What Is It?
Shea Butter is a fatty extract from the shea nuts which is found in the shea fruit produced by the shea (karate) tree. Shea trees grow naturally in the dry Savannah region of West Africa, and the area of Northern Uganda, and Southern Sudan. A tree produces its first fruit when it’s about 20 years old, and reaches its full production at about 45 years old. The tree can produce fruit for up to 200 years before reaching maturity! Shea fruit has a very sweet taste and is edible. After eating the fruit, a shea nut in a shell is obtained.
Did you Know? Shea is known as the “women’s gold” in West Africa, because it’s processing provides economic opportunities for women and girls, while helping to protect the environment!
How Is It Made?
The first step in making shea butter is to crack the shell by hand in order to release the shea nut. The second step is to wash the nuts, and leave them to dry in order to remove the moisture. The third step is to pound the nuts, and crush them into small pieces. The forth step is to roast the small pieces, and transform them into a paste with a dark chocolate color. The fifth step is to add water to the paste, and whip it, so it will mix well. The sixth step is purifying the paste by washing it over and over with distilled water. The seventh step is to heat the purified paste over fire, so the fats rise to the top, and the oil settles at the bottom. The final step is to skim off the fat and let the oil settle at the bottom. The oil becomes hard and is then used as Shea butter.
Shea butter is rich in fatty acids such as Oleic (Monounsaturated - Omega 9), Stearic (Saturated) & Linoleic (Polyunsaturated - Omega 6). Therefore, it is also a great source of fat- soluble vitamins! Vitamin A has exceptional skin healing qualities, while Vitamin E works as a powerful antioxidant to fight free radical damage. It also contains the anti-inflammatory substance, Cinnamic Acid! One of the interesting things about Shea butter is that its chemical composition may vary depending on where it comes from.
When applied topically, shea butter has restorative properties. It is quickly absorbed by the skin and penetrates deeply. It works as a humectant, retaining and preserving moisture. It also acts as an emollient, providing softness and smoothness. Therefore, it is an extremely moisturizing, soothing and hydrating ingredient and works great for those with dry skin conditions!
It also helps with circulation in order to promote tissue cell regeneration and acts as a collagen production booster! It has been said to have anti-aging properties by helping to reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. It has also been shown to aid in numerous skin conditions such as blemishes, sunburn, diaper rash, cellulite, muscle fatigue, dermatitis, etc. Shea butter’s conditioning properties also work great on the scalp and hair to help moisturize and alleviate dandruff.
Shea butter is a key ingredient in natural beauty products and is typically used in cosmetics, moisturizers, salves, lotions, soaps, lip balms, shaving creams, hair conditioners, etc. Shea butter melts at body temperature and will become solid again when cool. To use, warm it up in your hands, then massage into skin or hair.
Shea butter is also edible and can be used in food as well. It can be found in certain grocery items as a cocoa butter substitute.
What To Look For
You can find shea butter at your local health food store. Look for organic, handmade, raw shea butter that is free from chemicals and artificial ingredients.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.