Plucked, ground, roasted, boiled, skimmed, and hardened –a tediously long string of steps that birth the shea butter, an often yellow wonder butter from the heart of West Africa.
A relatively new consciousness outside of Africa has been birthed of the numerous uses of shea butter and its benefits as a beauty product. Before this consciousness however, people from all the lengths and breadths of Africa have used it, refined it, and gloried in its unbelievable healing and beauty powers.
In a world where synthetic is king, it is comforting to see something so natural, and readily available being milked for all of its benefits.
Like the camel riding man years back in the loose hot sands of the Sahara, today people that live in the tropics or areas susceptible to harsh sun rays know to spread shea butter on their skins, a layer of protection from the harsh weather conditions, and an agent to prevent dryness of skin.
Today, like the lithe and smiling women and girls who centuries ago would sit at each other’s feet massaging and working the butter into their hair for an increase in its mass, sheen, fine texture, and shine, women and young girls the world over know to knock off shea butter infused hair products off supermarket shelves and treat themselves to this ages old and effective beauty experience.
The years have passed by, but today just like then, we know to apply shea butter on our skin to rid it of ugly winkles and brighten our skin hues, religiously applying it for 4 to 6 weeks as advised by the American Shea Butter Institute and as evident in the faces of the old women of Africa whose old faces bear relatively far fewer wrinkles.
For years, shea butter has been used to fade stretch marks, an inexpensive yet efficient way of bringing the skin back to a more rhymed hue. When in addition to this, one thinks of shea butter’s anti-inflammatory and tumour control properties, it becomes very hard not to agree that shea butter is indeed wonder butter. Studies, such as one published in the Journal of Oleo Science have shown that shea nuts and shea fat (shea butter) constitute a significant source of anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour promoting compounds.
There have also been scientifically unverified reports of shea butter’s healing properties for eczema and acne. Most people that use it for these purposes apply the butter to their wet skins after a clear skin scrub to lock in the moisture and increase its healing effects.
In addition, shea butter is also used as a lip balm, moisturising and soothing the lips. Its wonders also extend to healing and repairing cracked feet and cuticles. Furthermore, it acts as an antioxidant, protecting the skin from damage through its ample vitamins A and E. Also, as a result of the cinnamic acids in shea butter, it helps to protect the skin from UV radiation. Men and women have also used shea butter as an after shave, helping to prevent post shaving skin irritation. If somehow, you are not impressed yet, there’s a bonus, shea butter also helps to decongest a blocked nose.
The colour of sheer butter as found in markets varies from golden yellow to off white, a variation which shows the decline of its naturalness and corresponding loss of its key healing properties. It is advised that users buy the unrefined grade A quality Shea butter for their use.
With shea butter’s versatility and continuing widespread appreciation, it really is one of West Africa’s gifts to the world.