All of these skin products we see in the store love to put the words 'Shea' on the description but why? What is Shea? Why do I want it on my skin? Is it even worth it, and if it is, how can I get the most and best quality of it. Lets try to tackle a couple of these questions. First off lets explain what it is and where it comes from.
We can call this tree the Karite tree, Vitellaria Paradoxa, or just Shea tree (I promise it will answer to either of its names.) It comes from the Sopotaceae family of trees that is common in Africa.
Karite nuts are harvested from these trees to make a wonderful and magical butter that has been providing its residents in Africa many benefits since the days of early Egypt!
What are these benefits you ask? Well let me be perfectly honest and explain that it is the best moisturizers I have ever used on my skin! That's right, it is second to none for the purpose of moisturizing. If you have damaged, dry, cracking, or rough skin, look no further than Shea Butter. It is naturally solid at room temperature but melts in the heat, so basically you can take a little of the butter itself and use hand friction to prepare it to be applied to any area of your body. Especially your feet, hands, dry spots. Many people like to use Soap and Body Butters with Shea added so that it treats and moisturizes their skin on a regular basis.
Speaking of vitamins, It has been used for many years for a healing agent on cuts, rashes, scrapes, eczema, scars, stretch marks, and other skin conditions. Many women and men in Africa, as well as the U.S. also use this Shea for their hair as a moisturizer and stabilizer.
Guess what else you can do with it? Eat it! Yup, this a food grade oil that can be ingested as well as applied topically. Many natives of Africa have used it to cook their food or even add it to it directly. It can also be used as a substitute for Cocoa butter which is not so bad considering its low cost in comparison.
The Nuts from the Shea tree are roasted and cracked to harvest the butter from the nut. It goes through a long and detailed process that ensures all the vitamins and natural properties are in tact and ready to eat or use for body products. The roasting process is what gives it the nutty scent that is most common to Shea Butter. Most any Shea Butter you get that is raw and unrefined will have this nutty scent to it. Most users of Shea Butter are fine with the scent and know they are getting the real thing when they smell this distinctive scent.
100% of any product you buy commercially that has the words 'shea' added to the description has a refined version of this butter. The refined process takes all of the scent away as well as the vitamins and healing properties. It still remains just as moisturizing but will not help your skin as much as the raw Shea Butter will.
Most Shea Butter is yellow or ivory. The refined version is white. How to tell the difference? The smell. Any raw Shea is going to have a nutty smell. You will also get used to the difference as you try a few brands. I will post a link to certified brands of butters and whipped body butters below this post.