Shea butter is a fabulous ingredient for making soap and cosmetics and it is included in my top ten soap making oils and butters guide which you can download here.
What is shea butter? Also known as shea nut or karite butter it is a pale coloured fat extracted from the nut of the Karite tree (Vitellaria paradoxa formerly Butyrospermum parkii).
The tree is called Karite which means the Tree of Life because it is such a valuable resource in Africa. It does not start bearing its first fruit until it is at least 10 years old. Full production is attained when the tree reaches 20 years old and it produces nuts for up to 200 years. That’s an incredible amount of nuts!
Shea butter is an edible butter and is used in food preparation in Africa. It is also widely used in cosmetics as a moisturiser, balm or lotion.
This history of shea butter for cosmetic use can be traced back to ancient Egypt. No doubt Cleopatra’s beauty regime included this nourishing butter. It is used to protect skin and hair from the hot dry desert winds and contains a mild natural sun protection.
The traditional method of preparing shea butter involves crushing, roasting and grinding the nuts into a smooth paste.
Shea butter makes an excellent natural moisturiser and it has exceptional healing qualities. The vitamin A content is important for improving a number of skin conditions including dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.
The reason that shea butter is favoured by soap makers is because it is beneficial to the skin as a moisturiser and helps to create a firm bar. One thing to be aware of is that the butter contains many non-saponifiable components (substances that cannot be fully converted into soap with alkaline). This is what sets it apart from other natural butters/oils. The non-saponfiables contain most of the healing properties compared to other oils where the healing fraction is very low. As shea butter has such a high portion of healing properties it can be used to treat many skin problems including dry skin, itching, eczema, sunburn and wrinkles.
Isn't it about time you included shea butter in your beauty regime if you don't already?