Shea butter (/ʃiː/, /ˈʃiːə/, or /ʃeɪ/) is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It is usually ivory in color when raw, with more processed versions being white in color. It can be yellow when a root[further explanation needed] is added to it. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. Shea butter is edible and is used in food preparation in some African countries
The shea tree grows naturally in the wild in the dry savannah belt of West Africa from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east, and onto the foothills of the Ethiopian highlands. It occurs in 21 countries across the African continent, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Guinea.
Shea butter melts at body temperature. Proponents of its use for skin care maintain that it absorbs rapidly into the skin, acts as a "refatting" agent, and has good water-binding properties.
The United States Agency for International Development and other companies have suggested a classification system for shea butter separating it into five grades:
Commercial grades are A, B, and C. The color of raw (grade A) butter ranges from cream (like whipped butter) to grayish yellow. It has a nutty aroma which is removed in the other grades. Grade C is pure white. While the level of vitamin content can be affected by refining, up to 95% of vitamin content can be removed from refined grades (i.e., grade C) of shea butter while reducing contamination levels to undetectable levels.
Naturally.Elemental uses Grade A Shea butter in its products.
What to know more about Shea Butter as a product and the industry? Check out the American Shea Butter Institute.