Shea Butter : The Amazing Cure for “Everything”

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The first time I used shea butter, I was in SSS2. I was such a latecomer. It was long overdue already and everyone was already talking about it as at that time.

In fact, I didn’t know it as shea butter. I knew it as ‘ori‘ ( this is the Yoruba name for shea butter).

My classmates would come to class to brag about how they had smooth skins and lovely hair because they used “ori”. The extra ones would add that they used ” idi agbon”. Idi agbon is the Yoruba name for coconut oil.

On one of those “whose skin is fresher” bragging days, my seat partner, after the whole banter, told me she used shea butter too. It was over!

Da heck! I thought you used Vaseline madam.

To top it all, they ‘all’ claimed to bath with “ose dudu”. This is the Yoruba name for the African black soap. If you click on that link, it takes you to a very comprehensive article on African black soap. Everything you need to know is in there.

I felt so outside the prim and proper circle. This didn’t cause me to go after shea butter until I stumbled on it at home after school one day.

I had no single idea who bought the shea butter. It was carefully wrapped in black nylon and placed on the fridge.

By the way, the top of the fridge at home houses all of the things you would imagine and never imagine. I mean, it was the most popular spot in the home. Very busy area!

I unwrapped the nylon to reveal a thick curd of cream coloured substance. I asked around at home and no one seemed to care about it. Days later, my mum mentioned to me that she bought the popular “ori” and I told her that was not even possible. I want it!

When she described and showed me what it was, I was surprised as to how no one answered me when I had first inquired. According to her, she was absent-minded as at the time.

Me being a natural talker, my voice in the house probably meant nothing but my usual ramblings and storytelling.

That is the story of my shea butter initiation. What did I not use shea butter for? I used shea butter for my hair, my skin, whatever popped up on my body. I bragged about shea butter!

I mean, finally, I could say a word in the young naturalists’ community. You don’t understand rejection until you never have anything to say during break time at school.

These peeps discussed Paloma and Diego (one of the very popular soap opera as at the time), they discussed popular musicians in the industry, sometimes, it was football. I had zero to say! All we watched at home was Mount Zion movies and Don Moen’s music videos.

Time to talk about shea butter and other natural stuff and I had cause to open my mouth. I had to be accepted man. Something had to work!

Anyway, enough of the nostalgia, this article is going to be the most comprehensive shea butter article you have ever read. In fact, anything and everything you need to know about shea butter is here.

We will discuss how shea butter is made, shea butter benefits, how to effectively use shea butter for your hair and your skin, shea butter side effects, how to even differentiate from the original and fake raw shea butter, everything.

So, read on to become the shea butter pro. Alternatively, if you are only searching for something, you can just click on the link item in the table of content below. It will take you directly to where you have the information.

It is also possible, due to the length of the article that you find this overwhelming to consume at once, just bookmark or save the page and come back to it later so you can read in bits.

What is Shea butter?

Shea butter is an off-white or cream coloured fatty substance/extract that is gotten from shea tree nuts. This substance melts when the temperature of the environment is warm or hot. It solidifies as soon as it is in a cooler environment.

It is known to be one of the most popular natural substances used for a wide range of things in different industries – medical, beauty, hair and even food.

Shea butter is mostly found in West Africa and this because the shea tree is abundantly prevalent in this region. Because of this, many African women have learnt to perfect the art of producing shea butter and creating as many recipes as you can think of with it.

According to Wikipedia, it is found in the following countries across the African continent; Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali.

The raw, unprocessed shea butter is usually ivory coloured. As soon it undergoes processing, depending on how it is being produced, what nature of shea tree it is gotten from and what is being added, the resulting colour ranges from off white to soft yellow.

Raw, unprocessed shea butter. Photo credit: kinaafrica.com

Some people claim that the colour of the shea is an indication of how much shea butter is in its processed version, the darker being more original shea butter concentrated than the lighter.

Shea butter is also known in West Africa as women’s gold. This is because many African women and girls are known to process it a lot, thereby empowering them financially.

Like I mentioned earlier, in the Yoruba tribe, we refer to shea butter as “ori”. Hausas call it kaɗe or kaɗanya.

What do you call shea butter in your language? Please share that with me in the comments section.

Components/Ingredients of shea butter

polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, Cholesterol, Octanoic acid, Decanoic acid, Dodecanoic acid, Tetradecanoic acid, Hexadecanoic acid, Octadecanoic acid, Palmitoleic Acid, Octadecenoic acid (Omega-9), Octadecadienoic acid (Omega-6), Octadecatrienoic acid (Omega-6), Phytosterols, Sugars, Dietary Fiber, Water, Minerals, Vitamins (A, E, C), Folate.

How is shea butter made?

How shea butter is made

Photo credit: Wikipedia

You remember that I mentioned that shea butter is produced from the nuts of the shea tree. The nuts are found inside the shea fruit.

The shea tree is does not begin to produce fruit until after 20 years. In fact, the tree fully matures at 45 years old.

When the shea fruit ripens, it is collected in large baskets. The nuts, sometimes referred to as Kernel are extracted from the fruits and then washed and dried.

Because the fruits are edible and sweet, it is usually consumed and the nuts kept aside for the shea butter production.

Nuts are sorted into the good/quality ones and the bad ones. The good nuts are crushed and roasted. They are afterwards milled into a paste. The colour of this paste comes off as dark chocolate.

Water is added to the paste and it is kneaded so that the oil can emulsify. Emulsification is done by heating the paste so that the fats rise to the top and the oil settles and remains at the bottom.

The emulsified oil is then boiled. This is done so that the water therein evaporates and the whole solution is purified.

The already purified oil is then separated from the shea residue. You can then have shea oil cool and solidify.

The Making of Organic Shea Butter in Ghana (Video- Green People UK)

Uses of Shea butter

Shea butter for skin

My first introduction to shea butter was its use for the skin. I mean, everyone wanted to be fresh.

Shea butter is an exceptional natural fat with immense healing properties, deep hydration and moisturizing effects. Shea butter for skin is probably the first and foremost introduction anyone had.

In fact, the healing fraction of shea butter is as high as 17% depending on how clean and unprocessed it is. This is nowhere near the other fats and seeds with just1% healing fraction.

Shea butter is so good for the skin so much that it is used to produce bathing soaps and skin balms. It is very soothing for people with sensitive skin.

Because of the Vitamins, it has thereof, including A, E and F, shea butter has been notoriously known to maintain and keep the skin healthy, repair damaged skin and protect it from the sun and also reduce ageing in the form of wrinkled.

Shea butter for hair

All types of hair have been known to benefit greatly from shea butter. Natural, relaxed, processed, short, long, porous, dyed etc.

Because of the high fatty acid content and its hydrating properties, shea butter has helped to remedy and prevent further hair breakage due to dryness and brittleness.

Shea butter for food

You might be wondering, is shea butter edible? Yes, it is. A lot of shea butter uses is tied to cosmetics and traditional medicine so much that the thought of using it as food is strange.

Shea butter is just solidified oil. When it melts, it can serve as cooking oil. It is, however, important to know that not all shea butter is good for food.

Unrefined grade A shea butter is the best for cooking because it has not been bleached of its nutritional benefits. It is also safe because you can be sure additives whose source and nature you don’t know have not been added.

Just like any other fats- vegetable or animal, you can use your shea butter for deep frying. You can also substitute other kinds of cooking oils with it.

Shea butter for medicine

Shea butter is mostly used in traditional and alternative medicine. It has been known to ease a lot of skin infections and this is all as a result of the healing properties of shea butter.

Benefits of shea butter

I know that I do not have to cross the seas and oceans to prove the immense benefits of shea butter anymore. Shea butter has so much of benefits that it has become a staple in the African home whether it is being used or not.

Below are some (definitely not all) of the benefits of shea butter;

1. Deeply moisturizes

Shea butter is highly concentrated in fatty acids and vitamins so much that it helps to moisturize the skin. People who are known to have excessively dry skin can testify of how rejuvenated, alive and hydrated their skin is.

The concentration of natural vitamins and fatty acids in shea butter makes it incredibly nourishing and moisturizing for the skin. It is often used to remedy dry skin and to help protect the skin’s natural oils by locking in moisture.

2. It reduces inflammation of the skin

Shea butter contains cinnamic acid which is an anti-inflammatory agent. Lupeol cinnamate has been discovered to help reduce skin inflammation.

3. Shea butter is used to treat acne

If you remember, I briefly brushed on the healing properties of shea butter. This is also due to the different fatty acids and in addition, plant sterols. Apply some shea butter on your acne after the area is well washed and dried.

4. Reduces the appearance of stretch marks

Usually, stretched mark is a result of an excessively stretched out or collapsed skin due to fast weight gain or weight loss. Pregnant women are more likely to have these stretch marks on their hips, bum, breasts and most definitely, tummy area.

We already know that shea butter has healing properties because when we refer to stretch marks, we are dealing with under skin bruising that shows up as stripes on the surface.

Shea butter helps to restore the natural elasticity of the skin and influence and increased production of collagen, both of which will, in turn, soothe the skin bruises and reduce the appearance of the stretch marks.

5. It can be used as lip balm

Shea butter is very soothing to the lips and it is easily absorbed too. It is, therefore, a good lip balm for your dry or chapped lips, especially during the harmattan. And since it is edible, you can rest be assured that you are safe if you ingest it in any form.

6. It is a good natural sunscreen

Cinnamic acid in shea butter causes it to be a good sunscreen. This makes shea butter a good UV protector. It is known to have a Sun Protection Factor that ranges from 6-10 depending on the source and quality thereof of the shea butter.

That is low SPF though but it is better than nothing I guess.

7. It heals and soothes insect bites

Shea butter has a high Vitamin A content. This helps to heal and also disinfect insect bites on the skin.

8. You can use shea butter as a hair conditioner

Shea butter, because of its deeply moisturizing ability helps to condition the hair if treated with it. You can apply from the roots to the end of your scalp at night and wrap around a firm satin hair bonnet. You are going to wake up to a beautifully conditioned hair, soft and sleek.

By the way, I have a very good article on satin hair bonnets, their benefits, different types you can find and of course, where to buy them, just click on that “satin hair bonnet” link.

9. Shea butter treats hair dryness

This is also a result of its moisturizing ability. If your hair is naturally dry, brittle and frizzy all the time, you might want to go on a shea butter therapy.

10. Shea butter protects the hair from harsh weather

The harsh sun and extreme weather conditions like harmattan and if you are in an African in disapora, winter, can damage your hair. Use shea butter to secure and protect all of the efforts you have put into your hair the whole time.

11. It is used to oil and maintain weaves

Shea butter can be used to maintain your weaves and maintain your hairstyle generally, braids, Ghana weaving, whatever it is. With shea butter, you can apply to your edges and in between your braids or weaving lines to keep your hairstyle looking new and neat.

Shea butter side effects

Just like many other natural products, shea butter has been known to cause a few side effects even though they are not pronounced.

A few people, however, have complained about some of the discomfort and negative results on their skin and hair.

Side effects of shea butter on the skin and hair

1. Skin blackening

I personally know of someone whose skin began to blacken when she started using shea butter, as soon as she switched to another body, her skin became normal.

On some occasions, the reaction of the Ultraviolet rays from the sun and shea butter causes excessive blackening.

You should either use shea butter as therapy at night or never have cause to step out in the sun during the day.

You can try using Nivea Natural Fairness to restore your skin colour back to normal. In a week or two, visible changes will occur. Click on that link for a review of that body lotion.

2. Dandruff

Shea butter has been known to cause hair dandruff for some people who consistently used it for a very long period of time.

How to identify original raw shea butter

This is one very important natural product quest. I mean almost everything natural is adulterated these days. So, how do you get to distinguish between the original shea butter and the fake/excessively adulterated shea butter?

One thing that can save you the stress of manually looking is getting your shea butter from a company/brand whose reputation precedes them.

Many of them say that they have processed theirs which is good information. Some others claim to have their shea butter as 100% organic.

You may want to ask around from a few friends about what brands of shea butter they use. In fact, you would be surprised to know that a close friend of a close friend either makes and/or packages original shea butter for sale.

Another way to identify original shea butter is the smell. The smell is supposed to be crude and earthy. If it comes off as having any kind of scented or distinctly different smell, it is not 100% original.

You can also test for original shea butter by looking at the colour. It should be off-white. If it is ivory coloured, it has not been properly bleached. If it is yellow in colour, it is possible the roots of the shea tree was added, you might want to ask.

Ivory coloured shea butter may also indicate that it is unrefined, which is what we want but it is good to be sure of the shade. In this instance, having someone who is used to shea butter buy for you or follow you to but at the market may be the best.

Chances are the local women might not come out clean to you so it’s best to stay with the off-white (not white) shea butter colour.

The final test to know if your shea butter is original or fake and adulterated is to expose it to the sun. This thing melts under two minutes.

There have been cases where I saw the shea butter been hawked under the sun. How come it isn’t melting? Reports have said some people mix the shea butter with candle wax to cause it to solidify and increase in mass so that they can make more profit.

This is very unjust on another level. Please be very sure of what you are buying. Preferably, do not buy shea butter from those hawking it inside the sun. The fakeness is too glaring already, you have been spared of the stress.

Wherever you buy it, try to take some portion out into the sun, it will melt before you in 2-5 minutes.

How to store shea butter

I have succeeded in messing up my shea butter times without number only to discover that I didn’t store it well.

The best way to store your shea butter is to put it in an airtight container or wrap it well in nylon.

The market women cut a chunk out of the massive shea butter solid and transfer into nylon for you. So, you might have to wrap it well or transfer it into a dedicated shea butter container.

Also keep your shea butter away from the sun, it melts silly. So, find a cool environment to safely tuck away in.

Nigerian Shea butter brands I have used

Yafah Shea Butter

Yafah shea butter was the first ever packaged shea butter brand I ever used and it was so good. I bought it in Ilorin then. I just stumbled on it in the mall. I bought it for 300Naira back then, this is like 3 years ago now.

I don’t remember many things about the packaging and ingredients but if I ever stumble on it again, after this post, I will make an update.

What I loved about it nevertheless was the smell and consistency. It smelled really good. I enjoyed using it until the last drop. I bought it one more time and that was the end.

I stumbled on another one, Dudu Osun shea butter and I stuck with that until I eventually left processed shea butter products.

Yafah shea butter

I stumbled on this picture on one of old shea butter posts

Dudu Osun shea butter

Dudu Osun shea butter was also as good as Yafah. Only that it was thicker. I didn’t like the consistency as much, too thick. The smell was nice too but of course, not as nice as Yafah.

Ingredients: Shea Butter (Karite), Di-Sodium EDTA

Some people have used Dudu Osun shea butter in combination with Dudu Osun Black soap and got amazing results. You can check YouTube for these reviews.

I also did an honest review of Dudu Osun Black soap here. You can click to check it out.

Dudu osun shea butter

Image Source: Dudu-Osun. I used the Dudu osun shea butter with the red cover, the one on the right in this picture

Where to buy unrefined/original/organic shea butter in Lagos

Shea butter is usually sold in Lagos markets. When I get specific locations and trusted dealers, I will update this section of the post.

For now, I buy my own Shea butter at Onipanu market. When you walk in through that market, there are two of the shea butter sellers positioned on either sides of the walk way.

If you are coming in from the Onipanu bus stop (where you have the filling station) to burst out on the other end (where you have Bariga and Yaba buses), my favourite seller is positioned on the right.

Frequently asked questions about Shea butter

Which is better: unrefined or refined shea butter?

Unrefined shea butter is hand made and has only shea butter as the ingredient but refined/processed shea butter has already been through some manufacturing processes that strip off some of the really cool benefits of shea butter like its healing and anti-inflammatory benefits.

It is also possible that other chemicals are being added to the shea butter and that adulteration messes up with its purpose.

So, unless, you trust the company or brand with their ingredient list, stick with unrefined shea butter.

How long does shea butter last for?

Unrefined shea butter can stay for 1 to 2 years. Funny smell and visible change in colour is an indication that it’s past the expiry date.

How do you store shea butter?

Wrap in nylon, small ziplon bag or in a small container and place in a cool, dry place.

Will shea butter clog my pores?

Shea butter won’t clog your pores. In fact, the skin easily absorbs it. A study says that shea butter tricks your skin to stop overproducing sebum because there is enough sebum.

Can shea butter cause skin lightening

Actually, this depends on a lot of things. Usually, when shea butter helps to clear off your spots and blemishes, what may be the result might be a cleaner, lighter skin.

On the other hand, many people have complained about the skin darkening effect of shea butter. You might need to use sunscreen to lesson the darkening effect or not walk around in the sun.

If you want a body cream that will tone your skin and bring out your original light skin colour, you can try Nivea Natural Fairness. Click on that link to read the review.

Alternatively, you can check out this post on best body creams for fair people in Nigeria

Can shea butter remove stretch marks

In the shea butter benefits section, I mentioned that shea butter helps to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

The truth is that shea butter won’t remove your stretch marks completely. So to diminish stretch marks, consistently apply shea butter over the affected part. The vitamin A in shea butter is the magic ingredient for skin elasticity.

Can I mix honey and sugar together?

Yes, you can. It will amp up the disinfectant property of the shea butter.

Can shea butter clear/ get rid of cellulite?

Yes, consistent, prolonged use of shea butter on the cellulite area will greatly reduce and eventually cause a disappearance of cellulite. You can also combine the shea butter therapy with dry brushing.

I tried to use shea butter as a remedy for my cellulite but I wasn’t consistent enough.

Does shea butter bleach the skin?

No, shea butter does not bleach the skin.

Conclusion

Shea butter is an exceptional natural product that is used alone and with so many other things. It is no wonder it is a stable in the African home.

Don’t miss out on the goodness of this magic potion of nature!

If you have anything you would like me to review in this blog post, please let me know so that I can make the necessary corrections. I would be really glad if you can also share your shea butter experience with me in the comments section.

Additionally, if you have any questions about shea butter, please ask in the comments section below, I will be glad to answer them. Other people can also answer if I am not sure.

References

Recommended Articles

My Dudu Osun black soap review

Dove beauty bar review

Important note!

It took a lot of time to carefully research this topic and put together all of this. No part of this article is therefore allowed to be copied or plagiarized for use on any blog, website or forum. Please contact me for permission to use any portion of this at all. Use of this article without proper referencing is highly prohibited.

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