Wednesday, 16 February 2011

All about Shea butter

Shea butter originates from the karite nut tree found in West and central Africa-most of the shea butter used in the west is infact produced in Ghana. It has incredible hydrating, soothing and skin protective qualities and due to its content of natural Cinnamic acid it can provide a natural protection against the suns rays having a sun protection factor of anywhere between 1 and 6. Its a very highly prized ingredient in cosmetics as it has high levels of natural vitamin E and A and fatty acids that help to retain skin moisture and promote cell renewal. It has also been demonstrated to have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which is why its been used for centuries in Africa to heal burns, sores and scars and is a useful aid against dermatitis, and psoriasis. It absorbs quickly into the skin and doesnt leave a greasy residue or block pores. When used in soap making it is unsaponifiable which means it remains in the soap providing a moisturizing layer on the skin after use- making it ideal for any extra dry skin condition.

The process of extracting shea butter is time consuming and is carried out by the women of West Africa providing a valuable income. First the nuts are collected once they drop off the trees between the months of May and July before the onset of the rainy season. Then the outer husk is removed, the de-husked nuts are then transported sometimes many kilometers and usually on foot to a compound where they are then boiled in large pots to make it easier to crack the shells. They are then laid out in the sun to dry before pounding them to release the nut inside the discarded shells are used as fuel. Then the fat is boiled to separate the clear oil that is the butter. As this oil cools it is beaten to turn it into the pure unrefined shea butter. It is very important when buying shea butter to use on ones skin that you buy the unrefined product as all its vitamins remain intact- there is a slight odour but it dissappears quickly once applied.

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