Shea Butter or Butyrospermum Parkii as you might see it on some product labels, comes from the nut of the African Shea tree or Karite tree as it’s also known. African women have known about the magic of Shea Butter for thousands of years. They have harnessed its skin beautifying properties for a long time, but also used it to protect their skin from the elements and to heal various conditions. It can also make its way into cooking and other household duties.
For many women it is also their livelihood; Shea Butter is hand harvested and hand produced and there are many women’s co-operatives across Africa with this as their core. When choosing a Shea Butter or product with it in, make sure the butter has come from a Fairtrade source supporting these communities.
Like anything, the less it is tampered with, the better it is. Raw, organic and unrefined Shea Butter will contain the most nutrients. This is usually beige or ivory in colour with a yellow tint due to high levels of Vitamin E, it varies according to the harvest. The smell is unfortunately not to everyone’s taste and is often a reason for refinement. However if you choose a refined version make sure the refining has been through a physical process as opposed to chemical, which will use solvents (often Hexane) that can destroy all the goodness.
Shea Butter is a fat and is made up of five main fatty acids – palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic and arachidic. Stearic and oleic make up most of the composition and will determine the texture. High stearic acid gives the butter a solid consistency and the amount of oleic acid will decide how hard or soft. The ratio of these fats varies between trees and regions therefore Shea Butter can differ depending on where it was harvested.
This very skin-friendly fat is solid at room temperature but it starts to melt on contact with the skin and is readily absorbed, leaving no greasy residue at all. It has very high levels of Vitamin A making it wonderful for many skin conditions such as eczema, allergies and dermatitis. It can also be used for insect bites, sunburn and frost bite to name but a few – Shea Butter is one of those multi-tasking ingredients without a doubt.
Vitamin E is found in abundance too, giving Shea Butter antioxidant properties as well as being a key skin hydrator. It also contains a lot of Vitamin F which is great for skin rejuvenation. These three vitamins together make it brilliant for sun damaged skin and those exposed to pollution, that would be the majority of us then!
Shea Butter also contains other antioxidants that can help on this front too, making it an excellent tonic for any skin. Many people use it on its own for all of their skin concerns, however it blends exceptionally well with other natural ingredients such as cocoa butter and jojoba oil for example. AMAZING in a lip balm 🙂 You can find it in soooo many products on the market, all those brands know a good thing when they see it! As a butter ages the properties will start to diminish, it will still hydrate but will have lost a lot of its magic. Therefore try to use as fresh as possible, but that kind of goes without saying really – the fresher the better with anything really.
We LOVE shea butter here at The Lip Liberation; mixed into delicious blends but also on its own. We have a couple of pots scattered around of just pure organic shea to use whenever our skin needs it – which is currently a lot!
What do you think about Shea Butter – is it a staple in your skin routine?