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Ingredient Focus: Shea Butter

Updated: May 13, 2020

A prized component of a wide range of cosmetic products, shea butter is not only fantastic for the skin, it also has the potential to aid sustainable development of rural areas in Africa.

What is it?

Shea butter (Butyrospermum parkii) is a multi-purpose fat extracted from the kernels of shea tree, also known as karite or “the tree of life”. These trees thrive in dry savanna ecosystems across 19 African countries and have been used by their communities as a food plant, for skin- and haircare, as well as an ingredient of medicinal ointments.

Is shea butter sustainable?

This wondrous butter is one of the most sustainable skincare ingredients on the planet. As it comes from a tree which grows abundantly in the grasslands of West and Central Africa, it doesn’t require irrigation, fertilisers or pest control.

In terms of economical sustainability, gathering and processing of shea nuts allows members of the poorest communities (predominantly women) to take part in the supply chain and support themselves and their families financially. Fair trade co-operatives are the best suppliers of quality unprocessed shea butter, while ensuring workers are recompensed fairly for their hard work. We use a supplier who sources their shea butter sustainably and our shea butter is also organic, certified by the Soil Association.

What are the benefits of shea butter for the skin?

Mainly, it is an incredibly effective emollient, which means it softens and nourishes skin, protects it against drying, maintains its elasticity and promotes healthy skin cell re-growth. For these reasons it's often used by people with very dry skin and eczema.

Shea butter has the highest ratio of unsaponifiable compounds of all the vegetable fats or oils. Those compounds don't saponify, or change their structure during the soap-making process. They are rich in vitamins, plant sterols, minerals and other nourishing substances. For example, the Japanese Journal of Oleo Science published a study showing that shea butter is a source of anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor promoting compounds. Cinnamic acid, one of these interesting compounds, protects from some of the UV rays and is known for its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Antioxidants including vitamins A and E help prevent premature skin ageing. Shea butter also aids local capillary blood circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the skin tissue and removes metabolic waste products - this helps maintain a healthy and clear complexion.

On top of all this, shea butter is very well tolerated by our skin; studies show that even people with tree nut allergies develop any symptoms only in extremely rare cases.

In which products can I find shea butter?

All of our soap formulas, from the bars beautifully scented with organic essential oils to the ones designed for the most sensitive skin types, contain this skin-loving butter.

Take a pick in the Soap Shop.


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