How shea butter is made
Extracting Shea Butter the Traditional way
Depending on methods passed down from generations, various families in West Africa have their own traditional methods of extracting shea butter. The basic process is the same in most families. Shea Nuts, the fruit of the Shea Tree is picked, cracked, roasted and pounded to extract the butter. It is then boiled in water for a number of hours until the fresh shea butter rises to the surface. It is then scooped into gourds and left to cool and set. This is all done by hand. This process has been done for centuries. Although this process does not produce mass shea butter, it is still the best way to extract because there is no need for chemicals or synthetic agents to be added to extract the butter. This is called Unrefined Shea Butter or Raw Shea Butter.
Extracting Shea Butter by Cold Pressing
An expeller type press is used to crush the nuts of the shea butter. The shea nuts after being roasted are pushed against the metal press. The movement is similar to a meat grinder. Then the shea butter is squeezed out of the nut by pressure. The end result is Unrefined Shea Butter or Raw Shea Butter.
This method is used by many African women these days because it helps them organize and produce more shea butter in less time. It does not involve any chemicals. It is simply a faster way of extracting without compromising the pure unrefined shea butter. This process cuts at least 3-5 hours off the traditional extraction time. Advances continue to be made for extracting shea butter naturally without using chemicals.
Shea Butter today in the commercial world
Today, shea butter is acknowledged all over the world for its nourishing, enriching and toning properties for skin & hair. Like every great product traditional unrefined African shea butter has been dissected into refined, processed, industrialized, extra refined, ultra refined and a muddle of other names.
The commercial method of extracting shea butter has also added to the perplexity of shea butter. In most circles, chemically shea butter is used as an ingredient in soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hair relaxers, lotions, hand & body creams etc. Even when processed, shea butter can still pack a punch if used generously. That''s how powerful shea butter is. There is nothing wrong with using shea butter as an ingredient. But it is more beneficial to use unrefined shea butter and in products. It is important to preserve the ancient methods of unrefined shea butter. Shea Butter is nature's wonder.
The Bottom Line
No matter how shea butter is manipulated in the commercial industry, the fact remains that the traditional way of extracting shea butter yields unrefined shea butter which is bar none the most beneficial to skin & hair. Some get confused by the words "Unrefined Shea Butter" UNREFINED simply means NATURAL, CRUDE, or COLD PRESSED. It means NOT PROCESSED, NO CHEMICALS!