Why We Love Shea Butter in Soap

Why We Love Shea Butter in Soap

Restore Natural Moisture to Your Skin with Shea Butter

Dry, wintry weather can strip our skin of its natural moisture barrier causing the top layer to dry and flake off. When combined with coconut oil, shea butter in soap soothes the skin, making it the perfect choice for getting rid of that dry, itchy mess.

Nearly all of our natural handcrafted soaps contain soothing shea butter because we want your skin to feel soft, supple and luxurious!! Let’s find out why shea butter is so great.


The African Shea Karité Tree

(Vitellaria paradoxa or Butyrospermum parkii)

Shea butter is a solid nut fat (oil) extracted from the kernels (nuts) of the wild African Shea Karité tree. Most of the world’s Shea Karité trees grow wild in the equatorial savannas of 19 countries across central Africa. Some of the largest producers are the West African nations of Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Namibia and Nigeria.

Living as long as 200 to 300 years, the Karité tree begins to bear fruit after 10 to 20 years and doesn’t bear a full crop until it’s 20 to 40 years old! The trees grow wild (there is very little cultivation of these trees) and they are pollinated by small fruit bats to ensure they continue to thrive.

Shea trees are most active during June and July, bearing dark green fruits that fall to the ground when ripe. The source of the shea oil/butter is the hard white kernel of the nut inside of those fruits. In Ghana it is common for prayers to be said before harvesting the fruits to praise Mother Nature. The name “Karité” means “the tree of life”.

So how did it get the name “shea”?? The English word “shea” comes from ‘s’í, the tree’s name in the Bamana language of Mali. Shea butter is also known as “Nkuto” in Ghana, “Beurre de Karité” in French (Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo), and “Ori” in Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria).

As recently as 2010, researchers estimate there are nearly 500 million productive Shea trees and over 2,000,000 African women working with shea butter in this equatorial African region!


The Making of Shea Butter

shea butter in soapRaw shea butter looks a bit like whipped cream, but varies in color from grayish-yellow to light almond to a light yellow color. The colors make no difference (unless it’s pure white); color is determined by the nut itself. When extracted using traditional methods, it is completely pure, has no preservatives and no added mineral oils.

Raw unrefined shea butter has a natural earthy, nutty, smoky aroma. Although the aroma may sometimes be strong, it loses its smell within minutes of being applied to your skin or hair.

Most of the traditional African shea butter process is passed down through generations. The nuts are picked, sorted, boiled, and left to dry in the hot sun. When they are completely dry, they can be stored for months or be processed into shea butter.

Crushing shea nuts with a pestle - Ghana, 2006Crushing and pounding the dried nuts with a pestle makes the kernels separate. Next, the kernels are roasted in large metal pots. The labor-intensive procedure continues with the mixing and kneading of the kernels while adding water. While this step of the shea butter making production goes on for several hours, it’s a vital step as this is what creates the shea butter itself. The shea butter is then scooped into gourds and left to cool. At this point, the shea butter is raw and “unrefined”.

Today, many African women use a metal press to crush the nuts and squeeze the butter from the kernel. This enables them to produce more butter in less time. Shea butter may also be filtered through clay to strain debris such as dirt and leaves (a good thing). The end result is still pure, raw, unrefined shea butter with no added chemicals.

Producing shea butter is a long, involved manual process but this is an important economic crop in Africa, and traditional extraction is a way of providing good employment opportunities to the local villagers.


Refined (or processed) Shea Butter

As with many other things in the world today, people want things faster, easier and prettier.

Shea butter can be chemically extracted, bleached to a pure white color, and deodorized (bad things). This involves the use of hexane solvents, a toxic by-product of petroleum production. These solvents bleach the shea butter, removing many of its natural vitamins and minerals in the process, and can remain in the finished product. Most shea butter that is refined in Africa is usually free of hexane solvents.

Refined shea butter is pure white, has no aroma, and has practically none of the wonderful benefits for our skin left in it. (We use only raw and unrefined shea butter in our products!)


Why Shea Butter is Fabulous!

High in triglycerides and fatty acids, the soft buttery texture penetrates easily into your skin. Shea butter naturally contains cinnamic acid, which protects skin against the harmful UV rays of the sun and benefits those of us who suffer from dry skin, dermatitis and sunburn. Shea butter usually does not trigger any allergic reactions, so our soaps and lotions are fantastic for people with sensitive skin.

Shea butter was traditionally used by herbalists for burns, wounds, sunburn, muscle aches and as a moisturizing beauty aid for hair and skin. Africans use it to heal skin and scalp ailments. The Vitamins A and E found in it help to keep the skin supple and healthy. Vitamin F works as a rejuvenator. It also helps to prevent premature wrinkles and facial lines. Can there be a more delightful beauty product than shea butter in soap??!!

Shea Butter is beneficial for:

  • Moisturizing all skin types, babies to adults
  • Restoring elasticity to the skin and slowing down aging
  • Healing blemishes and keeping wrinkles at bay
  • Restructuring dry and fragile hair
  • Easing dry scalp and irritation from chemical processing (hair dyes)
  • Restoring the luster of hair
  • Protection from the harsh sun and wind
  • Moisturizing tough skin on feet
  • Eczema, psoriasis, dehydrated skin, diaper rash, insect bites, burns, stretch marks

Do your skin and hair a huge favor and pamper them! Our wonderful handcrafted shea butter soaps can be used all over the body (including the face), by men and women alike, and you will LOVE the results. Try one of them today!!

ARTICLE SOURCE: Blue Mountain Soapworks

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