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Shea Butter Benefits

Shea Butter Hair Care
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Here at Treasured Locks, we were selling shea butter and shea butter products long before shea butter became cool. When we opened our doors in 2002, we started with Shea Butter products from SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage.  Continuing until today, we offer everything from pure, raw shea butter to shea butter in soaps, lotions, shampoos and hair conditioners.  Many manufacturers have jumped on the Shea Butter bandwagon. But, before you go buying that latest Shea Butter product, you should know a little more about this precious little nut from Africa.

What is Shea Butter?
How can I tell if something is good Shea Butter?
How should Shea Butter smell?
How do I store Shea Butter?
My Shea Butter melted.  What do I do?
What color should  Shea Butter be?
How can Shea Butter benefit me?
How does Shea Butter benefit my skin?
What does Shea Butter benefit my hair?
Is all Shea Butter the same?
What can I tell by looking at the label?
Where can I get good Shea Butter?
What's the difference between raw shea butter and refined shea butter?
Do I want raw Shea Butter or refined Shea Butter?
What about East African Shea Butter?

It's possible that you may have only recently heard of Shea Butter.  But, its use is far from a new-fangled fad.  African have known the benefits of Shea Butter for centuries.  Down through the generations, native Africans have used Shea Butter to soothe and rejuvenate their hair and skin.  Shea Butter is not only for those of us with dark skin though.  Every skin typs can benefit from the use of Shea Butter.  Today, Shea Butter is available in pure form and as an ingredient in many products to help with maintenance of the hair and skin and relief from many common ailments.


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What is Shea Butter?

Shea Butter is extracted from the nuts of  a tree only found on the continent of Africa.  Shea Butter is extracted from the nuts of the Shea-Karite tree.  This tree only begins to produce nuts after about fifteen years and it can take up to 30 years to get the first quality crop from a particular tree.  The producers are waiting for the nut to contain a high concentration of irremovable fatty acid.  It is this unique fatty acid that gives Shea Butter its unparalleled healing properties and makes it much more sought after than other butters like cocoa butter.  For centuries, Shea Butter was produced by people who harvested the nuts, shelled them, grilled them and and then pounded them. The karite nuts were boiled in a vat of water for hours until the Shea Butter.  The butter would then be scooped up in gourds and allowed to return to a soft solid state.  Shea Butter is solid at room temperature.  But one of the things that makes it so great is that it liquifies right around body temperature.  A quick rub in the palm of your hands and it's a liquid.  Shea Butter extracted this way is called unrefined Shea Butter or raw Shea Butter.  Since Shea Butter is an all natural product each batch will be slightly different. Shea Butter will vary quite a bit in appearance and smell.  It's important to be able to tell what is good Shea Butter and what is not, in spite of these natural variations.

Most Shea Butter comes from West Africa or Ghana. A few years ago a softer and smoother variety from Uganda in East Africa started becoming more popular.  You can read more about it below.

How can I tell if something is good Shea Butter?

Pure Shea Butter differs in the methods of extraction used to get it from the nut.  Also, Shea Butter is often graded.
  • Raw or unrefined- This Shea Butter will be extracted using only water.  The color will vary based on the nuts used.  The color will range from a cream color  or slightly off-white to an actual yellow or yellowish gray.  This is the original form of Shea Butter.  It will also usually have a distinct nutty aroma.
  • Refined- is more highly processed. It may be filtered and deodorized.  Many of its natural components are still in there.  But, some of the natural coloring and aroma will have been removed. 
  • Highly refined or processed- In this case something other than water is used to increase the amount of butter that can be taken from a bath.  A solvent like hexane will be used.  The color of this product will be pure white.
Treasured Locks only sells raw or unrefined shea butter.  We only provide the highest quality available- certified as such.  And, we never sell shea butter that has been extracted using solvents.



How should Shea Butter smell?
Shea Butter in it natural state has an aroma which most people find quite pleasant or at least not offensive.  I think it's a smell that actually grows on you over time.   The smell of raw West African Shea varies is typically a nutty smell.  As Shea Butter ages, the aroma will begin to decrease.  If you purchase unrefined Shea Butter with almost no smell, the chances are it's old.  Shea Butter is pretty stable when kept properly.  But, it can go rancid.  Shea Butter should not  have a mildewed or rotten smell, not matter the age.  If you happen to dislike the aroma of natural raw Shea Butter, you can purchase more highly refined  Shea that has been filtered through clay to remove the natural aroma.  But, before doing that, we'd recommend buying the smoother variety from East Africa.

How do I store Shea Butter?
You don't have to keep Shea Butter refrigerated.  In fact doing so would make it very difficult to use.  It will keep under normal conditions for about two to three years.  Over time it will be less effective in terms of its healing properties. But, it will remain a good moisturizer.  Keep it in a cool place and keep the container closed to keep out contamination.

My Shea Butter melted
This is not at all unusual.  In the summer months, a lot of Shea Butter that is shipped will melt somewhere along the route to you.  If you happen to leave it in the car  (we've done this many times) and you come back and it's liquid, don't panic.  Actually, one of the wonderful properties of Shea Butter is the fact that it melts right around body temperatures.  When you apply it to your skin, it quickly becomes liquid making it easy to apply and to be asborbed.  If your Shea Butter melts, just take the lid off the container and set it in the refrigerator. Or just keep it in an air conditioned room.   As it begins to cool, give it a stir every once in a while to bring the liquid parts (which are called olein) back into uniform distribution with the solid parts (called stearin).

What color should my Shea Butter be?
The color of Shea Butter will vary more than you might expect.  The ultimate color of the butter will depend on the karite nuts used. Shea nuts will differ in color from almost white to yellow.  There is no way to determine the quality of the Shea Butter based solely on its color.  There is even a naturally almost saffron (golden yellow) colored Shea Butter.  But, Shea Butter shouldn't be green or very hard.  We prefer ivory or beige Shea Butter which indicates it hasn't been too highly refined.   Shea Butter that is too white was probably pretty highly refined and may not be as good at healing.

How can Shea Butter benefit me?
Over the years we've found that Shea Butter can help so many problems that a joke around our house is it's like Windex in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".  Tywana's always saying "Put a little Shea Butter on it."  Shea Butter can provide relief from everything from just dry skin to many minor dermatological diseases (if you have a serious skin condition, you should see a doctor).  It has been clinically shown to provide benefits.  Here are some of the benefits of Shea Butter for the skin:

  • Great for daily moisturizing of the face and body (face and body)
  • Relieving dry skin
  • Moisturizing a dry scalp
  • Soothing minor rashes, including diaper rash
  • Minimize skin peeling after sunburn
  • Healing blemishes and wrinkles
  • Relieving itching due to dryness
  • Soothing sunburn
  • Can be used prior to shaving to minimize razor burn
  • Treat small skin wounds
  • Soften and heal cracking skin
  • Soften callouses on feet, especially heels
  • Prevent stretch marks from pregnancy
  • Healing minor burns
  • Treating mild to moderate eczema
  • Protect the skin (especially lips) from sun and wind
  • Smooth out skin tone
  • Prevent or minimize blemishes and scarring
  • Stop scalp irritation due to dryness or chemical processing such as dying or relaxers
  • Preventing bumps after shaving
  • Treating acne (especially when used with African Black Soap)
  • Easily absorbed (non-comedogenic).  Absorbs without blocking pores
  • Maintains and restroes skin's natural elasticity
  • Brings shine luster to hair

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How does Shea Butter benefit my skin?

Shea Butter is like food for the skin containing Vitamins A, E and F.  Vitamins A and E help the skin keep itself healthy.  These vitamins are especially important when it comes to helping sun damaged skin heal.  Vitamins A, E and F assist in staving off premature wrinkles and facial lines.  Vitamin F serves to protect the skin as well as help it heal.  It soothes rough, dry or chapped skin and helps soften dry or damaged hair.  Shea Butter is high in unsaponifiables (a type of fat).  Shea Butter will contain somewhere between 7-12% unsaponifiables.  To put that in perspective, avocado oil, a well known skin conditioner, has between 2-6%.  It is this amount of  unsaponifiables that is a contributing factor to Shea Butter being able to treat so many conditions.  Because Shea Butter easily penetrates the skin allowing the skin to breathe and not clogging pores it can deliver it's nutritional payload better than other man-made moisturizers.  Shea Butter also naturally contains cinnamic acid, a natural sun screen.  It actually does provide some degree of protection from the sun's harmful rays (still wear a sunblock though).  Shea Butter is a natural anti-inflammatory making it useful in treating things like rheumatism. 

We aren't making any medical claims about anyone's Shea Butter.  It's not a wonder drug.  But, we have seen it help a lot of people with a lot of condtions.  And, we know people who think it has worked better than many prescriptions.  We have had several customers  and friends used Shea Butter to treat mild-to-moderate eczema and/or psoriasis.  Some have reported it has worked as well for them as steroidal creams prescribed by their doctors.  And, it's a lot cheaper.  One of our customers began using one of our Shea Butter lotions (it wasn't even pure Shea Butter) and just happened to notice that it stopped a sun allergy she normally got from even a little exposure to the sun.  It was totally unintentional and an unexpected "side effect".


How does Shea Butter benefit my hair?

Shea Butter provides moisture to dry or damaged hair from the roots to the very tips, repairing and protecting against weather damage, dryness and brittleness.  It also absorbs quickly and completely into the scalp to rehydrate without clogging pores.  It is particularly beneficial for processed and heat-treated hair.  It is an excellent treatment for dry scalp. It restores luster to damaged hair. For this reason, Shea Butter is an excellent ingredient in hair moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners.

Is all Shea Butter the same?

All Shea Butter is not the same.  Shea Butter loses some of its healing properties as it sits on the shelf, so very old Shea Butter is not as beneficial. Refining techniques will vary.  Highly processed Shea Butter will not be as effective.  Sometimes Shea Butter is mixed with other ingredients that reduce its benefits.  Then, there are those products that add very little Shea Butter but prominently display "Shea Butter" on the label.  While Shea Butter is not very expensive, you should be aware of products that claim to provide the benefits of Shea Butter and sell for very low prices.  Many manufacturers are taking advantage of the Shea Butter buzz by adding a little Shea Butter to a very inexpensive product implying you can get the benefits of Shea Butter in their product.

Treasured Locks takes care to source our Shea Butter only from reputable sources to ensure freshness, quality and the refining technique to ensure there are no contaminants and that the "good stuff" is left in.

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What can I tell by looking at the label?

Ingredients on the label should be listed in the order from the ingredient that is the most to the least.  Therefore, you should look for Shea Butter products that list Shea Butter early on the list of ingredients.  You should know the ingredients before you buy any Shea Butter product and should buy from a reputable source.  The more Shea Butter in a product, the greater the likelihood, you will receive the full benefits of Shea Butter.

Where can I get good Shea Butter?

You can get quality Shea Butter products right here at Treasured Locks.  We carry a wide variety of products from pure Shea Butter to Shea Butter lotions, soaps and lip balm.  All of the Shea Butter we carry is of the highest quality.  We are very selective about where we obtain our Shea Butter and the extraction methods used.  We will not accept any Shea Butter that has been extracted using solvents.  As of June, 2004, we have found a source of Grade A Shea Butter.  This is certified to be of the highest quality by an independent laboratory.  You can find cheaper Shea Butter and Shea Butter products. But, you will not find better ones.  Our Shea Butter products use  copious amounts of Shea Butter.  Some of the major manufacturers are jumping on the Shea Butter bandwagon now by adding small amounts of Shea Butter to their products.  Don't be fooled by this.  Our pure Shea Butters are of the highest grade, from our ultra pure refined shea butter to our 100% Pure Natural Shea Butter to our East African Shea Butter from Uganda. 

What's the difference between raw Shea butter, refined Shea butter and highly refined Shea Butter?
The differences between raw, refined and highly refined Shea Butter lie in how the Shea Butter is extracted from the nut and how it is processed after that.  Manual extraction processes leave more of the raw ingredients in the Shea Butter.  After it is extracted, it can be further refined removing color and impurities that some people don't like.  This further refining can also remove some of the smell.  You can think of the difference between raw Shea Butter and refined Shea Butter as being similar to the difference between wheat bread and white bread.  Truly raw Shea Butter can even be unfiltered.  That is one end of the spectrum.  On the other end, there is Shea Butter that is extracted using chemicals that is pure white, has no smell and has lost a lot of its healing properties in the process. 

All of our Shea Butter is mechanically extracted.  No chemicals (other than water) are used in the process.  Our raw Shea Butter is lightly filtered.  But, retains its natural color and smell. 

Do I want raw Shea Butter or Refined Shea Butter?
After years of experience with Shea Butter, we have to say we prefer raw Shea Butter.  The more Shea is refined, the more natural goodness is removed.  It's certain that none of Shea's healing properties are improved by the process that is used to make it white and odorless or to increase the yield from a batch.  The only possible drawback we can think of from raw Shea is the odor- which quickly fades after you've put it on. If you really do not like the odor, we recommend trying Shea from Uganda or East African Shea Butter. It's more expensive. But, it has less of an aroma and is softer and possibly slighly better at moisturizing.

What about East African Shea Butter?

There are differing opinions as to whether West African (Vitellaria Paradoxa) or East African (Vitellaria Nilotica) is better.  East African Shea Butter is different from that from West Africain the balance between the olein and stearin (solid and liquid parts).  East African Shea has a higher liquid fraction. As a result, East African Shea is softer at room temperature, sometimes being in a semi-solid or almost liquid state.  The East African Shea is more expensive.  But, it provides Ugandan women farmers several times more money than is earned by West African Shea farmers.   East African or Ugandan Shea Butter is more easily absorbed into the skin due to having less saturated fatty acids. West African Shea Butter  will have more vitamin A and more sterols.  If you're seeking a natural vitamin A cream or are using Shea Butter to prevent stretch marks, you might want to use West African Shea Butter.  If you are looking for something to be primarily a moisturizer,East African Shea Butter would be preferable.

East African or Ugandan Shea Butter is less common than West African Shea and can be difficult to find at times.  When it is available it oftens sells at the equivalent of up to $40 per two ounces. We are pleased that we have found reliable, price competitive sources and offer this super-premium quality Shea Butter to you at very reasonable prices.

Ugandan Shea Butter is excellent for conditions where the skin is dry.  Knees, elbows, hands and scalp are areas that are typically dry. 

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