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Shea Butter


What is shea butter?

Cup of shea butter with shea nuts

Shea butter is an off-white or ivory fat extract produced from the nuts of African shea butter. Shea butter is a triglyceride derived primarily from hard stearic acid and oleic acid. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, ointment or lotion. Shea butter is edible, and it is used in Africa to make foods.


Extraction and Refining of Shea Butter

1. Separation/cracking: The lemma of the fruit is removed. When dry, the shea butter comes from the nut part and must be separated from the shell. This is a social activity. Traditionally, women elders and little girls sit on the ground and break the shell with small stones.
2. Crush: In order to make the nuts of shea nuts oil, they will smash the nuts. It needs to lift up and grind the nuts and put it into the pot to crush it so that it can be baked.
3. Roasting: The crushed nuts are placed in a huge pot and baked in firewood. Those pots must be constantly stirred with wooden paddles so that shea butter will not burn. Those oils are heavy and hot when it is baked, and they are smoky work that needs to be done in the sun. This is the origin of the slight smoke smell of traditional shea butter.
4. Grinding: The roasted shea butter is ground to a smoother paste; water is gradually added and the mash is thoroughly mixed by hand.

5. Separation: Those pastes need to be kneaded by hand in large basins and gradually add water to help separate the shea butter. When they float to the top, the shea butter in the curd state is removed and excess moisture is squeezed out. Those curdling shea butter will be placed in a large open pot to dissolve it by slow fire. The simmering time will evaporate any remaining water.
6. Collection and Shaping: At this time, creamy or golden yellow shea butter is scooped out of the top of the pan with a ladle and placed in a cool place to harden it. It is then formed into a spherical shape.

Industrially, mechanical shelling can use, for example, a nut sheller. Refined shea butter can be extracted with chemicals such as hexane or ceramic water filters.



Composition and nature

Shea butter extract is a complex fat, except that many of the elements of the saponification reaction (which cannot be completely converted to soap by alkali treatment) contain the following fatty acids: oleic acid (40-60%), stearic acid ( 20-50%), linoleic acid (3-11%), palmitic acid (2-9%), bismuth-linolenic acid (<1%) and arachidic acid (<1%) Shea butter melts at body temperature. For skin care, it quickly absorbs into the skin, acts as a “refreshing fat”, and has a good combination of moisture for skin maintenance.



Shea butter is mainly used in the skin and hair related products of the cosmetic industry (lip gloss, moisturizer, emulsifier, dry conditioner, and hair conditioner). It is also used in the manufacture of soaps, especially in small amounts (5-7% oil in the formula), because it has sufficient unsaponifiables, and high doses soften soaps but have the ability to weaken cleaning. Some handmade soap makers use 25% of shea butter – about 28% of the EU’s maximum use, but this is rarely seen in commercially produced soap because of the cost of palm oil or olive oil Higher. It is a good moisturizer for people with dry skin. Although there is no evidence that it can cure, it can relieve the pain and itching associated with tightness.

In some African countries such as Benin, shea butter is used as a component in cooking, as a water-repellent wax, in hairdressing applications, in wax candles, and as a medicinal ointment. It has also been used by traditional African percussion instrument manufacturers to increase the durability of wood (such as carved shells) sand hammers and leather conditioning belts.

In the United Kingdom and other countries, it is integrated into the organization of various products, such as toilet paper.

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