What is Shea Butter?
Have you ever wondered why African women have such smooth, beautiful, line free skin no matter their age?
The secret is shea butter, a cream colored fat derived from the nut of the African shea tree. For centuries, African women of all ages would gather around to pound the nuts (Vitellaria paradoxa) to extract the unrefined shea butter for beauty, medicinal as well as culinary purposes.
Now, many cosmetic companies use shea butter for their skin and body care products as well as lip balms.
Another word for shea butter is karité.
How is Shea Butter Made?
The extraction and refining process basically goes like this:
- Separating – When dried, the outer shell of the fruit is removed to reveal the nut inside.
- Crushing – The nuts are painstakingly crushed with pestles and mortars for hours to make the butter.
- Roasting – The heavy crushed ‘butter’ is then put into big roasting pots over open fires and stirred constantly to avoid burning.
- Grinding – After roasting, the butter is grind into a smoother paste adding small amounts of water.
- Kneading – The paste is then kneaded by hand to separate the oil from the water. The oil is in a curd like state and excess water needs to be squeezed out of it. Any remaining water is evaporated out when the butter is put over a slow fire to melt.
- Storing – The butter is then put into pots and placed in a cool place to harden.
Shea Butter for Skin Care
It also has anti aging properties and helps the skin to regenerate.
Luckily, we do not need to pound these nuts for hours on end to get the benefits of shea butter. There are many shea butter products in the market at the moment but our favorite by far are the skin and body care products made by the French company L’Occitane.
The two shea butter body products we love are from L’Occitane :
L’Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream – If you have dry skin that tends to crack and feel tight after a bath or shower, this ultra rich cream is the answer. With many other body creams we have tried, we found them either too greasy or not rich enough to maintain soft skin during a full day. This one goes on thick and creamy but without the greasy sticky feeling – a real must for all dry skin.
L’Occitane Shea Ultra Rich Body Scrub – Goes hand in hand with the ultra rich body lotion above. What better way to prepare your skin than to get rid of all the dead skin by giving it a gentle nourishing scrub, and then applying a soothing and nourishing layer of rich moisturizing cream?
Your skin will definitely thank you for it.
Shea butter can also be used for the face, hands and hair.