Benefits of Shea Butter
Shea butter is the natural complex fat extracted from the nuts of the African shea tree or also known as vitellaria paradoxa, butyrospermum parkii or the karite tree. Unrefined shea butter is traditionally extracted. The fruits are removed from the covering of the dried nuts. They are crushed and roasted. They are then kneaded with water to separate the oil. The oil in its curd state will float on top. It is then separated and boiled on slow fire to remove excess water. Once cooled, the oil will hardened and the end result is raw shea butter.
Refined shea butter is processed but maintains most of its natural constituents. Highly refined shea butter has solvents such as hexane added. It is normally white in color, is odorless and is grainy and hard.
One of the unique features of African shea butter compared to cocoa butter or other natural vegetable butters is its contents. Shea butter contains unremovable fatty acids or non-saponifiable components.
Shea butter contains arachidic acid, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid of which stearic and oleic acids are the highest. Oleic oil has moisturizing properties and is used as an ingredient in many skin care and cosmetic products.
The hard and lumpy shea butter contains a higher amount of stearic acid compared to the oleic acid content. It also has a strong smoky or roasted smell. Shea butter oil contains more oleic acid. Other constituents present in shea butter are vitamin A and vitamin E.
In Africa, one of shea butter uses is as cooking oil. Besides the fatty acids, shea butter contains phytosterols which has cholesterol-lowering properties.
For ease of use, you can opt for shea oil which is in liquid form. It has a higher content of oleic acid compared to stearic acid. Shea oil has the same benefits and healing effects similar to shea butter.