Crafting natural products for the body and skin is a ritual that requires much careful thought and consideration. Every artisan has their favorite practices, techniques, and ingredients that contribute to the process, and every step matters.
As intentional ingredients go, unrefined shea butter is perhaps one of our most cherished, both for its beautiful backstory and its multitude of beauty benefits. Read on for a little deep dive.
“A Labor of Love” The Shea Butter Origin Story
As you may already know or have likely guessed, shea butter is a rich vegetable fat extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. Shea (or Karite) trees are primarily native to West Africa, and this region is where most shea butter is produced. Plum Brilliance’s own unrefined shea butter comes from Baraka Shea Butter. Baraka believes that business can and should be a force for good, integrating social value, business value, and environmental stewardship.
For centuries, shea butter and oils have been a popular component in beauty remedies and cosmetics. Over time, collectives of West African women have perfected the art of harvesting the shea nuts from the wild savannah trees and transforming them into rich, raw oils and butter. According to the Wali women who make Baraka Shea Butter, a single shea tree can take as many as 50 years to fully mature, meaning ripe kernels are rare and require expert skill to spot.
April to June is considered peak fruit season and a time when women and children focus on processing the harvest into a precious commodity. Fruit fallen from the shea trees is selected and collected, cleaned and dried, packed, and then transported for processing.
The elaborate ritual of making shea butter involves twice-grinding, roasting, whipping, and churning the shea kernels until they become a luxurious butter consistency. The finished product is then strained and left to cool. This traditional process is time-honored, infused with passion and the work of many loving hands.
All of our shea butter is community certified fair trade, meaning that we pay a premium price for our shea butter in order to keep money in the hands of the women and communties that create this fantastic product.
Unrefined vs. Refined: Why we love our shea unrefined
According to the American Shea Butter Institute - a biotech research organization - it’s worth noting that not all shea butter is created equal. Shea butter that has been refined often loses its naturally nutty smell, color, and texture.
Additionally, experts say that because shea can begin to lose its natural integrity with additional processing, refining shea butter could potentially decrease its efficacy and potency to benefit the skin.
The Incredible Properties of Shea Butter
So what makes unrefined shea butter so remarkable and beloved by natural beauty enthusiasts? Let’s start with how nourishing and nutritious it is for the skin:
● Shea Butter is antioxidant-rich - High in vitamins A and E, it helps fight free radicals and protect against environmental damage.
● Shea Butter is antibacterial - Naturally helping to fight unwanted bacteria, including acne bacteria.
● Shea Butter is anti-inflammatory - As an ingredient, shea is incredibly calming, reduces redness, and may promote healing. It’s also full of healthy fatty acids that boost barrier repair.
● Shea Butter is antifungal - In combination with its other potent properties, it can be beneficial for reducing breakout activity.
Shea Benefits for Beauty and Skin
Still not convinced you need this magical ingredient in your life? Consider some of the perks of adding a little shea to your favorite beauty ritual:
Appropriate for all skin types - As a superhero ingredient, shea has become notorious for its ability to address even the driest, roughest, and most sensitive skin. Because it is non-greasy and melts to the skin, it makes an excellent choice for infusing nourishment without clogging pores or contributing to congestion.
Regenerative and rejuvenating - For promoting healthy aging and long-lasting radiance, shea has some particularly potent benefits for the skin. Shea contains a component called triterpenes which are believed to protect healthy collagen. Its moisturizing and antioxidant benefits also make it ideal for softening skin and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Deep moisture and hydration - Perhaps one of the most well-known benefits of shea butter is its ability to instantly and intensely moisturize the skin. Naturally emollient, high in essential fatty acids and linoleic acid, shea makes a perfect choice for replenishing skin and promoting moisture retention for the long term.
Texture rescue and repair - Another phenomenal use for shea butter is addressing stretch marks, textured skin, and scarring. Shea’s high vitamin E content plays a crucial role in encouraging cellular turnover, skin regeneration, and conditioning. It can even help troubleshoot inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Plum Brilliance’s Superhero Shea-Enriched Products
● Whipped Shea: A lightweight, airy-textured whip for the whole body, our Whipped Shea combines unrefined shea with other natural oils and comes in various scents like Lavender + Sandalwood or Eucalyptus + Mint.
● Natural Body Butter - Our Natural Body Butters feature luxe, creamy shea blended with lush botanical oils for an indulgent skin-pampering body moisturizer. Popular scents include Rose + Sandalwood, Wildling Forest + Fir, and Lavender.
● Natural Soaps - Many of our bestselling soaps utilize shea butter as a base, as it helps prevent dryness and cracked cuticles by keeping skin moisturized. A must for frequent hand-washers, Plum Brilliance offers a plethora of subtle scents, including Cedarwood, Aloe + Mallow, and Mint + Rosemary.
● Natural Cream Deodorants: An alternative to traditional deodorants and antiperspirants, these natural cream deodorants help support healthy skin with unrefined shea and prevent odor using essential oil fragrance. Choose from options like Refresh with Lemongrass + Rosemary or Soul with Patchouli + Vetiver.
● Body Balms: Versatile shea butter is the base of many of our balms and body treatments. Check out our Plastic-Free Lip Balm with Cocoa Butter, our Yoni Moisturizing Balm for intimate care, or our Magnesium Balm for full-body relaxation.
A few last things to note
Because it is gentle and natural, shea butter can be used daily or when the skin feels stressed. We recommend applying shea products to fresh, clean skin and massaging it thoroughly until the product is fully absorbed for best results. Shea butter is incredibly concentrated; a little will go a long way; start with a small amount. Repeat as needed and enjoy!