Shea Butter or shea nut butter is an ivory color natural fat extracted from the fruit of Karite Nut Tree, (also called the Magnafolia Tree). The karite tree lives for a few hundred years and produces its first fruit from the age of 20 -25 years. This tree grows to a length of 15-20 meters and only blooms from June to July. The fruits resemble large plums, which fall to the ground when ripe. Each fruit contains a nut with a hard white kernel, which is the source of the shea butter. Small fruit bats pollinate Karite trees, which helps continue the trees existence.
The karite tree grows naturally in the savannah of West Africa. It grows in 19 countries across the African continent. In Ghana, Sudan, Zaire, Ethiopia, Benin, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Togo, Uganda, Guinea, Cote d'Iviore, Guinea Bissau and Chad.
The African women walk long distances to gather the fruit and are also responsible for the production of the shea butter. Production is a long and laborious task. The shea nuts are first dried in the sun, then the nuts are cracked open by hand pounding. After opening the nuts are boiled to release the shea butter. Once released, the fluid is kneaded to transform it into an ivory colored paste known as shea butter. This is then poured into containers ready for exporting.
Shea Butter is valuable natural resource to the rural communities of West Africa. Each year tonnes of shea butter is exported around the world. The production and exportation of shea butter not only provides these communities with fresh water, medical treatment, housing and schooling but, also strengthens their economic future.
Shea butter is one of the most affective natural moisturises. It is used in soaps, balms, creams, lotions and hair conditioners (adds and maintains moisture in dry brittle hair giving it a softer appearance). Shea butter absorbs rapidly into the skin without leaving a greasy feeling. Shea butter is also rich in vitamins A and E. (Vitamin A promotes enzyme activity in the skin, thickens the epidermis and helps skin cells rejuvenate in a healthier way. Vitamin E is a natural anti-oxidant that slows down the signs of aging and the degeneration of skin cells. Reduces fine lines and wrinkles and soothes the irritation of dry skin).
Shea butter also has remarkable healing qualities. It is known to be effective in the treatment of scars, wrinkles, very dry skin, stretch marks, eczema, chapped lips, rashes, acne, blemishes and fading scars. This natural ingredient also contains cinnamic acid, which provides natural protection against the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays.