The Benefits of Shea Butter
Shea butter, as I discovered, is truly an “everything” product. With high levels of vitamins A, E, K, and F, and its natural extraction from the nut of the same-named tree, there is almost nothing that it can’t be applied to. I have created my own formulations for my hair, as this post’s intro pic displays, but even that is a mere facet of the benefits on this gem.
According to Wikipedia:
- It is used as a moisturizing component in cosmetics for hair, face, lips, and body—including soap.
- It is known to soothe cracked and inflamed skin, including burns.
- The butter is edible and can be applied as cooking oil. Heck, it’s sometimes used as a substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate.
- It is known to reduce fine lines, stretch marks, scars, and even skin irritations like psoriasis and eczema.
- It can mildly absorb ultraviolet rays and thus acts like a natural sun-blocking aide.
I could literally go on with this list.
The best part? You can use it straight from the jar and rub yourself down from head to toe.
I won’t go into too much technical information, but I will say that there are three grades (A – C) of shea butter that are currently purchasable by the masses. All three of these grades contain nutrients; however, the lower you go in letter (Grade C), the more processed you go and the less likely you are to have such a high number of said nutrients.
Raw/unrefined shea butter (Grade A) tends to be grayish or grayish yellow in color and still has the nutty scent of its native grounds. Refined (Grade B) and ultra refined (Grade C, which is extracted with hexane) butters have had the scent removed and are noticeably whiter in color.
You can also purchase shea butter harvested from either East Africa or West Africa. Your preference among these grades and locales is completely up to you. I’ve used it from both regions; East Africa is more brownish, while West Africa mixes a lot more smoothly and responds more readily to my body and hair.
How do you know that you have quality shea butter?
That is a great question, bolded line of text.
If you have a batch of shea butter lying around, simply pinch out a tiny portion, rub it into your arm, and watch it vanish in seconds. If it melts at your body temperature and ultimately leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth, you’ve got high-quality Shea2O.
However, if it does any of the following without ever melting:
- Stays white on top of your skin
- “Pills” up
- Turns grainy or gritty
…then your shea butter is either not high quality, or it’s gone bad. (The only exception to this might be raw shea butter, which can be—well—pretty raw, with shell bits and all.)
Hey, now! I heard that shea butter can’t go bad!
Yes, yes; I’ve heard that, too.
There are reports running ramped about whether or not shea butter can go bad. Here are my two cents on that:
Shea butter is derived from a plant. Plants can, over time, rot. There are methods used to preserve plants: natural oils and extracts, manmade chemicals or heat. Just like milk in different levels of processing, the grade of your shea butter will extend its shelf life. According to the lovely Internet, refined variations can last up to two years, while unrefined can reach only one. I prefer to use unrefined butter and, considering a pound of butter lasts me months, the trade-off works just fine.
And yes, I know milk is not a plant—but cows do go bad, too.
…let me rethink that.
No, wait, that’s right—cows go bad, too!