Shea Butter comes from the karité (which means “life”) tree in South Africa. It grows naturally in the grasslands of west and central Africa and does not need any special cultivation, nourishment or pesticides.
It takes at least 25 years for a shea tree to produce large number of fruit. About the size of a small avocado, the fruit of the karite trees are harvested and collected, usually by the women villagers. The fruit is eaten and the ‘nuts’ or seed kernals inside are saved for their creamy medicinal shea butter. Shea butter is one of the world’s most sustainable natural resource, using no chemicals; shea butter is extracted by a century old process to preserve all the beneficial properties.
Today, shea butter is acknowledged all over the world for its nourishing, enriching and toning properties for skin and hair. Unfortunately traditional African shea butter has been divided into refined, processed, industrialized, extra refined, ultra refined and a numerous other names. Actually there are only two categories of shea butter, ultra-refined and refined. Ultra-refined is usually white to cream colored, has no discernible nutty/smoky scent, and is smooth and creamy. Unrefined or raw shea butter simply means natural, or cold pressed, it means not processed and no chemicals. The difficulty with ultra or even refined shea butter is in knowing whether that product has been commercially refined to remove its minerals and vitamins with a hexane solvent.
One way to determine a shea butter’s authenticity is to see if it has been cold-pressed, sometimes called cold-processed or expeller-pressed. Refined shea butter, which ranges in color from white to beige, is sometimes referred to as gently refined, has had some of its vitamin/mineral properties removed in the process of refining, but it does retain a bit of a beige or light tan color and nutty aroma. The texture can be either creamy or chunky. The refining process chemically alters shea butter to remove the natural scent and color and ultimately destroys the diverse properties held in the natural state.
Shea butter can even be used on your hair. Here’s 3 ways how:
USE IT FOR: Soothing Your Scalp
Shea butter absorbs readily into the scalp and does not clog pores. Because of this, it’s great to use as a soothing treatment for dandruff and dry scalp. Whip it with some tea-tree oil, peppermint and lavender to make your own batch of scalp ointment that’s both therapeutic and effective.
USE IT FOR: Heat & Sun Protectant
Shea butter can act as low but effective SPF barrier between your curly strands and any heat element from your curling iron to the sun. Since it emulsifies quickly, and if you don’t use too much, there is no residue left on your hair and it melts into your hair quickly and effectively.
USE IT FOR: Moisturizing Your Hair
The ideal shea butter (unrefined) should feel creamy and smooth and be absorbed into