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Shea Butter

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Product Description

Shea Butter

Shea butter has become increasingly popular in the Western world over the past decades.  It’s superb moisturizing properties make it the perfect ingredient for many cosmetic products. 


Shea butter originates from the Shea tree (also called the karate tree) of western Africa.  The Shea tree grows wildly and begins to produce its fruit after growing for 10-15 years.  It continues to produces fruits for up to 200 years.  From that nut, an oil, which becomes Shea butter, is extracted.  African women extract the Shea butter through a long and arduous process.  First, the outer pulp is taken off of the fruit to reveal the nut.  Then the outer shell of the nut is cracked and the nut itself is crushed with mortars and pestles.  Next, the nuts are roasted in large pots while continuously being stirred to avoid burning.  Once the nuts are roasted, they are ground into a smoother paste through the addition of water.  Afterwards, the resulting paste is kneaded to separate the oils.  The oils become curds which are then boiled and melted to remove any excess waters.  Finally, the Shea butter, which has become creamy and has a yellowish tint is removed from the pots and moved to a cool place to allow it to harden. 

Shea butter is an important component of the western African economy; the local women harvest the fruits of the Shea tree and take it through the long extraction process.  This provides them with a desirable product to export and sell, as well as to use in their own homes.  In the past decade, cooperatives have been formed to ensure the African communities are fairly compensated for their work to create this popular product.


When broken down into its elements, Shea butter is comprised of six fatty acids: oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, linolenic acid and arachidic acid.

Different Types

There are two different types of Shea butter: refined and unrefined.   

Unrefined Shea butter is extracted through the process described above with nothing else added to it and no additional processing.  It has a nutty scent and a yellowish gray color.  Some people prefer unrefined Shea butter as it is said to have the highest content of vitamins and other active ingredients, however, its natural scent can be off-putting to some.

Refined Shea butter goes through additional processing after it is extracted to remove any impurities.  Following the initial extraction, the Shea butter goes through a filtering system.  Sometimes the odor is removed or it is bleached of its color.  Other times, preservatives may be added.  The level of refinement varies depending on how many filtrations it goes through.  Refined Shea butter is most frequently used in cosmetic products. 


Africans have been using Shea butter for centuries for cooking, cosmetic and health purposes. 

The African communities that harvest Shea butter often use it cooking oil or mix it into sauces.  It is a great source of fat in their daily diet.  It is also used in the production of chocolate in some European countries; it’s used as a substitute for cocoa butter.  As of May 2013, the United States has yet to approve it for use in American chocolates.

Shea butter is most frequently used for cosmetic purposes.  Shea butter is a well-known ingredient in products for skincare and hair care.  It is an excellent moisturizer and is found in many lotions and lip balms.  It has a high content of fatty acids, which helps retain the skin’s elasticity and moisture.  It also stimulates the production of collagen, which provides fantastic anti-aging qualities.  It is also used to help diminish the appearance of scars.  In hair care, it is a great product to moisturize and revitalize your hair.  Many conditioners and hair masks use Shea butter for its excellent hydration abilities.  Shea butter is also frequently used in soaps as a moisturizing agent. 

Medicinally, shea butter has a great variety of uses.  It is often rubbed inside the nostril to relieve sinuses and congestion.  It is used to soothe several skin conditions including sunburn, poison ivy, bug bites and other rashes.  Shea butter is even used to help with acne; it is known that acne is caused by pores clogged with sebum.  This sebum builds up and is produced in excess when the body does not feel moisturized.  Shea butter hydrates the skin well enough to stop the production of excess sebum.  It can also be used to diminish acne scarring.    



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