Shea butter: The benefits and local brands to support

The shea tree was originally used to make coffins for African kings, and many tribes consider it to be sacred. Discover the health and beauty benefits of the butter inside its fruits, and it's easy to understand why

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The use of shea butter in hair and body products has become increasingly popular through the years. Now, nearly every naturally derived product boasts the moisturising and sealing properties of shea butter on their packaging. Here’s what you need to know about the wondrous oil.

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is an oil that is extracted from the nuts of the karite or shea tree. The tree is native to Africa and its butter is, in reality, an oil that is solid at room temperature.

The karite tree carries fruits which hold the nuts inside. The nuts are extracted, crushed and boiled before being manipulated to extract the light-coloured fat known as shea butter.

Karite trees have been found for centuries in a belt across Africa stretching 19 countries from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. It is believed that the butter was used as far back as Cleopatra’s reign, and the queen of Sheba was also reportedly a big fan.

The trees were originally used to make coffins for African kings, and the oil extracted from the nuts was renowned for its healing and nourishing skin properties.

Many African tribes consider the tree sacred, and the butter is used to protect delicate skin from the harshness of the tropical wind and sunshine.

It is also not unheard of for shea butter to be consumed, as it is often blended with palm oil for cooking purposes.

What does shea butter do?

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It is most often used in moisturisers, lotions, creams and conditioners, along with other emulsions for hair and skin. It is fat-rich and makes good emollient (something which softens the skin) and moisturiser. The wonder ingredient is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can be used as a homeopathic treatment for conditions such as eczema. It has also been shown to reduce skin damage and repair hair that has sustained damage due to free radicals.

The wonder oil also contains vitamins A and E, which maintain optimum skin health and also offers protection from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Vitamin E is known for its soothing properties on dry skin, and also improves the elasticity of skin, making it a mild anti-aging agent.

Which local brands use shea butter?

South African wellness online platform and brand Faithful To Nature sells a variety of in-house products. Their raw shea butter even comes in a 1kg tub.

Shea Healing is another local brand that has been selling organic raw shea butters and essential oils since 2014. Using Shea Healing’s essential oils, you can create your own infused shea butter whips.

Native Child is an organic South African hair care brand. The company uses only natural oils to create its shampoos, conditioners, hair growth serums and masks. Check out their organic shea butter hair moisturiser.

ALSO READ: Agripreneur 101: Meet the producer of a skincare range

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