What Is Shea Butter?

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Shea Butter

I remember in 1998 when I first started selling Shea Butter. When I would tell new customers of all the benefits of Shea Butter, and they’d laugh and say, “this must be snake oil then, I will try one and see.” Well, they not only tried it but also loved it. The rest is history.

So again, I will start off by telling you of all the benefits of Shea Butter, but this time I will not end there.  I will give you a history of Shea Butter, how it is made and a comprehensive list of the different things that make up Shea Butter and their benefits on the skin.  Let’s begin.

Shea Butter Benefits

Shea Butter has been used for the following:  Blemishes, Dry Skin, Eczema, Psoriasis, Stretchmarks, Minor cuts & Scrapes, Wrinkles, Diaper rash, Razor bumps, Muscle aches, Arthritis, Dry Cuticles and Hair.

Shea Butter is an excellent emollient for your skin.  It absorbs into your skin and deeply moisturizes it.  It penetrates your skin with ease without clogging your pores and without build-up.  Shea Butter penetrates deep into the skin to hydrate and promote cell growth.  It retains moisture in the skin lipids to improve elasticity.

Its restructuring effects on the epidermis as an anti-elastase makes it a good ingredient in combating wrinkles and stretch marks.  Consistent use makes your skin look full of luster, fresh and rejuvenated.

Shea Butter’s cell regeneration and capillary circulation activity is great for the healing of small wounds, dermatitis, cracks, minor burns and skin ulcers.  It is the consummate skin care product for babies due to its pure and gentle nature.  It is also excellent for senior citizens, especially those with reduced mobility.  Shea Butter ensures continued suppleness and moisture to their skin.

Where Does Shea Butter Come From?

Now let’s talk about what Shea Butter is and how it is derived. Shea Butter is an edible vegetable fat that is extracted from the sun-dried or roasted kernels of the Shea Tree.

Shea Butter has been used for centuries in sub-Saharan Africa for cosmetics, medicine and food. In recent times, it is also used as a (CBE) Cocoa Butter Equivalent to substitute for Cocoa Butter when making chocolates.

N.B. Cocoa Butter equivalents (CBE) are plant fats that have the same physical and chemical properties to Cocoa Butter, they have the same fatty acids and type of triglycerides as Cocoa Butter and can be mixed with Cocoa Butter in chocolate making in any amount without any significant change in the look and feel of the chocolate.

The fruits of the Shea Butter tree resemble plums and are light green in color with an edible fleshy pulp. The nut itself is covered by a thin brittle shell and typically contains 1-3 seeds, but mostly, it contains 1-2.

Shea trees grow wild across the Savannah belt, stretching from Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana, Benin Republic, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and to East African countries like Uganda, Sudan & Ethiopia and can grow up to 30-100 feet tall.

Shea Trees Are Endangered

Shea trees take about 30-50 years to reach maturity; they bear their first fruit at about 25 years.  After reaching maturity, they continue to produce fruit for up to 200 years. So far, Shea trees have not been successfully cultivated and even if they were, and adult would probably not live to see the maturity of a Shea tree he or she planted.

With all of this in mind Shea trees are increasing coming under the danger of extinction because of charcoal export and other social pressures.  See this link for more information on the dangers the Shea trees face. https://news.mongabay.com/2021/09/shea-trees-are-falling-fast-across-africa-victims-of-new-pressures-commentary/

Shea Season

If you are interested in tracking when Shea Butter is in season, you should know that Shea Trees bloom during February to March and the fruits mature between June and July. The fruits are collected between June to September only after they fall to the ground from the trees. The grass around the base of trees is normally cut low before harvesting is done.  This reduces the incidences of snake bites as snakes love Shea nuts and normally lurk in the grass searching for a meal.

How Shea Is Processed

Shea Butter is processed differently based on the location. In West Africa, the nuts are typically boiled, and sun dried or roasted. While in East Africa the nuts are typically sun dried without boiling or roasting.  The process of making Shea Butter begins with drying of the nut and then separating the nut from the hulls.  The nuts are then pounded and wet milled into a paste. The paste is boiled, and the oil extracted, filtered and cooled to form the butter.

Properties of Shea Butter

The exceptional therapeutic properties of Shea Butter listed previously are as a result of its contents. It is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, fatty acids, triglycerides. This next section will detail the makeup of Shea Butter. Shea Butter contains the following:

Oleic acid (40%-60%), Stearic acid (20%-50%), Linoleic acid (3%-11%), Palmitic acid (2%-9%), Linolenic acid (<1%), arachidic acid (<1%).  It also contains Phytosterols, Allantoin, Vitamin A, E, F, antioxidants and unsaponifiable matters which range from 2.5% to 15%.

The benefits of the different properties of Shea Butter to the skin are listed below:

Oleic Acid

Oleic acid is an Omega-9 fatty acid, and our skin produces this naturally also. It excellent for deep moisturization and prevention of wrinkles and fine lines because it penetrates the skin deeply and easily and locks in the moisture, thereby preventing your skin from drying out.  The locked in moisture help plump up would-be fine lines and wrinkles.

Stearic Acid:

Stearic acid helps to soften the skin and helps protect the skin natural barrier from environmental contaminants, bacteria and water loss.  https://www.healthline.com/health/skin-barrier#how-to-protect

Linoleic Acid:

Linoleic acid is an Omega-6 fatty acid that is also known as Vitamin F.  Its primary function is to maintain the function and integrity of cell membranes.  This vitamin is excellent for unhealthy skin and hair.  It also aids in the relief of eczema, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Your skin does not produce this essential fatty acid; however, it can be derived by either taking it in orally or applying it topically to your skin.  Linoleic acid causes your dead skin cells to shed naturally and effectively, leading to new skin cell regeneration and healthy, glowing new skin. It helps reinforce collagen as a result holds up your skin and helps protect against premature signs of aging and wrinkling. It also reinforces the skin barrier and reduces effects of sun damage.

Palmitic Acid:

Palmitic acid acts as an effective moisturizer and emollient on the skin. It also helps to soothe irritated skin and acts as an antioxidant, fighting free radicals that attack skin cells.

Linolenic Acid:

Linolenic acids have anti-inflammatory properties; they are effective against hyperpigmentation and good for reducing blemishes.

Arachidic Acid

Arachidic acid is known to promote wound healing of minor cuts.


Phytosterols maintain the structure of the cell membranes, they are anti-aging, offer some UV protection and are anti-inflammatory. They improve dry skin conditions by reducing transepidermal water loss and help repair damage to the skin’s natural barrier.


Allantoin stimulates the skin’s natural renewal process, it promotes wound healing and because it helps with cell regeneration; because of its skin cell generation properties, it is used to treat burns. Allantoin acts as an anti-irritant for the skin, calming and soothing sensitive areas. It also softens the glue that holds dead skin cells together. This makes is easy for the rough, dry dead skin cells to fall of revealing soft, smooth skin.

Triterpene Alcohol with Cinnamic Esters

This provides some form of protection from UV rays; the Resinous Esters provide healing and disinfecting properties.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an antioxidant and is believed to help with hyperpigmentation wrinkles and fine lines. It also helps to heal minor cuts and scrapes.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. It fights free radicals that damage the skin. 

Unsaponifiable Matters:

Having unsaponifiable matter is highly beneficial if you are making soap. This means your soap may have moisturizing, conditioning and antioxidant effects as a result of the unsaponifiable matters being present. These unsaponifiable matters also promote cellular growth.




Use as a moisturizer and for skin disorders.

Apply to the entire body as a daily moisturizer; you will absolutely love the smooth and soft feel of your skin.  When using on your skin as a moisturizer or for conditions like eczema, psoriasis, chapped or chaffed skin, scoop an amount that will be sufficient, remembering that a little Shea Butter goes a long way.  Rub amount between your palms and apply to skin and or the affected area.  Also apply to bruises and burns to soothe irritation, aid healing and reduce scarring.

Use To Prevent Stretchmarks

Pregnant women will benefit from using Shea Butter daily, as it will add moisture and elasticity to the skin as it stretches, thereby reducing the marks and itching.  For best results use before the stomach begins to swell.  Use at least twice a day.

Use For hair

Shea Butter, unlike petroleum-based products, will not block your hair follicles, allowing for easy breathing and stimulating growth.  It is also excellent for moisturizing and protecting the scalp.

Use For Help With Razor Bumps

Moisturize your shave area with Shea Butter every night, especially the night before you shave, this helps to soften and moisturize your hair follicles.  After your shave, rub on some more Shea Butter, this will condition the shave area, help soothe and heal any small cuts and nicks and help with any scarring.

Use for cracked heels and dry cuticles

For cracked heels, to begin, soak your feet in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes.  Then use a rough pumice stone to slough off dead skin.  When this is done, rub a generous amount of Shea Butter into your feet.  Get into the habit of using Shea Butter on your feet everyday, especially at night before bed.  If the cracks are too deep and painful to use a pumice stone, massage some Shea Butter into the cracks daily until they heal enough for you to use a pumice stone.  Shea Butter is excellent for waitresses and for people who spend a lot of time on their feet.  It is also great for diabetic patients who tend to have dry feet.

Use For Muscle Aches and Arthritis.

Shea Butter has anti-inflammatory properties that helps with the swelling and soreness of muscles and joints.  This makes it great for use for arthritis, stiff joints and muscle aches.  Massage small amounts of Shea Butter to the affect area three to four times a day.

Use As A Hair Moisturizer and As A Hot Oil Treatment

To moisturize hair and scalp rub scoop (as needed) between palms and apply to wet or dry hair. For a hot oil treatment, use same directions as above on wet hair and cover the hair with a plastic cap for 10-15 minutes.  This prevents the heat from escaping and allows the hair shaft to open up and receive the Shea Butter’s nourishing properties.  Wash out well, condition and moisturize.  This process conditions and strengthens the hair. It reduces dryness and occurence of split end. Your hair will have that healthy, glossy and vibrant look.

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What Is Shea Butter?

Shea Butter I remember in 1998 when I first started selling Shea Butter. When I would tell new customers of all the benefits of Shea Butter, and they’d laugh and

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