Shea Butter In Glass Jar

My Essentials Series: Shea Butter - The Luscious Balm Of Silk

None of my face cream would exist without the wonderful buttery gifts of the shea tree. Organic unrefined shea butter is perhaps the most essential of all my essentials because it forms the base of every one of my all-natural vegan moisturisers.

Rich and creamy, shea butter is used extensively in beauty care worldwide and it has many skin-enriching properties. The story of shea and the process of extracting this precious ingredient is also fascinating. So, let’s explore the origins of shea butter, what makes it so good for the skin and why I recommend the unrefined kind, in this latest instalment of My Essential Series - Shea Butter; The Luscious Balm Of Silk.

The Origins Of Shea Butter

Most people who buy skin care products in the modern world will assume they’re manufactured in a lab, and most are. Olive & Joyce products are made with my own hands in my home kitchen and hand-poured or scooped into the little jars that (hopefully) sit on your bathroom shelf. I take pride in the knowledge that most who use my skincare know where it comes from and can be assured of the love and care that goes into each bottle and jar. You probably don’t know where the ingredients that are the basis of my recipes come from though.

Their journey begins long before they reach my kitchen and shea butter, in my opinion, has one of the most interesting tales.

Growing naturally wild in the savannah belt of West Africa, the shea (Karite) tree produces the nuts in which shea butter is found. Shea nuts are harvested and then heated and cooled so that the shell can be penetrated and milled to release the butter inside. This is then kneaded by hand and heat and cooling processes are used to form the creamy textured balm.

Why Is Shea Butter Known As ‘Women’s Gold’?

If you’ve read my story (and the story of Olive & Joyce) then you’ll know making our own beauty products has been something the women in my family have always done.

My mother was an aromatherapist, making lotions in our kitchen, and my grandmother was a herbalist, so much of my knowledge and skills in developing all-natural skincare comes from family traditions.

Across 19 African nations, women have been passing down knowledge and techniques through the generations so that they may harvest the nuts and make shea butter using traditional methods. My shea butter is sourced from women like this who work together as co-operatives and make an income from this craft. This is why shea butter is sometimes referred to as ‘women’s gold’.

Woman harvesting shea nuts

One thing I was committed to doing when I started building my skincare business was ensuring every ingredient came from ethical sources. Sourcing shea butter was a long and involved process because I had to be sure that no one was being exploited. Particularly fellow women in business and fellow makers. I feel particularly connected to shea butter as an ingredient because I feel connected to the women who produce it. One day, I hope to visit Ghana, meet these women, observe their legacy at work and hear their stories first-hand.

See more about how traditional shea butter is made and why it’s important to support women making shea butter in Africa: 

What’s In Shea Butter?

Being a butter, shea is fatty and therefore packed with oils and moisture. The shea butter I use is organic and unrefined though many manufacturers opt for refined shea butter. This is because the refining process removes the natural odour and colour making it white and striping the scent. Unfortunately, this process also takes out much of that natural goodness. So why is it done? Apart from smell and aesthetics, the key motivation is longer shelf life. 

I opt for organic and unrefined because I’m willing to sacrifice a short shelf life for a better product. I like my shea rough and ready because that’s when it’s at its best.

Why Is Shea Butter Good For The Skin?

Shea butter is widely used in cosmetics, from lip glosses to moisturisers and hair conditions to soaps. Fatty acids and vitamins in shea butter make it naturally moist and able to lend moisture to the skin, hydrating and softening when applied and for a while after.

Shea butter can be used daily to keep skin soft, but it also provides some anti-inflammatory and healing properties so can calm redness and swelling as well as improve tone and reduce scarring.

Is There Anything Bad About Shea Butter?

Having a high concentration of fatty acids means that applying shea butter direct to the skin raw comes with a risk of clogging pores. Doing this can promote acne breakouts, especially in those who are already prone.

This is why it’s not advisable to use undiluted shea butter, especially on your face and to opt instead for products that contain shea butter. All-natural skincare makers, like myself, will know the right amounts of shea to include to harness the goodness of shea without overwhelming your skin and prompting breakouts.

Shea butter is also very low-risk as an ingredient because it’s not a common allergen.

Fallen in love with Shea? Remember, this beautiful butter is the basis for all my facial creams so stock up today!

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