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World's Best Natural Moisturiser : Shea Butter

From cosmetics to medicines, Shea butter is an inseparable constituent of most products around us. For centuries now, people across the world have been using Shea butter but have you ever wondered how this gift of nature originated? 

 

From its origins in the savannas of Africa to its multiple uses in the modern world, Shea butter has indeed come a long way. The story of Shea butter is one of hope, sustainability, and the joys of natural living. Are you ready to dive deep into this timeless saga?

What is Shea Butter?

You must have certainly heard of Shea butter. What is it really and what are its uses? Let us find out the miraculous health benefits of this wonder of nature. 

 

Africa’s Tree of Life: The Shea tree from Africa is also called the “Tree of Life”. 

 

  • It gets this name due to its ability to successfully heal several skin, hair, and health ailments. 
  • Since it has lots of moisturizing and conditioning properties, it is called the “natural conditioner” as well. 

 

Skin Superfood: The wonderful gift is obtained from the nuts of the Shea tree. 

 

  • Shea butter is often topically used and is considered a superfood for the skin. 
  • Shea butter is known to reduce dryness and fights other skin problems such as wrinkles, dark spots, stretch marks, and blemishes. 
  • Shea butter is also used as a medicine to treat skin irritation and is also known to be effective in treating acne. 
  • What’s more, Shea butter is also a great hair conditioner and will keep the scalp moisturized. 

 

It also clears the nasal tract by removing congestion. Raw Shea butter takes beautiful honey hues and is also highly prized for its numerous benefits. 

Shea Butter: Origins

Shea butter is obtained from the Shea tree, also called Vitellaria paradoxa. It is most commonly extracted in the form of fat from the nuts of this tree. The Shea tree grows in Africa and plays a critical role in the day-to-day affairs of many communities.

 

Regions Grown in: 

 

  • You will find the Shea tree growing in regions such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Sudan, to name just a few. 
  • In fact, the Shea tree gets its name from the Bambara term used in Mali. 
  • Since Shea butter supports the local economy for many African women, it is also called “Women’s Gold”. 
  • It is used to obtain access to education, food, and clothing as well. For centuries now, the tree has been considered sacred. 

 

Cultural Uses: 

 

  • The wood of the “Tree of Life” is termite-resistant and has been used to carve the final resting abodes of kings and noblemen. 
  • So important is the tree that it is prohibited to cut down a Shea tree in many regions in Africa considering the many health benefits it offers.
  • The use of Shea butter dates back to at least several hundred years. It was used in the hostile desert climate to keep the skin hydrated and fresh. 
  • It is said that the nuts were crushed and processed into butter that was then used for moisturizing the skin.
  • Shea butter was then used for treating insect bites, skin ulcers, rashes, and scaly skin. It is used to treat eczema and to remove redness on the face as it has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Historical References to Shea Butter

 

It is said that Shea butter was even used by the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. She was extremely fond of its moisturizing and hydrating properties and carried large jars of the butter everywhere she went. 

 

Recently, scientists found evidence of the use of Shea nuts in A.D. 100 as well which pushes back their antiquity a whole millennium. 

 

Culinary Uses: Shea butter has also been used in the culinary arts as well. It was routinely blended with spices to make drinks served on important occasions. It has been used in traditional African medicine because of its healing properties. 

 

Medicinal Uses: This miracle of nature was used to treat coughing, inflammation, and even diseases like leprosy. As an excellent wound-healing agent, it was used to promote the regeneration of skin and healing stretch marks.

 

Beneficial for Skin: Shea butter has also been used in soaps since it is said to keep skin diseases away. It is also used in making lamp oils and for making the roofs of houses weather-proof. Interestingly, Shea butter is also used to keep animals’ skin hydrated and safe.

 

Historically Traded in Markets: So valuable was this gem that it was an important item traded in the medieval ages. It was sold in European markets and in the African markets. Shea butter was traded as an oil. Even today, it is an important ingredient in many cosmetics and is used as a substitute for cocoa butter. 

The Different Types of Shea Butter

Shea butter can be used in either an unrefined form or a refined form. 

 

  • Unrefined Shea butter is unprocessed and does not have any chemicals added to it. 
  • Refined butter, on the other hand, has chemicals added to it. 

 

Refined Shea butter is added to soap and moisturizers. Shea butter has a smoky scent but when applied to the skin, it will quickly dissipate. When it is highly processed, it will have a very white appearance but is likely to have lost some of its benefits. 

 

Things to Remember: 

 

  • When purchasing Shea butter, you should check how it has been extracted and whether any chemical solvents have been used in the process. 
  • It is generally believed that raw Shea butter is more effective in treating skin disorders. 

 

Uses of Unrefined Shea Butter:

 

  • Unrefined Shea butter will melt soon after it comes in contact with the skin and is readily absorbed. 
  • It will hydrate the skin without making it oily. The best thing about Shea butter is that it is rapidly absorbed by the skin and does not clog the pores. 

 

Uses of Refined Shea Butter:

 

  • Refined Shea butter is easier to use and finds greater use in cosmetics. It is without any odor and comes in various forms. 
  • It will also remain quite consistent under a variety of environmental conditions in contrast to raw butter which undergoes changes.  



Important Historical Uses of Shea Butter

Did you know that the major Shea but exporting nations include Burkina Faso and Ghana? Shea butter which is extracted from these nuts is a powerful moisturizer that nourishes the hair from the root to the tip. It is also known to protect hair against brittleness and dryness.

 

Benefits for Hair: Shea butter also repairs damaged hair and is a powerful conditioner. Have you ever noticed how your hair get a little sticky after using a normal, chemical-based conditioner? Using Shea butter as a conditioner helps you get lustrous hair without any stickiness. 

 

Uses in Massage: It is also used in massage practices as it helps the skin remain elastic and supple. Shea butter helps the production of collagen, a protein that is helpful in maintaining healthy skin.  The natural elixir will also promote blood circulation and the regeneration of skin cells. 

 

Relieves Joint Pain: What’s more, it has been known for centuries how Shea butter can help eliminate joint and bone pain. 

 

Skin Benefits: Furthermore, Shea butter also fights bacteria that irritate the skin and cause acne. It will also clear the nasal chambers and form a barrier on the skin, protecting it from harmful agents.

 

Other Names: Shea butter is known by many names in Africa, the region where it originates. In the Hausa language, it is called Kadanya or Kade while it’s known as Ori in West African and Karité in Senegal’s Wolof language. 

 

Interesting Facts: 

 

  • Interestingly, “Karité” means “Tree of Life”, reminding us of the many health benefits of this wonderful tree. 
  • So varied are its uses that the butter has been used in making delicious local soups. It is also often blended with pepper and onion to make a condiment that enhanced the taste of the delicacies it is added to. 
  • Did you know that Shea butter has also been used as a substitute for Cocoa butter? 
  • Shea butter’s benefits for the skin cannot be overemphasized. In fact, a 1940 study found that the African individuals who regularly used Shea butter did not suffer from skin ailments as much as those who did not use it at all. 

The Constituents of Shea Butter

We will now discuss the main constituents of Shea butter which include Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Allantoin, Polyphenols, and Cinnamic Acid Esters. We will now take up each one of these in detail and see their health benefits. 

Oleic Acid

Let’s take up Oleic acid first which is one of the most important components of Shea butter. 

 

  • Oleic acid helps keep the skin soft, radiant, and supple. Oleic acid will also help reduce wrinkles and fine lines. It gets its name from the Latin “oleum” which means “oil”.
  • Oleic acid is one of the most common of the fatty acids that occur naturally. 
  • It also helps to drive greater hair growth and will keep your hair strong and nourished. It is also known to increase immunity levels and acts as an anti-aging agent reducing fine lines and wrinkles. 
  • It is also known to fight against stiffness, inflammation, and pain in the joins and possesses strong antioxidant properties. The acid also helps reduce dandruff and will keep your hair shining. 

Palmitic acid

Palmitic acid is known to render hair soft and smooth. 

 

  • The best part is that it acts without leaving any stickiness in the hair. 
  • It is considered to be the most common saturated fatty acid and has exceptional skin softening properties.
  • It is often used to hide blemishes in skincare products. 
  • Palmitic acid also has powerful antioxidant properties and will neutralize the damage caused by free radicals. 
  • It is naturally found in a number of dairy products including butter, milk, and cheese as well. 

Stearic acid

The third important component of Shea butter is stearic acid which is considered one of the best emulsifying agents that can bind oil and water well. 

 

  • It can thus help remove sweat, excess sebum, and dirt from the skin and hair. 
  • Stearic acid also acts as a conditioner for the hair and can help make them voluminous. 
  • It will also extend the shelf life of a product it is added to. 
  • Overall, stearic acid helps keep the skin healthy and is an extremely potent cleansing agent. 

Linoleic acid

Linoleic acid will help heal wounds faster. 

 

  • It is actually a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid and is known to promote healthy hair growth. It will also moisturize your hair and keep them hydrated. 
  • Linoleic acid is also used in soaps and oils that are quick-drying in nature as it is a powerful emulsifier. 
  • It is known to reduce the frequency of acne and will also heal those that are already present on the skin. 
  • It is a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent that will also lock moisture inside the hair and skin. 
  • If your skin is prone to acne, using a formulation based on linoleic acid is a great idea as it will thin down the consistency of an oil blend. 
  • Finally, Linoleic acid is known to heal skin problems such as dermatitis and eczema. It will also slow down the process of premature aging. 

Allantoin 

Allantoin is a powerful skin-soothing agent that can quickly heal skin irritation. 

 

  • It also helps the skin cells regenerate, fighting damage, and helping wounds heal faster. 
  • Allantoin keeps the skin tissues healthy and hydrated, making it a great moisturizer. 
  • It is gentle in its action and does not do further damage to irritated and sensitive skin which makes it ideal for such uses. 
  • Allantoin also keeps the skin soft in texture. It will boost the water content of skin tissues and is an integral component of anti-aging agents. 

Cinnamic Acid Esters

These esters are chemical compounds that can help cells regenerate, resulting in the skin staying fresh and rejuvenated at all times. 

 

  • They also help irritation, redness, and inflammation heal. 
  • Cinnamic Acid Esters have antioxidant properties as well. They also have antimicrobial properties. 
  • Furthermore, they have SPF abilities which means that the products containing these esters will function as natural sunscreens, blocking harmful UV rays.

 

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are known to act as skin-softening agents and have powerful antioxidants. 

 

  • They are also effective anti-aging compounds. 
  • Polyphenols can help protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation which can affect the skin adversely. 
  • Further, polyphenols are also great at boosting circulation and will promote oxygen transport to the skin. 
  • They also help cell regeneration and will make the skin elastic which results in healthy and beautiful skin. 
  • Polyphenols are effective in soothing the skin and will help repair damaged tissues. They also keep the skin hydrated and will bring lasting relief. 
  • Polyphenols also achieve balanced levels of oil production and open the pores of the skin.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A can help in boosting the production of collagen which keeps the skin healthy. 

 

  • Like polyphenols, it will minimize the damage caused by exposure to UV radiation. 
  • Vitamin A is also an anti-aging agent and will delay the signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.
  • It is great in catalyzing the healing of wounds and will help the skin cells regenerate quickly to keep the skin firm and strong. 
  • It is used to lighten the dark spots and blemishes on the skin and will thus provide a glow to the skin. 
  • Vitamin A is also an antibacterial agent and will rid the skin of toxins and bacteria. 
  • It is also known to increase immunity levels. Since vitamin A opens up the pores in the skin, it helps in reducing oil secretion and will thus prevent acne.

Uses of Shea Butter Constituents 

Shea butter packs in lots of vitamins A, F, and E as well. It is a skin-soothing agent that will keep the skin nourished. Shea butter is known to boost blood circulation and has powerful moisturizing abilities. 

For Your Skin

  • It is also a great anti-inflammatory agent and is commonly used in many skincare products to relieve dark spots, dryness, stretch marks, discoloration, wrinkles, and blemishes. 
  • Shea butter acts on the skin and prevents dryness from damaging the tissues. 
  • It also balances oil levels in the skin and will remove the clogging in skin pores too. When applied to the skin, Shea butter will immediately melt at body temperature and will be absorbed by the skin. It soothes both healthy and damaged skin. 
  • The Cinnamic acid present in Shea butter acts in the manner of sunscreen and protects the skin from the damaging effects of the sun. This natural sunscreen also fights skin diseases like eczema, acne, psoriasis, and rashes. 
  • A great thing about using Shea butter is that you can use it to treat skin ailments without encountering the side effects commonly associated with skincare treatments and chemicals. 
  • Shea butter is not just for healthy and damaged skin: it can be used even on sensitive skin.
  • It will also soothe sunburnt skin and will remove stretch marks and surgical scars. 

For Your Hair

  • Shea butter is an excellent hair health promoter as it nourishes the hair completely. 
  • It can reverse the damages that are caused by the environment. 
  • Shea butter will be readily absorbed by the scalp once it is applied. It does not leave any sticky residue. 
  • Since Shea butter does not leave any greasiness in the scalp, it does not cause dandruff, irritation, and itchiness which are common with some hair treatment methods and products. 

For Massage

  • Shea butter is a popular choice in massage therapies. 
  • This is because it is known to delay the signs of aging and it is immensely beneficial for the skin. 
  • What’s more, Shea butter will make the skin more elastic and supple. This is owing to the increased production of collagen through the use of Shea butter. 
  • It will promote the regeneration of skin cells and increase blood circulation. It has anti-inflammatory properties and thus eases joint pains. 

As a Sunscreen

  • Did you know that Shea butter is also used in medicines as an ointment to treat skin that has been damaged by exposure to UV rays? 
  • Shea butter creates a protective sheath on the skin that protects it from biting cold and harsh winds. 
  • Shea butter also acts against the bacteria present in the skin that are also responsible for causing acne. It can fight these germs and provide relief from sinusitis and congestion in the nasal cavity as well. 
  • Cinnamic acid present in Shea butter can provide relief from skin itchiness and rashes, scrapes, cuts, and allergies too. 
  • Shea butter can eliminate common skin discomfort and restores skin that has been damaged due to inflammation from rosacea and dermatitis.

Skin Benefits In a Nutshell

So, as you can see, Shea butter has many therapeutic uses owing to the anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-aging effects it possesses. Let us summarize these benefits here. 

 

Cosmetic Benefits: 

  • Anti-Aging nature
  • Skin hydration
  • Conditioning
  • Softening
  • Anti-inflammatory nature
  • Skin cell regeneration
  • Increasing Collagen production

 

Medicinal Benefits: 

  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Skin regeneration
  • Anti-microbial
  • Skin stimulating
  • Blood circulation promotion
  • Skin cell restoration

 

Harvesting Shea Butter

As we’ve seen before, Shea butter is extracted from the Shea tree nuts that are native to Africa’s savanna. From Senegal to Sudan, nearly 500 million Shea trees grow in the wild. 

 

Shea Trees: Owing to a variety of geographical and environmental reasons, efforts to cultivate the tree in other regions have been largely ineffective. 

 

  • The trees bear fruits that are large and green and look like plums. This happens when the tree reaches the age of 10-15 years. 
  • When the Shea tree reaches the age of 20-50 years, its fruit-bearing capacity is at the maximum. 
  • You will be surprised to know that the lifespan of the tree is up to 200 years until which time it continues to produce fruits! 
  • When do Shea trees blossom? This happens from late Winter to early Spring and occurs from February to March. In the months of summers, the green fruit will turn brown as it ripens. This typically happens from June to July. 

 

Collection of Fruits: Shea fruits are collected after they drop from the trees. This happens in September month. 

 

  • A natural, hand-picking based system is used for collecting the fruits in the harvest season. 
  • 30% of the nuts are allowed to stay on the ground so that they germinate and add nutrients to the soil. 
  • One Shea tree can yield nearly 20 kg of Shea fruits that, in turn, will produce 3-4 kg of dried kernels which comprise of nearly 42-48% of Shea butter (oil).

 

 

Shea Fruits: Taking A Closer Look

 

Shea fruits that are unripe have a greenish color in the outer skin which is called the epicarp. Thus epicarp helps to keep the mesocarp, also called the fleshy pulp, safe. The pulp contains the endocarp inside which is the Shea seed or nut. The nut contains the fatty white-colored kernel. 

 

Some Information About Kernels: 

 

  • These are usually either single, though Shea fruits can also have two kernels inside. 
  • Interestingly, some Shea fruits have also been known to contain three kernels. 
  • The kernels are rich in oil content and are edible. It is from these kernels that Shea butter is extracted. 

 

Thus, in a way, Shea butter is nothing but the vegetable fat extracted from the nuts. Wondering how the Shea tree continues to prosper in the wild? Well, natural agents such as the wind, animals, and people, of course, help the tree spread far and wide. 

 

How is Shea Butter Obtained From The Nuts? 

Shea butter is mainly extracted by women in African villages. We saw earlier why this product is thus called “Women’s Gold” owing to the fact that the livelihood of a number of women depends on Shea butter. 

 

We will now see the entire process used to extract Shea butter from the harvested nuts.  

Collection and Pulp Extraction

Several different processes are used to extract Shea butter from the nuts. These include the traditional processes as well as modern methods. Let’s see the process of Shea butter extraction. 

 

  • Collection: First, the Shea fruits that fall down from the trees are collected. Next, the pulp is removed soon after in the harvest zone itself. This is done because only the nuts need to be transported and the weight carried is greatly reduced. 
  • Processing: The butter is then processed in the co-op when the nuts arrive there. It is important to note that the fruits are used immediately after they fall down on the ground as they can gather mold if left there. 
  • Examination: The nuts are also thoroughly examined to ensure that there is no mold inside. They should also be intact. This is important as any nuts that are found to be damaged or cracked are not used. 
  • Alternative Products: However, while these nuts are not used for extracting Shea butter, they are not thrown away. Instead, they are used for making candles, soaps, and a variety of other products. 

 

Washing 

The nuts are taken to the cop-ops and they are then washed with water. 

 

  • Bleaching: A 5% bleach solution is also used at times. This is done to lower the contamination owing to microorganisms. 
  • Anti-microbial treatment: The washing process also keeps the nuts safe from yeast and mold which can otherwise damage the nuts. Thus, it is really important that the Shea nuts be properly cleaned before they are passed on further into the next production steps where they will be treated further.

 

Boiling 

The nuts are subjected to parboiling for some 30 minutes. This is done to simplify the process of removing the outer shells of the nuts. 

 

  • Boiling Time: However, particular attention must be given to the time for which this boiling takes place as a time longer than half an hour can have a detrimental effect on the nuts. The nuts can end up losing their oil content. 
  • Shell Removal: Boiling is also useful for one more reason apart from helping with shell removal. Boiling the nuts also neutralizes the germination of the embryos and will keep a check in the degradation of the butter. 
  • Drying: Once the boiling process has been completed, the nuts are then taken and laid out on a flat and clean surface which should also be dry. They are left to dry under the sun. 
  • Crushing: When the drying nuts making a rattling sound from within the shell, they are crushed with hands or pestles so that the shells can be removed. Each of the nuts can also be picked up and the shell removed. 

 

Further Selection of Nuts

 

Once the clean nuts have been shelled and sun-dried for one more time, the black nuts can then be removed. These are inferior in terms of quality. This way, the usable nuts can be separated from the others. They are then crushed using a pestle and mortar. 

Roasting 

 

  • The crushed nuts then undergo a roasting process for a time that can extend well up to 30 minutes. During this time, the entire mass is stirred continuously so as to prevent it from burning. 
  • But how does one know if the nuts have been heated well? The women use a simple but ingenious method to do this. They take a small lump and will sprinkle some water into the mass. If the water sizzles when added to the crushed nuts, this means that the crushed nuts are ready to move further in the production phases. 

 

Wet Milling 

Now, the next step involves wet milling the roasted mass of crushed nuts into a smooth and creamy brown-colored paste. 

 

  • Emulsification: The paste and water mix will undergo emulsification and result in a creamy substance that is obtained by beating and kneading by hand for some hours. Water is added slowly from time to time. 
  • Separation: The brown-colored paste comprises of emulsified oils that will come up on the top and begin floating on the water. They will form white clumps that are curd-like in appearance. They are separated and collected at this stage. Now, these oils are washed with water thoroughly as many as five times so as to sanitize them properly. 

Butter Oil Extraction

However, the emulsified oil is not used directly in the form of the white clumps. It is first melted into a liquid form by boiling. 

 

Butter Oil: This oil-like substance is called “butter oil”. It is subjected to purification. This is done by first removing any dark brown residue. 

 

Excess Water Removal: Boiling the clumps also has other advantages. For example, boiling the butter oil removes the excess water present in the butter. The steam generated helps with this process. 

 

Once this process is completed, pure Shea butter will begin floating on the top. It will be in liquid form, of course.

 

Shea Butter Extraction

 

The liquid Shea butter is skimmed on a continuous basis using a spoon. It is then added to a new container where it cools slowly. There is another alternative process that is also used. Once the Shea butter rises on top of the water, it is added into a bowl.

 

Filtering: This bowl is covered using a fabric filter. The filter will remove all sediments and residues, thus purifying the butter. The filtered liquid will now cool down and assume a hard form. The butter at this stage tends to be off-white or cream-colored. 

 

Packaging: The smooth and soft butter is scooped into a container and subsequently packaged. The color of Shea butter actually depends on how it is processed. It can vary from a whitish tone to a light greenish and even a yellowish shade.

 

Raw Shea Butter Extraction

Raw Shea butter is also called unrefined Shea butter and is typically yellowish. This is because the extraction process of such butter is simpler in comparison to the method we saw above. 

 

Cracking Method: In this case, the nuts are cracked after which they are grilled and pounded. The nuts are subsequently boiled until the time the butter floats on top. It is then skimmed and allowed to cool in containers. No extensive filtering occurs in this case. Since no proper filtering is conducted, the Shea butter that results will often have brownish specks. 

 

Shea butter is industrially processed using the cold pressing or solvent extraction method. However, the processing does not stop here. It might also be refined further and then deodorized. 

 

However, people increasingly prefer natural products with minimal processing. Thus, there is a preference for the traditional methods of Shea butter extraction. The efficiency of the extraction process may be enhanced by using motors to wet mill the paste. 

 

Cold Pressing: Hydraulic and mechanical presses are also used in order to extract more oil. Now, in the case of cold pressing, the Shea nuts are simply placed within a pressing machine which applies very high pressure and frictional force. This releases the oils.

 

The oil seeps through tiny openings at the barrel bottom. The important thing is the size of the openings: these are small so only the oil is collected, leaving the fiber in the barrel. The butter that is obtained through cold pressing is just like refined butter in terms of the color.

 

It is light and has a slight scent. However, the difference is that it has nearly all the nutrition intact since minimal processing has taken place with cold pressing. 

 

The Different Shea Butter Grades

Shea butter comes in several different varieties depending on how it has been extracted and processed. Each of these varieties has a different quality and exhibits different properties. Let us now examine all these grades to know them better.



Grade

Quality & Processing

Characteristics 

Grade A 

  • Raw: Grade A Shea butter is raw or of unrefined quality. 
  • Pure: This means that it is pure and is usually organic in nature. 
  • Natural: It is extracted from those trees that grow naturally. The extraction also uses only natural processes. 
  • Least processed: It is considered to be the least processed of all types of butters and is purest in its composition. 

  • Basic filtration: This does not mean that Grade A Shea butter has not been filtered at all. The butter is subjected to basic filtration processes that use cheesecloth or clays.

  • Sticks and bars: It is important to note that raw Shea butter is usually available for purchase in the market in the form of sticks or bars. 

  • Presence of Impurities: Since this is Shea butter in its raw form, it will have some impurities as well. These impurities manifest themselves in the form of brown-colored specks. The impurities occur as there is no processing involved in its extraction. The butter is simply extracted and packaged. 

  • Nutrition retained: The main benefit of raw Shea butter is that all nutritional goodness is retained. You’ll find that all naturally-occurring minerals, vitamins, and other agents are present as extraction is manual.

  • Now, raw or pure Shea butter can then be subjected to various forms of processing. This results in the production of the other forms of Shea butter. 

Extraction Process:

  • Extraction involves the use of water. 

  • The extraction process has only a small number of steps and there is practically no processing of any sort. 

Color and Appearance:

  • Grade A Shea butter is typically creamy to grayish-yellow in color. 

  • It can also be light green or rich honey. 

  • It looks just like whipped butter in appearance.

Aroma:

  • Raw Shea butter has a characteristic nutty scent. 

  • This scent is actually eliminated in the other grades during treatment. 

Benefits:

  • Raw Shea butter contains large quantities of vitamins A and E. 

  • What’s more, it has more antioxidants than green tea too, which is considered a great source of antioxidants. This makes raw Shea butter an incredibly beneficial wonder of nature.

  • It also contains as many as 6 essential fatty acids which are very beneficial for skin health as we just saw in one of the preceding sections. 

Grade B 

  • Refined variety
  • Processed
  • Most popular: Grade B Shea Butter is the refined variety and is the most popular variant used today. 

  • Involves Processing: This variety is obtained by processing raw Shea butter while taking enough care to ensure that the natural properties of Shea butter, which make it so useful, are retained as much as possible.

  • Reduced Nutrition: However, there’s no doubt that the natural properties of Shea butter are affected to a certain extent due to this processing. The nutritional value is definitely reduced to a degree. 

  • Deodorization: The production of grade B Shea butter also involves the process of deodorizing. 

  • Aeration: Deodorizing involves the removal of the characteristic nutty odor of naturally-occurring Shea butter. This is done through an aeration process. 

  • Use of Chemicals: At times, chemicals are also used. These chemicals have their own scents that they impart to the final product. 

  • Bleaching: In order to obtain refined Shea butter, natural Shea butter is also bleached. 

Extraction Process:


  • Raw Shea butter is extracted using intense heat. This heat is known to extend the shelf life of the final product. 

  • However, a negative effect of this heat is that the vitamins, essential fatty acids, proteins, and other nutrients that are found in natural raw Shea butter are removed.

  • During cold-pressing based extraction, the healing properties of Shea butter remain. However, the smoky scent of the Shea butter is removed. 

Color and Appearance:


  • Refined Shea butter has no color. 

  • It appears as a white or creamy yellow substance. 

  • As far as its texture is concerned, it can be hard and smooth, and at times, grainy.

Deodorization:

  • Refined Shea butter is typically odorless as a deodorizing process is applied in the extraction phase. 

  • However, at times, depending on the exact extraction mechanism, it has a roasted aroma. 



 

Grade

Quality & Processing

Characteristics

Grade C

  • Ultra-refined quality
  • Highly refined
  • Smooth: This variant is typically smooth, more so than the other varieties. 

  • Color: It is pure white in color.

  • Used in Cosmetics: Grade C Shea Butter is most commonly used in the manufacture of cosmetics.

  • Extraction: Ultra-refined Shea butter is made using solvent-based extraction.
  • Grade D

    Lowest grade with no contamination

    -

    Grade E

    Contaminants present

    -

     

    Everyday Uses of Shea Butter

    Shea Butter is a very popular skincare agent that has a vast number of uses in the cosmetics and medical sectors too. From balms, oils, creams, and lotions to soaps, lip balms, shampoos, and hair care products, it is used everywhere. 

     

    Making Natural Sunscreen Using Shea Butter

    Shea butter is known to keep the skin away from the harshness of wind, water, and the sun and will form a protective cloak on the skin. You can, in fact, make a powerful sunscreen using Shea butter. 

     

    • Just whip half a cup of Shea butter until the time it acquires a cream-like consistency and texture. 
    • Now, add one-third cup of coconut (carrier oil) to this and introduce about 15 drops of Carrot Seed essential oil. Add in about 40 drops of Myrrh essential oil. 
    • Keep whipping the mixture until you get a soft butter-like substance. It’ll be fluffy and smooth. 

     

    Your sunscreen is now ready. Simply apply it to your skin when you’re heading outside. The sunscreen will keep your skin soft and protected from sun exposure. 

    Making Natural Lip Balm Using Shea Butter

    Did you know that Shea butter is also an excellent conditioner which is why it is so commonly added to lip balms and other cosmetics? It can heal and hydrate chapped skin, eliminating cracks and peels that are the result of the skin being dry. 

     

    Let us now see an easy process for you to make Shea butter based lip balm easily at home using a great combination of essential oils. 

     

    • Melt about 2 tbsp of raw Shea Butter (unprocessed),1 tbsp of coconut oil, and 1 tbsp of beeswax in a double boiler. 
    • Let the mixture cool down and then add about 7 drops of peppermint essential oil and 7 drops of lavender essential oil. 
    • Blend them all thoroughly and add the mixture to a suitable container where it can set and solidify. 

     

    Your all-natural lip balm is now ready and you can apply it to soothe and heal dry lips anytime, anywhere. Best of all, it is 100% natural and without any harmful chemicals that are typically present in modern cosmetics you buy from supermarkets. 

    Preparing Fully Body Lotion Using Shea Butter

    You can also easily make a wonderful natural full body lotion using Shea butter. The lotion will be immensely useful in treating dry elbows, heels, and knees. Well, the great thing is that you need nothing to prepare as you already have the lotion ready: yes, we’re talking about Shea butter itself!

     

    You need not mix Shea butter with anything at all: just apply it directly to the dry areas of the body. You should use unrefined or raw Shea butter for this purpose. It can also be applied to insect bites, burns, rashes, and areas of the skin affected by frostbite and insect stings. 

     

    You can also use this natural ‘lotion’ to protect the skin from the sun’s harsh radiation and in treating fungal infections and acne. Shea butter can also be useful in treating peeling skin and stretch marks. 

    Shea Butter As A Natural Soap

    The uses of Shea butter don’t end here! You can use Shea butter as a soap too and get a super smooth shave. You could also apply it post-shaving to make the skin soft and smooth. Shea butter is also very effective in treating wrinkles and will reduce blemishes too.

    Making A Natural Scrub Using Shea Butter

    Let us now see how you can make a powerful exfoliating scrub using natural ingredients including Shea butter. 

     

    • Blend Shea butter with some coconut oil which will act as a carrier oil. 
    • Add in brown sugar. Now, your natural scrub is ready for use!

     

    Just apply this scrub to the skin with gentle circular movements. You will immediately feel relief: this scrub removes all dead skin tissues and will make your skin radiant and youthful. The perfect glow is yours without using any damaging chemicals! 

    Making A Homemade Hair Conditioner Using Shea Butter

    As we saw before, Shea butter is great for hair care. This is because Shea butter promotes high moisture levels in the scalp and will also promote hair growth. Those with a dry scalp will find it immensely useful. 

     

    Shea butter has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties that will eliminate irritation, itchiness, and dandruff as well. We will now learn how easy it is to make homemade hair conditioner using Shea butter. 

     

    This natural conditioner will hydrate your hair and prevent hair from looking dry and dull. 

    • Just warm Shea butter a little until it is liquid or soft enough. Apply it on your scalp (make sure it’s not too hot).
    • Rub properly and move your hands through your hair to apply the conditioner well. 
    • Wrap your hair with a towel. Let them remain so for some 20 minutes. 
    • Now, you can wash out the butter using your regular shampoo. You will notice that this makes your hair silkier, softer, and more voluminous than ever. 

     

    You can also blend Shea butter with essential and carrier oils to nourish your hair and scalp. 

     

    • Heat about 1 tbsp of unrefined Shea butter in a microwave oven for about 30 to 60 seconds.
    • Let the melted butter cool a little and then add some drops of lavender essential oil. 
    • This butter can now be applied to your scalp. Spread it along the length of the hair and leave it so for about half an hour.
    • Rinse using a shampoo that is gentle and mild. You will find that this hair mask will render your hair rejuvenated and make them thicker. 

     

    The great thing about this mask is that it packs in lots of powerful nutrients that fight hair damage and split ends. The mask will render hair follicles stronger and prevent hair loss.

     

    Making Natural Shea Butter-based Heat Protectant

    Shea butter is a powerful heat protectant agent owing to its constituents. You should try using Shea butter when you’ve exposed delicate hair to hair styling tools or UV radiation from the sun. 

     

    Let’s see how you can make a natural sealant to keep your hair shielded from harsh conditions. It will also act as a natural hair heat protectant and will be very beneficial during the winters. 

     

    • Melt Shea butter, blend a carrier oil with a high smoke point. Try using avocado or grapeseed oil. 
    • Use this mixture on your hair in small amounts when you expose them to heat. You could also use this when blow-drying or curling or using a hair iron. 

    Homemade Shea Butter Massage Balm 

    Shea butter will keep collagen production at optimal levels and thus maintain the elasticity of the skin. Thus, Shea butter is a great anti-aging solution and will fight wrinkles, without ever clogging the skin pores. 

     

    Let us now see how you can easily make a massage balm at home that will relax the body muscles and soothe aching joints and sprains. 

    • Melt about 1 cup of raw or unrefined Shea butter in a double boiler. 
    • Take the butter away from the heat and blend about ¼ cup of rosehip carrier oil and ¼ cup of jojoba oil. 
    • Blend the oils well with the Shea butter. Add this blend to a glass jar and let it solidify. Keep the jar inside a refrigerator to help cool it faster. 

     

    Thanks to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds present in Shea butter, it is an excellent pain-relieving agent.

    Shea Butter For Relief From Cold

    Did you know that Shea butter can help fight cold and flu? Just apply some Shea butter to the nose and you’ll see nasal inflammation disappearing in a few minutes. It will also hydrate your nose well. 

     

    Application of a little Shea butter to the base of one’s nostrils is a great way to eliminate congestion. 

    Using Shea Butter to Heal Wounds Faster

    Shea butter has great concentrations of vitamins and phytonutrients which help heal wounds and cuts faster. Apply Shea butter to wounds and abrasions regularly. It is easily absorbed by the skin and delivers nutrients deep into the tissues to help promote circulation. 

     

    You can also make a powerful ointment to heal wounds faster. 

    • Blend 2 tbsp raw Shea butter, 5 drops of tea tree essential oil, 1 tbsp aloe vera gel, 1 tsp lavender hydrosol, and 5 drops of lavender essential oil. 
    • Combine all ingredients well and form a smooth cream. Add this to salve tins and apply the ointment to wounds when needed.

    Getting to Know Shea Butter Varieties and Benefits

    Poya Brand Shea Butter 

    • It is cream-colored and remains solid at ambient temperature
    • It is a powerful natural moisturizer that nourishes the skin
    • It has a slight nutty aroma and a cream-like texture
    • Keeps skin moisture levels high and boosts elasticity
    • Rich source of essential fatty acids
    • It is readily absorbed by the skin and goes deep into the tissues, leaving them hydrated and soft
    • Best used as body butter and massage balm

    Crude Shea Butter (Ghana)

    • It is highly natural and is completely unprocessed and unrefined
    • It is known to contain sediments and impurities such as plant fibers
    • Has a characteristic pungent and nutty aroma 
    • It remains solid at ambient temperature
    • It has a hard texture which varies greatly 
    • Color varies and you’ll see gray-colored streaks and dark spots
    • Rich source of Omega-9, Vitamins A, E, magnesium, calcium, copper, catechins (antioxidant found in green tea as well), and iron
    • Heals burns, scars, bruises and is a great wrinkle reducer and lotion
    • Great for treating rashes, skin damage from the sun, razor bumps, and psoriasis
    • Natural SPF 6

    Refined and Deodorized Shea Butter (Ghana)

    • It has its color and nutrients removed to make it more usable in cosmetics
    • It has nil odor and an off-white color
    • Great moisturizer 
    • Remains solid at ambient temperature
    • Creamier than crude Shea butter

    Ultra-refined Shea Butter

    • Highly pure and refined
    • White color and with a smooth texture
    • Characteristic smell and very soft to touch
    • Less grainy than other varieties

    Organic & Crude Shea Butter (Ghana)

    • Great for use in cosmetics that are based on organic agents
    • Unprocessed, unrefined, and natural
    • Can contain sediment impurities such as plant fibers
    • Has a nutty and oily aroma which is similar to pure Ghana Shea Butter
    • Color can vary and is inconsistent with gray streaks
    • It has lots of Omega-9, Omega-6, Vitamins A and E, magnesium calcium, copper, iron, and catechins
    • Solid at ambient temperature
    • Hard texture
    • Heals scratches, scars, bruises, psoriasis, eczema, rashes, and rosacea
    • Natural SPF 6

    Organic & Refined Shea Butter (Ghana)

    • Off-white color
    • Refined and processed
    • Mild scent which is often pleasant
    • Solid at ambient temperature
    • Great moisturizer
    • Nutrients and color removed to make it suitable for use in cosmetics
    • Grainy texture that smoothens on heating and cooling

    Shea Butter Contraindications You Should Remember

    Remember that Shea butter is for external use only, as with other cosmetics. You should not be ingesting Shea butter. It is best to store it at a place where it cannot be accessed by children who might accidentally consume it. 

     

    It is best to conduct a patch test with Shea butter first on the inner arm or other insensitive skin areas using a little Shea butter to test for any sensitivities you might have. Wait for 48 hours and check for any allergic reactions. If there are none, it is safe to use on your skin.

     

    Those who are allergic to tree nuts can be allergic to Shea butter so it is best to avoid it. Remember to consult your doctor first for your individual case and only use Shea butter if advised. 

     

    Shea butter can cause some side effects which include itching, rashes, hives, dizziness, abdominal pain, and headaches. If you notice an allergic reaction, you should immediately stop using it and consult your doctor at once. Pregnant women should also consult their medical practitioner before using Shea butter.

     

    So, do you like Shea butter? How do you usually use it? What are your favorite Shea butter cosmetics? Please leave us your comments: we’re all ears! 

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