Why Shea Butter?

Shea Butter has been used for centuries for its unsurpassed ability to maintain a protect the skin.  Shea Butter comes from the nut of the Shea Butter tree, in a variety of species, growing naturally in both West and East Africa. The fruits of the Shea Butter tree are usually harvested by local women, smaller co-ops and associations, who are directly responsible for bringing this wonderful botanical from the source to you. Shea Butter is called "women's gold" because women dominate the industry and earn their living from it and improve their quality of life as well as their families. 

From collection, harvest and throughout the production process, this work is labor intensive and takes long hours. It can also be dangerous, as the women enter areas that may not always be safe, just so they can earn a livelihood and support theirselves and families as well as pay for education. However, they are proud, hard working women who are the gatekeepers of their traditions and culture, carrying on the work of the Ancestors. Watch this video to learn more about the women and the laborious, intense production process.

Shea Nuts
In West Africa, the species of Shea Butter is Butyrospermum Parkii and is locally known as Karité or Beurre de karité. It typically comes from countries such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Guinea-Conakry and the Ivory Coast. This Shea appears either as white or yellow but may also be gray or even green. Differences in color result from various factors, including the processing technique used, the season and the region. Its texture ranges from a soft, creamy paste to a firmer texture. 

In East Africa, the Vitellaria Nilotica species, a sub-species of Vitellaria Paradoxa growsSimply referred to as Nilotica, it has become even more popular than the West African variety, due to its luxurious feel.  This species typically comes from Uganda and is truly superior in terms of moisturizing and is almost odorless.  Its color may present as off white, but more often as lighter yellow, buttery, or golden in color.  In its raw form, sticking your fingers in Nilotica feels like sticking your fingers in room temperature butter or creamy, thicker mashed potatoes. 

Supporting Fair Trade and African Farmers, Co-ops & Associations
Fair Trade ensures that these women, co-ops and 
associations receive fair compensation for the work involved in the various stages from harvest to cooking to cooling and traveling from Africa to the rest of the world. This is especially true, as larger companies are seeking to replace and outdo the work of the women; modern machinery can do in 3 days what it takes the women a month to do. 

Fair Trade Minimum prices are established so that these producers receive a Fair Trade Minimum Price and Fair Trade Premium. When you support Fair Trade, you help provide these benefits as stated by the Fair Trade Foundation,
a global organization which advocates, supports and works for fairness and ethical standards for all workers:
  • Fair Trade certification and pricing ensures a minimum "safety net" price and vital, economic stability.
  • Fair Trade Premiums help farmers and workers re-invest in their business, their future and their families, often including education.
  • Fair Trade Standards promote strength in numbers, organization, representation and the ability to negotiate.
  • Fair Trade guards against the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children and marginalized men, women and children.
  • Fair Trade works to protect the environment, whether East Africa, Madagascar, the Rain Forest or other locations at risk around the world. 
  • Fair Trade Standards work to protect the natural environment "through strict rules on pesticides, water conservation, soil erosion, GMOs, biodiversity, energy use and reducing carbon footprint."
  • Fair Trade Premiums are essential in "community development" and broader "economic, social and environmental change."
  • Fair Trade enables small farmers, co-ops and associations the chance to compete in the global marketplace, which helps families, communities, nations and the world. This means that these workers, co-ops and associations can begin to ''use their collective voice to challenge the status quo and push for better national policies". 
Always support Fair Trade!

Processing & Traditional Uses of Shea

Traditionally, Shea Butter has been such an important source of edible fat and a valuable material for many skin and hair care products, whether for adults or babies.  This applies to Shea whether in butter form or Fractionated Shea, the liquid form. Also, the pulp of the Shea Butter berries can be eaten when still fresh and Shea oil, like others, is used in cooking.   

At around 10 years of age, the trees start to produce smooth Shea nuts, about 6 cm in diameter, from which the butter is extracted. The process of making Shea Butter starts with drying of the Shea Butter with separation of the kernels from the hulls.  It's important to note that literally millions of these women are the guardians of knowledge, techniques and secrets passed down through generations, going into savannahs, open plains and forests in Shea belts. Just think how your great grandmother's recipe for sweet potato pie or peach cobbler is passed down from generation to generation, guarded with pride. 

The Shea nuts are then cold-pressed. This method yields less Shea Butter from the nut, but all of the benefits are retained.  The women then remove impurities from the Shea, yielding an excellent, all-purpose skin and hair care product. Never apply Shea butter with debris on your skin, just because the merchant says it's straight from the nut! 

Click here to watch a video and watch the process.  Learn why East African Shea Butter is so expensive!

Ethically Sourced

Straight from the Nut?
It is important to note that another method of extracting Shea Butter has also been used. This involves using fuel and firewood to extract the Shea Butter.  However, this process does not remove impurities.  Hence, the consumer ends up applying crude, unrefined Shea Butter to their skin. Even though this method may yield a cheaper price to the customer, they are not applying a quality product.

So when you purchase Shea cut straight from the nut, you may be applying it in its "natural" state, but not necessarily free from debris.  Always purchase from a reliable source, one who thoroughly understands the process! Remember, the components used to extract the Shea Butter are retained within the Shea Butter itself.

Avoid "Refined" Shea Butter!
In the early days of Shea Butter's popularity, many cosmetic and industrial suppliers and manufacturers promoted "Refined" Shea Butter.  However, this Shea was processed with Hexane, a known carcinogenic solvent/agent. Lastly, cheaper grades of Shea Butter are often stretched with beeswax, cocoa butter or lanolin. Shades of the Nubian only uses solvent-free, pure, natural and organic Shea Butter in our products.

Benefits of Shea Butter
The therapeutic properties of Shea Butter are numerous.  Due to the high concentrate of unsaponifiable matters as well as fatty acid triglycerides (mainly oleic and stearic) and Phytosterol, which promotes cellular growth, this exceptionally rich vegetable extract yields substantial qualities.  Other components of Shea Butter include Kariten, a blend of various derivatives with pro-vitaminic properties; Triterpenic Alcohols with Cinnamon Esters which provide protection from UV rays 275 nm; Allantoin; Resinous Esters which provide healing and disinfecting properties and other natural compounds with high therapeutic values. 

General Tips
At Shades of the Nubian, we are dedicated to you, the customer, getting the most out of our product. Here are many ways that you can get the ultimate experience and benefit of Shea, whether you prefer West African, East African or both varieties. Check out these skin and hair care tips.

 Try West African Shea Butter For:
  • General Skin Conditioning & Healing
  • Extremely Dry Skin and Softener
  • Wound Healing and After Nose Bleeds
  • Cracked Nipples and Severe Baby's Cradle Cap
  • Mom's Belly During & After Pregnancy and Stretch Marks
  • Rough Hands, Elbows and Knees (Mechanic's Choice!)
  • Soothing Skin After Shaving and Waxing
  • After Shower and Bath
  • Bald Heads, Scruffy Beards and Shaving Cuts
  • Hair Conditioner and Repair
  • Damaged Hair, Edges and Split Ends
  • Muscle Conditioning, Tension and Rubdown
  • Summer and Winter Protectant
  • Hypo-Allergenic Properties 


 Try East African Shea Butter For:
  • Skin Conditioning and Superior Moisturizing
  • Extremely Dry Skin and Softener
  • Minor Wound Healing
  • Baby Cradle Cap & Skin Care
  • Mom's Belly During &  After Pregnancy and Stretch Marks
  • Gentle Application and Care for Seniors' Skin
  • Soothing and Protecting Skin in Nursing Homes, Hospice and Medical Facilities
  • Nail Cuticles and Hand Moisturizing
  • After Shower and Bath
  • Bald Heads and Beard Balm
  • Hair Conditioner & Scalp Relief 
  • Lightweight Summer and Winter Protectant 
  • Sensitive Skin & Hypo-Allergenic 
  • Virtually Odorless