Shea butter is a slightly yellowish or ivory coloured natural fat extracted from the seed of the African shea tree by crushing and boiling. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturiser and salve. The English name “shea” comes from sí, the tree’s name in the Bamana languages of Mali. The French name “karité” comes from ghariti, its equivalent in the Wolof language of Senegal.
Shea butter originates from the Karite Nut tree, also called the Mangifolia tree, found in the semi-arid savannahs of West and Central Africa. The Karite Nut tree, which can live for 300 years, is often dubbed the “tree of life” by African women who make this precious butter completely by hand.
Most parts of the Karite Nut tree have some practical use. The bark is an ingredient in traditional medicines against certain childhood illnesses and minor scrapes and cuts. The shell of the nuts can repel mosquitoes. Above all, because it is completely non-toxic and gentle, the fruity part of the nut, when crushed, yields a vegetable oil that can be used in soap-making, cooking, and skin and hair care.
The process of making shea butter is a long and arduous task for the women of Africa. The pits are first removed from the fruit, boiled, sun-dried and finally roasted. When the pits have been completely dehydrated, they are hand crushed. This laborious work takes the woman an average of 20 hours to produce 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of shea butter. Shea butter is now becoming one of the best selling and highly recommended skin care products around.
Skin care with shea butter …
Because of the softening, anti-drying and protective effects of shea butter, it is a favourite ingredient in soap, shampoos, lip balms, sun care products, hand creams, body massage products and anti-ageing creams.
- Shea butter is one of nature’s greatest moisturisers and has a vast number of proven healing properties.
- The high level of vegetable fats found in shea butter contribute to its ability to heal burns and to promote cell regeneration.
- It is commonly used in the treatment of eczema, rashes and severely dry skin.
- This all-natural product also contains cinnamic acid, which provides natural protection against the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
- The daily use of shea butter on the body and face reduces sun exposure, which can delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- It also acts as a natural barrier against the harsh elements and harmful chemical pollutants.
Unrefined shea butter is a valuable natural resource for Africa, a country classified as one of the poorest in the world, and is strengthening and building women’s economic security. Each year approximately 100,000 tons of shea butter and shea oil are exported from these African nations. By purchasing shea butter products, we are able to dramatically change the lives of entire rural communities in Africa with better housing, medical care, food and fresh water.