Often hailed as an elixir for skin health and pure beauty, shea butter is a staple in households around the world.
What is it?
In the simplest terms, shea butter is the fat of the shea nut. It has a creamy, thick texture, a light tan or yellow color, and a faint nutty scent.
Where does shea butter come from?
Shea butter comes from the nuts of the Karite Tree. This plant only grows in Africa, thriving in 19 contiguous countries that are collectively referred to as the Shea Belt. The nuts are a little larger than an almond are covered in a thick, smooth casing. First, the nuts must be cracked and crushed in order to expose their inner kernels. Next, the kernels are roasted, then ground until they form a thick, fatty paste. This substance is mixed with hot water and kneaded for hours, until the final product - the bona fide shea butter - rises to the top in curd form. After it cools, it has the same texture as you would expect from dairy butter after it’s been in the fridge.
The process is a long and complex one that has been finessed by time and tradition. In many African communities, shea butter is referred to as “women’s gold” because it has provided economic opportunities for generations.
Raw vs. refined shea butter
Raw shea butter has not been processed after the final cooling step and is completely unfiltered. As such, it has a slightly darker color and a subtly grainy texture. It also has a distinctive smoky scent, although the smell disappears after it has been applied to the skin, where it integrates with natural oils. Raw shea butter is has the highest concentrations of healthy vitamins and is free of perfumes, chemicals or bleaches.
Refined shea butter has gone through a filtration process. Typically, this means that the butter has been through a meshing system to remove the grainy texture; it is also often treated with deodorizers to remove the nutty, smoky scent. Bleach is applied to give the butter a white color. Although the final product looks more clean-cut, many of its important vitamins and nutrients are lost in the process.
Benefits of shea
Shea butter is loaded with Vitamins A and E. Vitamin E has a host of health benefits that range from cancer prevention to healthy skin to strong eyesight. A healthy dose of Vitamin A will boost your immune system, strengthen bones and improve skin quality. Combined, these two nutrients serve as a veritable elixir of overall good health. Shea butter is also loaded with antioxidant properties that reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, arthritis, stroke, and heart disease.
Thanks to a strong fatty acid content, shea butter helps the skin heal from wounds and other irritants. It also contains cinnamic acid, a substance that reduces inflammation.
For healthy skin
Shea butter is most famous for reducing the appearance of scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, and fine lines. As a natural emollient, boasts exceptional moisturizing properties that will hydrate skin without clogging pores.
Many people also turn to shea butter to get relief from skin irritations like eczema, acne, or sunburn. In addition, shea butter prevents skin from getting chapped during the winter months.
Using shea butter
There are a few ways to enjoy the benefits of shea butter. First, you can apply the substance directly to the skin as a moisturizer. Just remember that a little goes a long way; don’t use more than a dollop or your skin might take on an oily appearance. Some makers also add other natural ingredients, like coconut oil, to enhance the substance’s hydrating properties.
You can also use shea butter soaps to take advantage of its beneficial properties. Because shea butter is light and non-irritating, it’s ideally suited for everyday use.
Shea butter is safe for people of all ages. Parents can use it to give their babies relief from diaper rash; women can dab a little under their eyes as a natural makeup remover. Shea butter is often infused into lip balm to prevent chapping and is even integrated into conditioners to heal dry scalps.
If you’ve been looking for a natural way to keep your skin looking - and feeling! - healthy and luminous, shea butter is an ideal solution. Its mild qualities offer a supreme way to give your skin first-rate treatment... Naturally.