Shea Butter is an ivory yellow colored natural substance, widely used as a skin moisturizer. It’s extracted from the seeds of the African Shea tree, which typically bears quality crop nuts after about 15 to 25 years. Shea butter contains fatty acids which enhance its exceptional healing and moisturizing properties. It also stimulates the skins renewal process, providing a more youthful and vibrant appearance.
Shea butter is edible and may be used in food preparation, or sometimes in the chocolate industry as a substitute for cocoa butter. Traditionally, Shea Butter was extracted by farmers who pick the nuts, crack, grill and pound them. The nuts are then boiled in water for several hours, until the Shea Butter rises to the surface. This raw, unrefined product is then scooped into gourds and left to cool and set. Although Shea Butter is solid at room temperature, it quickly liquefies right around body temperature. Since Shea Butter is an all natural product, it can vary widely in quality, appearance and smell depending on where it is produced from and how it is extracted and refined.
Pure Shea Butter can be found in three types of extractions. Also, recently, Shea Butter has begun to be graded.
Raw or unrefined-extracted using water. The color ranges from like cream (similar to whipped butter) to grayish yellow. This is the original form of Shea Butter. Refined- is more highly processed. Have many of its natural components still intact. Highly refined or processed- solvents are used to increase the yield (hexane is an example). The color is pure white.
The color of unrefined Shea Butter depends on the Shea nuts used. Shea nuts will vary in color from almost white to yellow. Therefore, refined Shea Butter will vary in color. You will not be able to determine the authenticity or quality of Shea Butter based strictly on its color. There is even a naturally golden yellow colored Shea Butter. Shea Butter should never be extremely hard or greasy though. Most Shea Butter is a creamy color. Shea Butter that is pure white is highly refined and may or may not have its healing properties intact depending on how it was refined.
Shea butter is mainly used in cosmetics, such as lip gloss moisturizer creams and emulsions, and hair conditioners for dry and brittle hair. It is also used by soap makers, typically in small amounts (5-7% of the oils in the recipe), because of its property of leaving a small amount of oil in the soap.
Butter nourishes the skin with Vitamins A, E and F. Vitamins A and E help maintain the skin and keep it clear and healthy. They are particularly helpful for sun damaged skin. They help prevent premature wrinkles and facial lines. Vitamin F acts as a skin protector and rejuvenator. It soothes rough, dry or chapped skin and helps soften dry or damaged hair. Shea Butter is high in unsaponifiables (a type of fat). Shea Butter has between 7-12% unsaponifiables. For comparison, avocado oil, a well known skin conditioner, has between 2-6%. This high level of unsaponifiables is one of the properties that makes Shea Butter so invaluable in treating the conditions listed above. Also, Shea Butter easily penetrates the skin allowing the skin to breathe and not clogging pores. Shea Butter has a high level of cinnamic acid, a natural sun screen. So, it provides some degree of protection from the sun. Shea Butter is also anti-inflammatory making it useful in treating rheumatism.
Shea Butter provides moisture to dry or damaged hair from the roots to the very tips, repairing and protecting against weather damage, dryness and brittleness. It also absorbs quickly and completely into the scalp to rehydrate without clogging pores.
It is particularly beneficial for processed and heat-treated hair. It is an excellent treatment for dry scalp. It restores luster to damaged hair.