What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is one of the few widely available cosmetic raw materials that comes directly from nature. It isn’t cultivated – it is gathered from trees that grow wild. The shea tree grows wild across a large swathe of Central Africa to the south of the Sahara desert.
The butter is extracted from nuts which are traditionally gathered by the women of the village. Production of the butter itself is a sophisticated process. The outer pulp needs to be removed and then the nut is shelled
using a mortar and pestle. The shelled nuts are then roasted. The butter can now be extracted by grinding or pressing.

Shea Butter Processing - Courtesy Peace Corps Ghana

Shea Butter Composition
Shea butter is mainly triglycerides, just over 90%. But the unsaponifiables make up an unusually large proportion at nearly 10%. And there are some interesting components in that 10%.
Most of the unsaponifiables in shea butter are triterpenes. The terpenes are a charismatic bunch of molecules with some notable family members. Menthol, which gives your toothpaste its minty bite is one. Vanillin, the flavour in ice cream, is another. The main terpene in shea butter is the triterpene alpha- amyrin.
It has a particularly beautiful structure but if you aren’t a chemist you’ll probably have to take my word for it. Other triterpene components include beta-amyrin, lupeol, parkeol and butryospermol. More on these later.
It also contains karitene, a high level of sterols and some anti-oxidant tocopherols.
This is a very rich complement of compounds which explain why shea butter is so unique.
Process of Making Shea Butter
Separating/cracking: The fruit’s pulp is removed. The nut is then dried and separated from its outer shell. Elderly women and young girls traditional take responsibility for this, breaking the shells using small rocks.
Crushing: The nuts are crushed using a pestle and mortar
Roasting: Roasting of the crushed nuts takes place in huge pots over open wood fires. This gives the butter its slightly smoky smell. The contents of the pots are stirred constantly
Grinding: Once roasted, the mixture is ground until it is a smooth paste.
Separating the oils: The paste is kneaded and water is gradually added. The butter oils float to the top and are removed. These are then heated again, melted slowly in big pots to remove any remaining water
Shaping: Once all the water has evaporated, the butter is placed in a cool place to harden before it is shaped into balls.
1. Healing Qualities
Shea butter is known for its healing properties that can be attributed to the presence of several fatty acids and plant sterols such as oleic, palmitic, stearic and linolenic acids. These oil-soluble components do not undergo saponification or convert into soap on coming in contact with alkali. Shea butter is more non-saponifiable than other nut oils and fats, thus imparting it a great healing potential for the skin. Raw, unrefined shea butter is effective in curing skin rashes, skin peeling after tanning, scars, stretch marks, frost bites, burns, athletes foot, insect bites and stings, arthritis, and muscle fatigue.
2. Antioxidant Qualities:
Shea butter contains plant antioxidants, such as vitamins A and E, as well as catechins. The vitamins A and E protect the cells from free radicals and environmental damage. The cinnamic acid esters in the shea fat help in preventing skin damage from ultraviolet radiation.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
Shea butter has several derivatives of cinnamic acid that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Research has proved that in addition to its anti-inflammatory benefits, lupeol cinnamate found in shea butter prevents the development of tumors. Its anti-inflammatory properties render it beneficial for the improvement of skin conditions.
4. Sun Protection:
Shea butter acts as a natural sunscreen by providing protection against the ultraviolet radiations of the sun, though the level of protection offered may be variable. Shea butter is considered as the best skin care for winter and after-sun care as it provides the extra moisture, nutrients and protection needed by your skin during the cold season and summer.
6. Anti-Ageing Benefits:
Shea butter is considered as one of the best anti-aging and moisturizing agents for the skin. It stimulates the production of collagen, the youthful scaffolding protein in the skin. The vitamins A and E found in this butter keep the skin supple, nourished, and radiant, and prevent premature wrinkles and facial lines. Shea butter penetrates the skin easily, without clogging the pores, and is effective for dry skin.
7. Baby Care:
Shea butter is an excellent natural moisturizer that is devoid of chemicals. Thus, it is ideal for baby care as besides being gentle and soft on the skin, it is specially adapted for the delicate and sensitive skin of babies. It can be used for after bath application on the skin and also for healing eczema or diaper rash on the skin of babies.
8. Lip Care:
Shea butter is easily absorbable and provides extra moisture and nutrients that are needed during the cold season and dry weather. Thus, it acts as a perfect lip balm to protect your lips from cold and dry weather and is effective for treating dry and chapped lips.
9. Restores Skin Elasticity:
The non-saponifiable matter and vitamin F in this butter are vital ingredients for maintaining the skin’s elasticity. Thus, the application of shea butter restores the elasticity of the skin and helps maintain an even skin tone, besides hydrating, softening and beautifying it.
10. Soothes Dry And Irritated Scalp:
Shea butter is effective in soothing a dry, itchy scalp or dandruff. It possesses anti-inflammatory qualities and gets absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy residue or clogging the pores. Being rich in vitamins A and E, it soothes dryness, repairs breakage and mends split ends. Hence, it is extremely effective in providing relief from a dry scalp, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.
11. Moisturizer:
The presence of vitamins A and E makes shea butter an excellent moisturizer to moisturize your hair from the roots to the tips. Thus, it can be used as a natural conditioner. It is highly effective in locking in moisture, without leaving the hair greasy or heavy. Shea butter has wide usage in curly hair treatments due to its emollient qualities. A number of chemical treatments like straighteners, perms, curlers, etc. are responsible for stripping off the natural moisture from the hair. Shea butter can help restore this lost moisture.
12. Hair Protection:
Shea butter provides protection to the hair against the harmful free radicals in the air and water and harsh weather conditions. Moreover, shea butter has a low amount of SPF that is sufficient to protect the hair from sun damage caused due to the exposure to ultraviolet radiation and repairs the damage that has already been caused by the harsh weather and the sun. This is largely due to the fact that once absorbed, shea butter coats the hair shaft so that it is protected from a heat tool or any other damaging material being passed along the hair. This is particularly beneficial for processed or colored hair. It also protects the hair against salt and chlorine when applied before swimming.
13. Hair Softener:
Shea butter is great for softening and revitalizing damaged and brittle hair. Due to its non-greasy nature, it helps to control and spread the excess oil in the scalp. Massaging the hair with generous amounts of shea butter can give soft and silky tresses. This benefit of shea butter is applicable for dry as well as fragile, curly hair. Shea butter should be applied twice a week for hair growth, improving the hair texture and moisturizing the hair.
  1. Soaps
  1. Lip Balm
  1. Body Butter
  1. Body Lotions
  1. Body Creams
  1. Hand Creams
  1. Moisturiser