By Leah Fletcher
In the selection of beauty products, we are often advised to choose those containing Shea butter. Despite being familiar with its benefits, many know very little about Shea butter. For some, their knowledge is relegated to the memory of a pint-sized, plastic container, filled with a hard, yellow substance, often found on a vendor’s table at a local arts festival or flea market. For other, Shea butter is found in skin and hair products sold at hair salons or beauty supply outlets.
Shea Butter is derived from the nut of the Shea-Karite tree, which is only found in Africa. The nut is boiled to extract the oil, which is then refined into Shea butter. The liquid becomes hard at cooler temperatures and is the only ingredient in pure Shea butter. Some manufacturers use chemical processes to refine Shea butter, and some add other ingredients to alter the smell or color, making it lighter. However, pure Shea butter has a nutty aroma.
Today, African Shea butter has gained favor in the cosmetic and organic health industries as a natural way to restore skin and hair health, by improving their condition and maintaining their vitality.
What is it that African Shea butter does?
African Shea butter, as a natural fatty acid, is able to penetrate skin and hair to repair them at the cellular level. It rejuvenates skin cells by softening wrinkles and fine lines; and penetrates the hair shaft to repair split ends and enhance the hair’s shine.
Due to its high vitamin A and E content, Shea butter can nourish the skin and provide it with essential nutrients that tone and maintain it. It is said to have therapeutic uses that include soothing irritations such as insect bites, rashes and burns. It is also said to soothe minor joint and muscles aches.
For those with sensitive skin, African Shea butter is an excellent alternative to moisturizers that irritate the skin. It also is believed to protect hair from sun damage and protect the skin against UV rays, acting as a natural sunscreen.
Pure Shea butter ranges in color from pale yellow to dark yellow and is a smooth, solid substance that liquefies when exposed to heat. Refined Shea butter has a lighter color. Heavily refined shea butter is usually white in appearance.
Because Shea butter has an extremely low melting point, it melts in almost any heat. To maintain its integrity, some store it in the refrigerator. Shea butter maintains the best consistency when it is stored in a cool place. Even when melted, it retains its healing properties. Shea butter does lose strength over time and can actually spoil, especially when stored improperly. A rancid sour smell will signal that it has spoiled.
The answer to the question, “What can Shea butter do for my skin and my hair?”– is “plenty!”