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Shea Butter Basics

Posted by Meredith Scarcliff on


What is Shea Butter?

Shea Butter (Butyrospermum parkii) comes from the natural fat obtained from the karite tree grown in the savannah regions of West and Central Africa. Western countries are just beginning to recognize the significant benefits of shea butter, something the Africans have known for thousands of years.
Shea butter is particularly effective moisturizer because it contains so many fatty acids, which are needed to retain skin moisture and elasticity. The rich fatty acid content in shea butter makes it an excellent additive to soap, shampoos, creams, cosmetics, lotions and lipbalms. To be the most beneficial, shea butter should be used in its unrefined state.
Most products containing shea butter use refined shea butter. This means it has been put through a mechanical process, which removes debris from the butter. Unfortunately the refining process also removes most of the vitamins and minerals as well. After refining the shea butter, you get a white substance that resembles Crisco oil. Shea butter in its natural state is golden yellow to light brown, depending on the variety and where in Africa the shea butter is harvested.
Using unrefined shea butter is far superior since it has a higher fatty acid content, and more vitamins and minerals. Consumers should look for products that specify "fair-traded shea butter," since all fair-traded shea butter is unrefined.  
10 Top Reasons To Use Fair Traded, Unrefined Shea Butter
1. Hydration. Shea butter is rich and hydrating. Keep skin moisturized four hours!
2. Non-Comedogenic. Shea butter won't clog pores). It does not cause skin breakouts, making it ideal for both dry and oily skin types.
3. Mildness. Shea butter will not irritate sensitive skin.
4. Safety. Shea butter is 100% natural and pure.
5. Environmental protection. In its unrefined condition, shea butter protects the skin. Shea butter contains high amounts of vitamins A E, and F as well as other vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E help to soothe, hydrate, and balance the skin. Vitamins found in shea butter help the skin produce collagen, which prevents wrinkles and other signs of aging. Shea butter contains Vitamin F, which along with essential fatty acids help protect and revitalize damaged skin and hair. It has demonstrated both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
6. Versatility. Shea butter can be used all over - is not only wonderful for your body and face - it's also great for hair, scalp, feet, and finger nails.
7. Sun protection. Shea butter is a natural sunscreen, with an SPF of about 4.
8.Healing properties. Shea butter can be used as a treatment for burns, cuts, scrapes, sunburns, diaper rash, dry scalp, blemishes, frostbite, muscle fatigue and stretch marks during pregnancy. Shea butter may also help treat problems such as eczema and psoriasis; however, keep in mind that you should always consult a physician or dermatologist about serious or persistent skin problems. Shea butter is not recommended for people with nut or latex allergies.
9. Sustainability. Shea butter is one of Africa's most sustainable natural resources. Shea trees grow naturally in the grasslands or west and central Africa and do not need irrigation, fertilizer, or pesticides.
10. Africa's economic viability. In west and central Africa, women harvest the shea butter using an extraction method that has been used for generations. Thanks to the money earned by the women, these African villages will be able to afford basic necessities such as schools, clinics, and clean water. When you purchase fair traded shea butter, income flows directly to the villages rather than to multinational corporations, and traditional production methods remain intact.

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