Hailing from the Savannah belt extending from western to eastern Africa, shea butter has been a staple for skin and hair care and overall beauty care for thousands of years. The origins of shea butter go back as far as ancient Egypt, where the butter would be stored and used in large clay jars and vessels for cosmetic and beauty purposes by ancient Egyptian royalty. As time progressed through the ages, and as the utilization of shea butter spread throughout Africa, more uses and benefits for shea butter were being discovered as its popularity grew not only in Africa, but soon in the entire world. These days, shea butter is an essential and necessary part of hair and skin care for the multicultural beauty industry and the entire beauty industry worldwide.
Where it Comes From
Shea butter comes directly from the Karite tree which begins to bear its fruits around the ages of 10 to 15 years, fully maturing around 20 to 30 years. The Karite tree can produce nuts for up to 200 years. Shea butter is harvested primarily in West Africa, where the butter is extracted from the almond shaped fruits/nuts that the Karite tree naturally grows. Using ancient and traditional methods, the Karite nuts are gathered and crushed to then extract the shea butter. The nuts are roasted, milled into a paste, emulsified, boiled, strained and purified, then packaged. The butter is packaged and distributed all over the globe primarily for cosmetic purposes, just like our ancestors used thousands of years ago.
The modern-day resurgence and popularity of shea butter in the beauty industry has helped boost and stimulate the economy in western Africa. According the the UN Development Programme (UNDP) an estimated 3 million African women work with shea butter. And according to the New York Times, shea butter’s yearly revenue for western Africa is about $90 million to $200 million dollars. The great majority of the people working and extracting shea butter in western Africa are women. The shea butter business is extremely important and profitable for these women and their families. This has caused shea butter to be referred to as “women’s gold.”
Uses for Shea Butter
Shea butter has a multitude of natural uses and benefits for hair, skin and beauty. When it comes to hair, shea butter stands alone with its multiple properties and benefits in hair maintenance and health. It can be used as a conditioner for the hair, and as a sealant for hair moisture. Shea butter also adds a protective layer on the hair preventing UV harm from the rays of the sun. Shea butter can be used to prevent and treat dandruff, dry scalp and scalp issues like eczema and psoriasis. This also seamlessly translates to skin care. Shea butter can be used as a mild sunscreen and eases sunburns on the skin while also reducing pain associated with sunburns. Shea butter can help ease and reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars on the body as well as acne scars on the face. Shea butter is also known to prevent and erase wrinkles. Shea butter can also relieve aching joints as well as arthritic pain. The benefits for shea butter can be seen external as well as internal when used as an anti-inflammatory. Shea butter is also known to relieve insect bites. These are just a few of the many uses and benefits of shea butter.
Looking to the Future
The future of shea butter in the multicultural beauty supply industry is extremely bright. The demand for shea butter is at an all-time high worldwide. The reason for this is because of the desire and need by the consumer for all natural beauty, skin, and hair products. In the information age of the Internet, where almost any and all knowledge can be acquired with the click of a button, more and more people are educating themselves when it comes to what products they are putting on, and inside of their bodies, and realizing that all natural products are the best route to go for their personal and commercial use. Shea butter is the all-natural answer for a multitude of beauty, skin and hair issues that for many years prior to this information age of the Internet, people (especially in the “western world”) have been relieving with artificial, or less than all natural products. This was simply happening because of the lack of knowledge when it comes to the ingredients in these products. Now thanks to the Internet and the ease of acquiring knowledge concerning products and ingredients, the consumer demands natural and healthier alternatives from skin, hair, and beauty companies; these companies have listened. Shea butter in a very short time has become a household name. With all of its natural healing and soothing properties for hair, scalp, and skin, Shea butter stands supreme in the beauty, skin, and hair care world and isn’t going anywhere.