First discovered in the western region of Africa this complex fat is a perfect component used in medicinal and cosmetic products around the world. They are derived from the nuts inside the fruit on a Shea nut tree (butyrospermum parki) which can only be found growing naturally in 21 countries on the West African continent in the wild of the dry savannah belt which include Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Kenya and Guinea to name but a few.
History, Features & Benefits of Shea Butter
This article will look to go into the history, features and benefits of this amazing butter used in many products including our own beard balm. It is hailed as one of the ultimate ingredients for strength and growth in beards.
Commonly known as Karité, the luxurious butter has been used in Africa for hundreds of years protecting the populations skin from wind, heat, salt water and the sun. Not only that but it is edible too! It is used in certain food preparation when mixed with palm oil and can even be used as a substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate.
The traditional method of extraction starts with the nuts being dried out for many days and crushed up into a powder, then boiled in water turning it into an oil like substance which rises to the top and solidifies to become Shea Butter. This traditional hand kneading method has advanced nowadays to other more technological methods such as using hexane or clay filtering for its final extraction.
Evidence of it being used for production purposes dates back to at least the 14th century in a medieval village called Saouga in west africa. History documents mention jars of an amazing butter used for skin and hair care being transported during Cleopatra’s reign even! The tree itself is and was sacred to many tribes and the wood was used for ceremonial coffins.
Its amazing properties meant that it became a key component in its healing and protective capabilities used in cosmetic products all around the world, especially in America, New Zealand and many other countries.
A Complex Fat
Shea butter extract is a complex fat which is what makes it so good for penetrating and absorbing into our skin, it melts at body temperature making it perfect for absorption without leaving a greasy residue behind or clogging the pores. This emollient compound is 60% fat containing various types of fatty acids which provides the skin with essential fatty acids and nutrients necessary for collagen production. It is rich in Phenolic compounds known for their antioxidant properties, the overall concentration and relative percentage of the shea kernels vary from region to region, depending on the level of environmental stress endured by the trees. It also contains vitamins A and F which are naturally occurring in the butter, these can aid in skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and even slow down premature ageing.
Contains Vitamin E
Vitamin E which is also known as Tocopherol, has varying versions found in shea butter; but their concentrations fluctuate depending on climate and some other factors like the butter extraction method.
Benefits of Using Shea Butter
The benefits of shea butter include moisturising dry skin, it locks in the moisture and keeps it hydrated for longer. Certain areas of the body can develop skin cracks due to dryness - this amazing butter can nourish and repair the skin. It helps prevent acne and spots while also providing relief for itchy and peeling skin - perfect for if you get too burnt on the beach or to help cure that patch of dry skin you may have. The fatty acids provide relief by supplying the skin with the vital oils it requires. If the itching is due to a skin condition, the anti- inflammatory properties work really well to alleviate it. Other health issues that it helps to alleviate are Rheumatism, Arthritis and nasal congestion - (inflammation of the inner linings of the nasal passages) shea butter can reduce this inflammation and clear your nostrils. In studies most found this helped to alleviate congestion in just 90 seconds! It can also lower your cholesterol levels when eaten and helps to treat diarrhea.
With its oily composition the butter does not take any natural oils from the skin and helps stimulate collagen production helping to give your skin strength and elasticity aiding in repairing wrinkles and even scars, minor burns and stretch marks. Perhaps one of the best bi-products of this magical butter is its anti-inflammatory properties which can stimulate hair and make your beard or hair grow faster, stronger and thicker. Studies have shown that because of the reduction in inflammation the butter stimulates growth and reduces hair breakage.
Make sure to use only the most premium manufacturers. Inferior brands lack a certain acid in the Shea butter that acts like a catalyst for these amazing benefits to take full effect. It can be used as a natural conditioner as it is so good at locking in moisture without leaving the hair greasy too.
It's perfect for shaving hair as well, using razors can often leave your skin irritated, bumps can even appear as a result of irritation, unless you are using the best razors around or have applied some beard balm prior to shaving the day before which results in smoother skin and hair. It also helps make the entire process faster and easier. It is effective in soothing dry, itchy scalps and dandruff and is perfect for helping to restore brittle hair as it helps to control and spread excess oil on the scalp. Massaging your beard or head with generous amounts of beard balm containing shea butter can transform your locks into silky soft and luscious hair.
It should also be noted that the best way to store shea butter is out of direct light or heat. As with all organic products they have a limited shelf life.