Shea Butter comes from Africa. The Shea (or Karite) trees grow in the wild in the dry savannahs of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Zaire and Guinea. Shea trees need to reach maturity, about 20 years, before they produce fruit and can produce their fruit for up to 200 years. The fruit of the shea tree looks like a large plum.
Inside the shea fruit is a seed much like a peach pit. This seed is removed from the fruit, boiled, sun-dried and roasted. When the pits have completely dehydrated, they are handcrushed. This process takes an average of 20 hours to produce about 2 pounds of shea butter.
Shea butter is widely used as a moisturizer in cosmetic products, but can also be used as a cooking oil. At times, shea butter is used in the process of chocolate making instead of cocoa butter.
Shea butter is said to be effective treating eczema, dermatitis, skin allergies, fungal infections, scrapes, burns, rashes, acne, severely dry skin, blemishes, dark spots, skin discolorations, chapped lips, stretch marks, wrinkles, and in lessening the irritation of psoriasis, and can even help fade scars. Unrefined shea butter contains many healing ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins and a unique fatty acid profile, and is a superior active moisturizer.
Shea butter provides natural ultraviolet sun protection up to about SPF 6. Shea butter absorbs quickly into the skin without leaving a greasy feeling.
Many people feel only pure, unrefined shea butter has the true healing and moisturizing properties of shea butter. Most shea butter available to the general public is white and odorless, or "refined", to remove the natural scent and color of natural shea butter.
Unfortunately, the refining process removes the majority of the healing and moisturizing properties. Refined shea butter is extracted from the shea nuts with hexane or other petroleum solvents. The extracted oil is boiled to burn off the toxic solvents. The shea butter is then refined, bleached, and deodorized using harsh chemicals. Shea butter extracted in this manner may contain solvent residues and its healing properties are significantly reduced. The end result is an odorless, white butter that is aesthetically appealing but can be hard and grainy. Refined shea butter lacks the true moisturizing, healing, and nutritive properties of true traditional shea butter.
You can purchase unrefined, organic, free trade shea butter from EclecticLady.com.