Tag Archives: shea butter

Nature’s baby food

All vegetable oils come from seeds, berries and fruits that create their oil to feed the next generation. The oil is rich in nutrients to make the new plant strong and sturdy enough to grow root and flourish. Can you imagine that kind of nutrition? I mean, some of those seeds are so incredibly small you wonder how they make it…But they do.

We collect their oils; sunflower, avocado, passionflower, shea butter. When the fats are extracted and handled with care, we receive amazing power-packed nutrition for our skin and bodies; every little cell of it.

So nature’s baby food is our super food. Thank you Mother Nature ❤



Latin name: Butyrospermum parkii

The name Shea comes from s’i – the tree’s name in Mali. The Latin name comes from the explorer Mungo Park who introduced it to Europe.

The shea-tree grows in the dry savannahs of Africa. It grows to a height of about 20 meter and starts bearing fruit after 8-12 years, though it reaches full producing capacity only after 40 years after which it can bear fruit for over 200 years. Flowering season is January/February and the fruit ripens between May and August. The fruits are the size of large plums. A “good” tree can yield up to 80 kg of nuts/year but normally a tree produces about 20 kg of fruit, giving 1.5 kg of butter. 100 kg of fruit will yield about 8 kg of butter.

Process: The  fruit falls as it ripens and is collected – traditionally by women and children. The outer shell is then crushed and removed, revealing another, inner, shell that is removed by boiling or roasting. Inside is the nut that is used. After drying, the nut is crushed to release the butter. This method of extraction leaves the butter intact but gives a lower yield and is therefore more expensive. Another process is by using a hexane solvent extraction which gives a higher yield. The butter is also made into an oil by reducing the amount of stearic acid. The cheaper, refined, variety is widely used by the chocolate industry and can also be found in margarine and other foods. Shea-butter is extensively used by the cosmetic industry and can be found in many creams, lotions and emollients.

The butter has been used for thousands of years by the Africans as food oil, lamp oil, protective salve and for soap. Therapeutically it has been used to treat sprains, muscular pain, and as an anti-inflammatory. It has also traditionally been used as a protective agent for skin and hair.


  • Shea butter contains cinnamic acids which  has sun-screening properties, protecting the skin against UV-rays.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties help with cracks, skin-ulcers and fissures.
  • prevention of stretch-marks by making the skin supple.
  • Emollient on dry skin, hair and lips. Makes the skin soft and supple.
  • For sprains, aches and rheumatism.
  • Acne, itchiness, eczema, irritated skin, scars.

Shea butter is white to creamy in color. It is readily absorbed by the skin without leaving a greasy residue, and the skin will feel softer after use. Being very mild, it is tolerated by most people. The butter is stable, giving it a shelf-life of about 2 years if stored cool and dark. It melts at a temperature of 35-40 degrees celsius.

Chemical profile:

  • Oleic acid, 40-45%
  • Stearic acid 30-45%
  • Linoleic acid 3-9%
  • Palmitic acid 3-5%


(picture from: www.medical-look.com/Skin_diseases/)

Many people suffer from dermatitis (eczema) on small or large areas of their bodies,very often on the hands and arms.  (You can read more about dermatitis here.) One type of dermatitis, contact dermatitis, is a reaction to a substance which the body part is in contact with for a prolonged time. This can be brought on by most any substance that can be an irritant to the skin, even essential oils – especially in high doses. Over the years, two of my aromatherapy pupils have developed contact dermatitis to essential oils after 2-4 years of exposure and this condition seems to be irreversible. I am not saying stop using the oils, just be aware of the fact that they are strong substances and need to be used with care.

The skin-cells have a life-span of about 28 days. They are “born” in the lowest level of the skin, epidermis, at which point they are round and plump, filled with fluid. On their journey up towards the surface they get flatter and drier, depositing the protein keratin which  cements the cells together and creates the upper, protective layer of skin, epidermis. When this “journey” is out of balance, it will show as skin-problems – dermatitis.

The most used substance to deal with dermatitis is cortisone which is a steroid hormone. By suppressing the immune system, cortisone reduces inflammation, pain and swelling. It is extremely effective but it only suppresses, it doesn’t heal. Once you stop using cortisone the problem re-occurs. Over time cortisone causes the skin to become very dry.

ALTERNATIVES: (always see a therapist if your problems are serious or get worse. Don’t use essential oils if you are not sure that they won’t irritate your skin.)

  • Castor oil (ricinus officinalis) A client of mine, a builder, told me that he always had problems with hardened skin and deep cracks on his hands. Then they started keeping the bolts for the scaffolding in jars of castor oil so they would not rust. Since then his hands were much better. I started using castor oil on cracked, dry skin with great results. Very heavy texture, needs to be blended.
  • Shea butter (butyrospermum parkii), Shea butter oil. Anti-inflammatory & protective
  • Coconut oil (cocos nucifera) more a butter, solid in room-temp, melts on skin.  Protective film on skin, softening
  • Macerations (herbal infused oils) such as Marigold (calendula officinalis), St Johns Wort (hypericum perforatum)
  • Jojoba-oil (simmondsia chinensis) resembles the skins sebum and helps protect the skin.
  • Bees wax (cera alba) Protection, creates a protective film.
  • Cocoa butter (theobroma cacao) Solid in room-temp. melts on skin. Softening & calming.
  • Vegetable oils with anti-inflammatory properties; Andiroba oil (carapa guianensis), Argan oil (argana spinosa), Borage oil (borago officinalis), Cashew nut oil (anacardium occidentale), Evening primrose oil (oenothera biennis), Kukui nut oil (aleurites moluccana), Olive oil (olea europaea).
  • Vegetable oils with calming properties that can be used as bases for blending: Apricot kernel oil (prunus armeniaca), Peach kernel oil (prunus persica), Sunflower oil (helianthus annuus), Walnut oil (juglans regia)
  • Essential oils; Lavender (lavandula augustifolia), Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla), Yarrow (achillea millefolium).

When working with beeswax, you need to melt it in a bain-marie together with butters or fats such as shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter and vegetable oils. Add special vegetable oils last, together with essential oils (if you use them), when the liquid starts to cool. You can see a basic recipe for a balm here.