Shea butter is extracted from the seed of the African native shea tree or also called as Karite tree. This exclusive tree naturally grows in 19 nations which are connected by a common border. On certain occasion, this distribution is named the ‘African Shea belt’. This tree has the potential to grow up around 50 feet and can take anywhere between 40 to 50 years to mature and produce the nuts that are required to manufacture Shea butter. The tree got its name owing to its tremendous healing properties. Shea butter is slenderly ivory or yellowish in color, with smoky and nutty scented natural fat extracted from the seed. The primary elements of Shea butter are stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, etc. When Shea butter is in its unrefined and pure form, it is quite edible and has been in use for several centuries in Africa as cooking oil, for hairdressing, waterproofing, candle-making, and also has anti-inflammatory properties benefitting arthritis and sprains, and soothes dry skin. Study on Shea butter market states that this butter is naturally enriched with vitamins E, A, and F, and it renders UV protection with SPF of 6. The butter in its natural form gives the skin all the essential fatty acids and nutrients needs for the production of collagen. In the present world, Shea butter is used as a superior moisturizer with extreme healing properties for the skin. When the fresh butter is extracted, in its unrefined state itself is great to be directly applied onto the skin, without the need of any processing. However, manufacturers mix the unrefined version with several scented essential oils and other natural butters, to make it more appealing and convenient for application. Shea butter gets rapidly absorbed into the skin since the butter melts at body temperature.
How is Shea butter obtained?
Even now in the modern world, Shea butter is extracted manually by a fastidious tedious process which comprises of collection, cleaning and washing, separation, drying, and pounding of the dried nuts into a paste form. This fat and extremely rich paste is combined with water and stirred rigorously by hand to separate the butter which floats and arises to the top in a curd-like manner. The top layer is now collected and purified by melting and converting them into butter oil and later straining it out and is kept to cool. The final result is off-white, sometimes yellowish colored butter which may have brown colored specks if the filtering procedure is not thorough.
Shea Butter Benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory properties – A study done in 2010 has concluded that owing to the butter’s cinnamic acid and other properties, Shea butter was anti-inflammatory. One such element in specific, lupeol cinnamate, was found to decrease any kind of inflammation on the skin and also likely to assist in preventing mutation. This aspect makes it beneficial to individuals with acne.
- Skin smoothening – Because of stearic, oleic, linolenic, and palmitic acids present in the Shea butter, it helps in natural collagen production of the skin and protects and nourishes the skin from drying. With prolonged use, many individuals have experienced skin softening and strengthening along with visible decreases in wrinkles.
- Antioxidant abilities – Shea butter contains plant antioxidants, such as vitamins E and A, along with catechins. The vitamins E and A shield the cells from free radicals and surrounding environmental damage. The skin is protected from ultraviolet radiation by the cinnamic acid esters present in the shea fat.
- Moisturizing – Shea butter comprises of dense concentrations of natural fatty acids and vitamins, which makes it fabulously nourishing and moisturizing for the skin. Many people specifically use Shea butter to combat dry skin and shield the skin’s natural oils.