Shea butter is a vegetable fat, extracted from the African shea tree nut (also called karite tree). This produces a natural butter which is used for the skin, for cooking, and many other things. It has a thick texture which melts instantly on the skin, and a nutty smell.
What are its benefits for the skin?
Shea butter is also one of richest natural emollients. Rich in vitamins A, E, and F, it provides outstanding hydration for skin and hair. It is said to have anti-inflammatory properties, natural protection from the sun, and is healing for many types of skin dryness and/or irritation (such as eczema, dermatitis, etc).
Unrefined, grade A, raw shea butter retains the most beneficial properties from the extraction process. Refined butter, on the other hand, is treated with chemicals to remove color and smell, which strip the butter of its nutrients.
How is it made?
It goes through an extraction process. First, the shea nut is cracked manually with rocks; it is crushed, and then mixed into a paste with water, which evaporates through boiling. The manufacture of shea butter is a social tradition which often involves women in various African countries, and also helps support their communities.
Most shea butter comes from West and East African countries.