More than a simple ingredient used in the food industry, shea butter, extracted from the eponymous tree, is prized for its benefits on the health of the skin, but also for its many cosmetic virtues for the face, the body. and the hair. Where is he from ? How is it produced? And above all, what are its benefits? We asked our questions to Carole Tawema, co-founder of the Karethic brand, which draws its resources from Benin.
What is shea butter?
Renowned around the world, shea butter is extracted from the fruit of the shea tree – also called the butter tree – which is found only in 21 African countries, from Senegal to Uganda via Burkina Faso or even Benin. This tree with an impressive longevity (nearly 3 centuries) begins to produce its fruits between its 12e and his 25e year. “A food provider during the rainy season, it becomes the main source of income for women in the summer, when harvests become possible,” says Carole Tawema. Only women in the ancestral tradition can approach this sacred tree, which quickly made shea butter an exceptional and exclusively feminine know-how.
How is shea butter made?
Every year, from June to September, African women – 700 Beninese, 14 cooperatives at Karethic – harvest the fallen fruits at the foot of the tree before cleaning and pulping them. The shea nuts are then dried in the sun before being crushed with a pestle or a mill. They are then shelled to keep only the pure almond. Then it’s time for processing: these delicately harvested almonds are ground until a thick paste is obtained and then mixed with water. This step allows the impurities to naturally detach and settle at the bottom of the tank. The butter, which remains on the surface, is then recovered and mixed before being cooked for a long time at a very low temperature (the aim being to keep its properties). The water evaporates, giving way to the oil which will be manually filtered through cheesecloth and then packaged. Once at room temperature, this oil hardens and turns into a solid but melting butter. Thus was born the traditional shea butter.
The benefits of shea butter
Traditional shea butter, known and used in Africa for its healing properties, is now prized by the cosmetics industry for its active ingredients with valuable benefits for the body, face and hair.
For the body
If spreading shea butter all over the body is a daily ritual acquired among African women, it’s not for nothing! Naturally rich in vitamins A, D, E and F, this butter nourishes, softens, protects and revitalizes the epidermis. Its concentration of anti-inflammatory active ingredients helps treat skin problems such as eczema, dermatitis or other skin irritations. Its healing properties make it possible to repair skin damaged by a burn, a scar or even a tattoo. It is even very popular with athletes (and not only) to relieve muscle pain. As a fatty substance, it is obviously very nourishing and softening. Excellent moisturizer, it looks like Hand cream and for our feet! Finally, it is known to have a remarkable action on the elasticity of the skin. It helps prevent the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy.
Read also: The benefits of vitamin E
For the face
Its similarities with the skin’s natural sebum and its exceptional content of unsaponifiable active ingredients promote the penetration of its active ingredients and vitamins into the skin. And if for the face, this treatment has the same properties as for the body, we note here that it is also rich in antioxidants. Thus, it protects our face from external aggressions and prevents the appearance of visible signs of aging. It is also perfect in lip balm.
First, shea butter will help regenerate, soothe and limit scalp irritation. On the other hand, this fatty substance has film-forming properties, in other words, it limits the natural evaporation of water and thus contributes to better hydration of the scales of the hair. Finally, applied as a hair mask or conditioner, it repairs dry hair in addition to protecting and giving shine to our mane.
How to choose the right shea butter?
Choosing the right shea butter is not easy because “unlike many vegetable oils like coconut oil or olive oil, there are no regulations for this product, which is prized all over the world”, deplores Carole Tawema. Nevertheless, the expert gives us some tips for finding the right product. First guarantee of quality? ” His color. Indeed, the color of shea butter is yellow. Never white (synonymous with treatment),” she says. In addition, certain vocabulary words can also attract our attention such as “virgin shea butter”, “traditional”, “pure”, “artisanal”, “fresh”, “unrefined” or even “natural”. With them, one must also take into account the certifications on the packaging of the products. “The organic label is the first indicator to take into account, it is about the health of consumers but also of producers”, continues the expert. Then comes the Slow Cosmétique label which “promotes natural care, without synthetic materials and without controversy for health and the environment as well as the so-called “fair” certification in order to support the living conditions and the remuneration of African producers. * whose know-how is extraordinary”, she ends up specifying. On good terms!
*In order to support the rights of women in the shea industry and to establish specific regulations for the production of shea butter, the brand has set up a petition on the site Karethic.com or directly on change.org.