by Staff writer
Before the arrival of mainstream skincare products, men, women and children of Africa knew about the skin-nourishing properties of Shea butter.
Often called “women’s gold” because of its expensiveness, Shea butter has provided employment and income to women in over 15 African countries, including Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Benin and Kenya.
The butter comes from nuts produced by the Karite (or Shea) tree.
Often harvested by hand, the nuts are boiled in a large pot, which makes the shell easier to break.
When the nuts are cooled, they are extracted from their shells. This extracting process is also usually done by hand and can be quite time-consuming.
To combat this, the women often work in groups.
The discarded shells are used for cooking fuel, while the seeds are cracked and roasted.
The roasted seeds are then beaten with water, which releases their rich fats. These extracts are boiled, skimmed, and cooled, which results in the Shea butter we all know and love.
For many women, making Shea butter is a family tradition. Mothers pass on the technique to daughters, preserving traditional methods.
Shea butter is now mainly used in the cosmetics industry for skin- and hair-related products, from skin moisturizer creams and lip gloss to soap and hair conditioners.
Shea butter is rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants — all the ingredients needed for a glowing black skin.