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Where Does Shea Butter Come From?

Where Does Shea Butter Come From?

So many skin products we see in the store love to put the words 'Shea butter’ 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 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?  Well let me tell you as a skin care professional Shea Butter is the best natural moisturizer you will ever use on your 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!

The fatty butter 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.  Common areas of application are your feet, hands, dry spots, or even your face and lips.  Many people like to use multiple skin products with Shea added so that it treats and moisturizes their skin on a regular basis.


Many uses for many years  

This vitamin rich butter 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 is 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 add it to dishes.  It can also be used as a substitute for Cocoa Butter in making chocolate, which is not so bad considering its low cost in comparison.

How they get the butter from the tree?


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.

The majority of skin products you buy commercially with Shea butter on the label only has the refined and bleached version added.  The refining 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 unrefined version 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.  Once the Shea has been used for soap making, the saponification (transformation from fat to soap) process will take a large portion of the strong scent away while leaving the best of its vitamins in place.  This is why Shea is one of the best and most popular soap ingredients.  Essential oils is often added to give the soap a pleasant and clean scent that makes most of us enjoy natural handmade soaps. In the link below, you can get raw unscented or essential oil soaps made with raw/unrefined Shea Butter.

Explore SheaGarden's Handmade Soaps in the link and feel free to tell us what you think. 


2 Comment

  • I’ve heard of shea butter all of my life but never knew what it really was or where it came from. This blog was very informative.

    Sharon Blair
  • Thanks for the info. I belong to a garden club and want to share about the tree…..

    Margaret Bourdette

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