What Is Shea Butter?
I am sure that most women, especially, those of us who are natural, as well as newly natural, have heard of shea butter and the great things that it can do for your hair. Well, for those of us, who have not, let me introduce you to the wonderful world of shea butter, my favorite whipped shea butter recipe and the benefits that shea butter provides – for your hair and your skin.
According to Wikipedia, shea butter is ‘is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It is usually yellow in color when raw, with Unrefined, refined, and Ultra-Refined Shea butter being ivory or white in color. Shea butter is a triglyceride (fat) derived mainly from stearic acid and oleic acid. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. Shea butter is edible and is used in food preparation in Africa. Occasionally, the chocolate industry uses shea butter mixed with other oils as a substitute for cocoa butter, although the taste is noticeably different.
Even though Wikipedia says that shea butter is edible and is sometimes used in the chocolate industry, I have never ingested it. I am curious though, but not enough.
I love unrefined shea butter. I use it a lot, ever since I discovered its benefits. This leads us into the next section. Let’s talk about the benefits of shea butter.
How Is Shea Butter Made
There are steps to produce shea butter the traditional way. When done this way, the butter is usually unrefined.
Step 1 – Separation and cracking of the nut
- the outer pulp of the fruit is first removed and the nut is allowed to dry. This is considered a way to socialize while working and is usually done by the women, elders, and children in the community by using rocks to break the shells.
Step 2 – Crushing
- in order to make the nuts into butter, the nuts have to be crushed. Traditionally, this is achieved by using mortars and pestles. This process ensures that the nut is fully crushed to move on to the next process.
Step 3 – Roasting
- in this step, the crushed nuts are roasted in big pots over wood fires. The pots must be constantly stirred with wooden paddles so the butter does not burn. This is a laborious task. There is heat from the fire and heat from the sun. The wood fire can be attributed with the smoky smell of the butter.
Step 4 – Grinding
- at this stage, the roasted nuts are ground into a smooth paste. Water is added slowly and then mixed by hand.
Step 5 – Separating the oils
- the paste is kneaded by hand and water is continuously being added to help separate the butter oils. Once it floats to the top, its curd state is removed and the excess water is squeezed out. Then the butter curds are further melted in large pots to help evaporate any remaining water
Step 6 – Collecting and Shaping
- at this point, the shea butter is creamy or golden brown. It will then be spooned from the pots, allowed to cool, and then made into balls.
The Grades Of Shea Butter
In the USA, due to the USAID regulations, they have devised a system of grading shea butter. There are 5 grades:
- A – raw or unrefined, extracted using water. The color ranges from cream to grayish yellow with a nutty aroma
- B – refined
- C – highly refined and extracted with solvents such as hexane. The color is white
- D – lowest uncontaminated grade
- E – with contaminants
The commercial grades are A, B, and C. The vitamin content can be affected by the refining process – up to 95% can be extracted from the refining process (i.e. grade C). I usually buy fully organic unrefined shea butter. I want to have all the aroma and vitamins naturally. Shea butter has 5 primary fatty acids: palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic; stearic and oleic acids constitute 85–90% of the fatty acids. Shea butter also has vitamins A, E, and F.
Benefits Of Using Shea Butter For Hair Growth
As a woman who is now fully natural, going on 4 years, shea butter is one staple in my hair care arsenal. It is the perfect butter for my hair. I discovered this about 2 years into my hair journey.
At first, I did not like the smell, nor the texture – I thought it was too ‘heavy’ – until I found the best way to use it in my regimen. Now, I can’t live without it. I buy it in bulk – usually, 5-pound blocks and make my special whipped shea butter mix. I will share the recipe further on in this article.
So here are a few points on why I love shea butter. It:
- is a great moisturizing butter
- has a long shelf life – even though it never stays around long enough for me to find out
- is a natural butter packed with vitamins
- can be used for the hair and skin – it helps to alleviate dryness and soothes irritation
- can be used as a sunscreen protector – this is commonly done in Ghana, especially during their hottest season
- is used for the management of sinusitis and relief of nasal congestion in Nigeria. It is massaged into joints and other parts of the body where pain occurs
- is reported to have anti-inflammatory, emollient, and humectant properties
Other Uses For Shea Butter
Shea butter can be used for not only the general hair and skin care but there are other uses like:
- cooking oil ( in some African countries such as Benin)
- waterproofing wax
- candle making
- an active ingredient in some medicinal ointments for eczema, herpes lesions, and other skin issues
- as a conditioning agent for prolonging the durability of wood used in the traditional making of African percussion instruments such as such as carved djembe shells. dried calabash gourds, and leather tuning straps
- as an ingredient in organic broth
- as an added ingredient in assorted tissue products such as toilet paper in the UK and other countries
- used for soap making
- also used medicinally to lower cholesterol
My Favorite Whipped Shea Butter Recipe
I make this recipe ALL the time. I use it for my hair and skin – all over. There are times I change up the mix in terms of the type of essential oil I add, but it is generally a basic list of ingredients otherwise.
- 1 cup shea butter – room temperature or immersed in a bowl of warm water to make it more liquid
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/8 cup castor oil
- 1/8 cup vitamin E oil – to help preserve the butter naturally and increase the shelf life
- 8-10 drops basil essential oil
- 8-10 drops rosemary essential oil (a few drops of your favorite essential oil – you can add as much or as little as you choose, it is your taste being customized)
- There are times that I add peppermint to the mix if I intend to use my whipped butter for mainly my hair, I love the tingle. It gives a great tingle to the scalp as well.
- Sometimes I use lavender essential oil too as it has a calming and healing effect when I make a skin moisturizing batch.
My all-time favorite is to add cinnamon essential oil when I am making a batch for my hair.
Mix all the ingredients except the essential oils together in a bowl. The softer the shea butter and coconut oil (sometimes coconut oil can ‘sleep’), the easier it is to blend, I use a hand mixer to ensure complete mixing. Once blended, I put the bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Then I take it out and then whip it again for about 15-20 mins. This will make the butter really fluffy and light, soft to melting once you touch it. You add thee essential oils about 5 mins before you finishing whipping the butter.
After this, I put the butter in clean glass jars and store in a dark cupboard until needed for use. Give it a try, you will love it. Worst case scenario, if you don’t like it, just gift it to someone else, they will be amazed at your creative juice.
Where Can You Buy Shea Butter
In my attempt to give back to the community, I buy my shea butter from Back2Africa. Here is a snippet of their About Us section which explains how the company came about and why I support them. It is in supporting them that I support the hard-working African women making shea butter in order to support their families.
The idea of selling African products in the United States was pioneered by our founder, Jaime Debbah over 35 years ago. On one of his trips to Tanzania, he bought some art pieces and sold them in his store in New York City. Subsequent trips to Africa were made, and a love for African products was born. Jaime was amazed by the beauty and elegance of African art and amazing benefits of using African Shea Butter. He also discovered that many African Americans were not able to enjoy their culture.
At the same time, many of the people who produced the art were extremely poor. Therefore, he decided to import African art in the US and distribute to various retailers. From there a foundation of Back to Africa Imports was born.’
In a pinch, I also buy my shea butter from Amazon.com. I have bought this brand and I liked it.
Here Is A Youtube Video On How One Youtuber Makes Her Whipped Shea Butter
My Final Thoughts On How To Use Shea Butter For Hair Growth
In a nutshell, I love shea butter and I am happy to have discovered it and also a way to use it in my hair care. It is one more natural product that is so beneficial to your hair and body. I urge you to give it a try and by all means, leave your feedback in the comment section.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com.