Saturday, July 14, 2007

Oh, Shea... Shea

Shea is a tree that is native to Africa (occuring in the regions of Mali, Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Burkina, Faso, Uganda, and Cote d'lvoire). From the Shea Tree is harvested Greenish/Ivory colored Shea Fruit, also called nut, contains a seed from which shea oil is extracted (as well as what "Shea Butter" is formed) from.

For centuries, on the wooded savanna, Shea Butter has been used by the locals. Its been incorporated into the history and culture of Africans. Shea butter was used as a drum conditioner, for the wood shell of the drum and the animal skin head of the drum. And even, funeral beds of Kings were carved out of old fallen Shea Trees.

To add to its history, "Shea Butter" has wonderful natural qualities, such as being used as: a decongestant, an inflammatory, relief for muscle sprains and arthritis pains, lamp fuel, hair and skin care, and even cooking oil.

In regards to skin care, Shea butter is known for being a moisturizer, as well as being effective for fading scars, healing eczema, acne, blemishes, dark spots, patches, stretch marks, and even wrinkles. Shea butter also provides a natural UV sun protection, ranging from none (the refined) to SPF 6. It is not recommended to be used as sun protection for individuals with sensitive skin.

In our modern era, however, Shea Butter, has been manufactured quite different than the tradional ways in ancient africa. These days, there are two different forms or processes of Shea Butter. The first is called "Refined Shea Butter". In this process, the Shea Fruit is bleached and "refined" by using several chemicals, like: Hexane (which is an alkane hydrocarbon, which is used with organic manner, due to them being nonreactive. Interestingly enough, it is also found in gasoline and in glue, that is used for shoes.), fillers, pesticides, and preservatives. Because of this "refining" process, the "Shea Fruit" looses all of the nutrients and benefits that it had originally. So the manufacturers add MORE chemicals and synthetic "nutrients" (that don't even really come close to the natural benefits) to make their product work.

The second process, on the other hand, is called "Certified Organic Unrefined Shea Butter". This process is free of use of pesticides, preservatives, and Hexane. The life of the product is shorter due to the lack of preservatives, and it is also more pricey. But consider this good, for two reasons:

  • One- its decomposing the way it is suppose to, which is always good.
  • Two- you pay more now, but pay less in the long run, due to it being healthier and safer, think of all the hospital bills that you'll save on.

Most Shea Butter that you find on the shelf, sadly is "Refined Shea Butter". The manufacturers add a bit of fuller's clay and use a vacuum extraction process, to get rid of the gross smell created from the mixed chemicals...

... Apparently, the smell is that "Nasty" that the manufacturers are willing to spend a few hundred dollars to hide the stench from their customers, consumers, and the occasional FDA agent, that just happened to stop by.

The "organic Shea Butter's" aroma disappears quickly, but it absorbs (smooth like 'butter') into the skin.

You might want to make up a personal home experiment project. Take two samples from your local department store (from the cosmetic section), one of "refined" and the other "unrefined", and see for yourself what the difference is.

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