What exactly is Shea Butter?
Considered a sacred tree, the shea tree (Shea-Karite tree) grows naturally in the wild in the dry savannah belt of west Africa. Shea butter has been in existence for centuries and some believe that it was used by Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba. A centuries-old legend tells that Nefertiti had discovered a miraculous cream with which she could take care of her incredible beauty. This cream was made in Sub-Saharan Africa and even after thousands of years it continues to be used by women in the region.
Types of Shea Butter
Refined shea butter process is used in large plants by manufacturers, using chemicals such as hexane. These chemicals help break open the seeds and speed the process of separating the fat (or butter) from the whole of the nut. These chemicals usually remove any odor and make it smooth, which allows manufacturers to add perfumes and preservatives. All the chemicals will affect the quality and beneficial properties of the butter, making it less reliable.
Unrefined shea butter is mostly removed from the seeds by hand using a time-consuming process. Workers gather the seeds and then boil them. After this, the nuts are crushed by hand so that they can be slowly roasted into the butter. Boiling the seeds makes the shells easier to remove. Any bits of broken shell are removed so that the inner seed can be beaten along with water and then boiled again to extract the fat. As the fat cools, it’s whipped to make it smoother and a usable product. Raw shea butter may have flecks of impurities as raw shea butter isn’t usually passed through cheesecloth or commercial strainers. It may eventually be filtered through cheesecloth, or another means, as long as the quality isn’t affected.
Shea butter is considered a skin superfood as it is rich in precious constituents such as unsaturated fats with a large proportion of non-saponifiable components, essential fatty acids, vitamins E and D, phytosterols, provitamin A and allantoin when extracted from the nuts of the Shea tree (Karite). It gets absorbed quickly into the skin as it melts at body temperature.
Shea Butter Benefits
Shea Butter as a lot of vitamins A and E, making it an excellent moisturizer to moisturize your skin. Thus, it can be used as a natural conditioner. It is highly effective in locking in moisture, without leaving the skin greasy.
Several derivatives of cinnamic acid that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties are presented in shea butter. Research has proved that in addition to its anti-inflammatory benefits, lupeol cinnamate found in shea butter prevents the development of tumors. Its anti-inflammatory properties render it beneficial for the improvement of skin conditions.
Rich in antioxidants
It contains plant antioxidants, such as vitamins A and E, as well as catechin. The vitamins A and E protect the cells from free radicals and environmental damage. The cinnamic acid esters in the shea fat help in preventing skin damage from ultraviolet radiation.
Shea butter acts as a natural sunscreen, containing natural SPF, providing protection against the ultraviolet radiations of the sun, though the level of protection offered may be variable. Shea butter is considered as the best skin care for winter and after-sun care as it provides the extra moisture, nutrients and protection needed by your skin during the cold season and summer.
It has amazing healing properties, being often used as a base in medicinal ointments due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used since ages for the treatment of scars, eczema, blemishes, skin discolorations, chapped lips, stretch marks, dark spots, and in reducing the irritation caused by psoriasis. Due to its high content of vitamin A, it is effective in promoting healing and disinfection, and soothes skin allergies like poison ivy and insect bites. Vitamin F acts as a rejuvenator for soothing and healing rough and chapped skin.
Restores skin’s elasticity
The application of shea butter restores the elasticity of the skin and helps maintain an even skin tone, besides hydrating, softening and beautifying it, due to the presence of non-saponfiable matter and vitamin F, being vital ingredients to maintain the skin’s elasticity,
With a long term use, many people report skin softening and strengthening as well as wrinkle reduction. This is due to oleic, stearic, palmitic and linolenic acids presented in shea butter, which help to protect and nourish the skin to prevent drying and aids in the skin’s natural collagen.
What Kind of Shea Butter is Best?
Raw, unrefined, Grade A Shea butter would be the best on to use. There are many refined Shea butters that are odor free and bleached to be completely white, but the refining process removes some of the beneficial properties.
TIP: If you get unrefined shea butter, that means it has not been filtered and may contain trace particles of the shea nut. Our advise is to gently heat it until it just melts and then pour through a cheesecloth or strainer to remove any particles.
Shea butter is for external use only. Ask a doctor dermatologist before using, especially with underlying skin conditions. Those with nut allergies should avoid or check with an allergist.