually very soft. As the Shea Butter ages, it becomes stiffer but still smooth. Shea Butter is naturally thick and fatty (in a good way). A little goes a long way! Shea Butter is easily melted by the hot sun or any form of heat. This will make it liquefy. It will get back to its solid state once it is in a cool area and it will NOT lose its natural benefits, unless it it done on a repetitive basis. When Shea Butter is melted under direct heat or very high temperatures, the texture changes. It becomes grainy and never returns to its original texture; however, it is still usable. Some processed Shea Butters may have a gummy texture. to it. Other processed Shea Butters may have a petroleum jelly texture to it.
SHEA BUTTER SMELL
Shea Butter like all other natural products has a natural scent. These scents do not stink. The natural scent is usually stronger if the Shea Butter is fresh. As the Shea Butter gets older, the natural scent gets weaker; however, the benefits do not weaken. Shea Butter with no semi-sweet smoky smell is not Unrefined Shea Butter. Traditionally extracted or cold pressed Shea Butter will usually have a semi-sweet nutty and a slight smoky scent to it because it is prepared under an open fire. Once applied to skin or hair, there is no scent. Unrefined Shea Butter will not be fragranced. As far as properties & benefits are concerned, there is no difference between the various colors yielded in Unrefined Shea Butter.
This is another area of misunderstanding for some people. Unrefined Shea Butter DOES EXPIRE. It's healing properties are very powerful within the first year and a half. However, please keep in mind that the containment for which you store your Shea butter, must be compatible in order to preserve the valuable nutrients that Shea Butter offers. There is no need to store it in a freezer or refrigerator. Treat it like you treat your moisturizers and lotions. Keep it in a cool dry place. It should NEVER look MOLDY and it should ALWAYS have a fresh semi-sweet nutty scent.
DISCLAIMER: The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
- Lovett & Haq, 2000. Evidence for anthropique selection of the Shea nut tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). Agroforestry Systems 48: pp. 273–288.
- Lovett P.N., et al., 2005. Shea butter export guide, USAID WATH.
- Lovett P.N., 2004. The Shea butter value chain, Production, transformation and marketing in West Africa, WATH technical report no. 2.