Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shea Butter - A Superfood for Skin

What is shea butter?  And how the heck do you say it anyway? It's one of the base oils in all my soap bars as well as the primary ingredient in my Shea Butter Balm. I love it to pieces, and I'll tell you why.

Lots of people ask me this, so I'll start with the pronunciation first.  I've Googled all over the place to make sure I've got it right, and here's the deal: it's like po-tay-to, po-tah-to.  Most everyone here in the US (and the Brits) call it "shay" butter. That's how we know what we're talking about.  But apparently the correct pronunciation (in Africa, where it's from) is "shee'-ah". So you can say it either way, no judging.

Shea butter is extracted from the fruit kernels of the Shea-Karite nut tree which only grows in the tropics of Africa.   It is an awesome moisturizer for skin and has incredible healing properties too. The benefits of shea butter has been known and used for literally centuries - for moisturizing skin and hair, protection from the sun, as a balm for minor burns, muscle aches, beauty treatments, treating skin conditions and more. 

Shea Butter nourishes the skin with three major Vitamins -- A, E and F. Vitamin A is important for healing a number of skin conditions, including blemishes, wrinkles, eczema, dermatitis, skin allergies, insect bites, sunburn and more. The moisturizing properties are the same as our skin's sebaceous glands, so it absorbs quickly and penetrates deeply, healing wounds and skin injuries quickly too. Even if I use it straight up, it's non-greasy, absorbs immediately and feels super soft.  Magic.

Vitamin E is helpful in anti-aging and as an anti-free radical agent by increasing micro-circulation, preventing premature wrinkles and facial lines as well as damage to sun exposure. Vitamin F acts as a skin protector and rejuvenator. It soothes rough, dry or chapped skin and helps soften dry or damaged hair. 

Shea Butter is high in unsaponifiables, typically 7-12%, which is twice as high as other similar vegetable oils, making it extremely effective in soap and cream formulations. It easily penetrates the skin allowing the skin to breathe without clogging pores.  Shea butter has a high level of cinnamic acid, a natural sun screen, so it provides some degree of protection from the sun (but don't give up your SPF). What more could you ask? Shea butter is a "super food" - for all skin types and conditions.

In my soap bars, and the Shea Butter Balm too, I use Nilotica Shea Butter, which is a premium Fair Trade oil produced from the fruit of the Vitellaria Nilotica sub species of the Karite tree, which grows across Northern Uganda.  Softer in texture with a very mild nutty aroma and a tan color, Nilotica Shea is one of the finest shea butters period. Softer and creamier than the West African stuff (which is usually bleached and chemically refined), this is buttery smooth and oh so creamy.

The nuts are sourced from organically grown trees and harvested by a 1600 member women's cooperative in Uganda who are paid fair trade prices 25-50% above the rates women earn in the local markets. Who doesn't love that? Plus the shea butter nuts are cold-pressed, filtered and packaged without any chemicals.  None.

Bottom line: I will always choose "real" over "perfect." But if I can ratchet it up like a million notches with organic producing, chemical-free processing, Fair Trade prices, women's cooperatives with higher wages - BOOM! I've hit the jackpot.  And you have too. Because a little piece of this is in every bar of my soap. Are you feeling the love? 

If you have miracle stories with shea butter, or any other thoughts, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below. I've considered selling this stuff straight up in jars - would anyone be interested in that? Hollah.

p.s. Wanna know more about all the other ingredients I use in my products.  I dish over here.