Shea Butter is an off- white (ivory) or yellow coloured fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree whose botanical name is Vitellaria paradoxa. Shea butter is a triglyceride (an ester derived from glycerol and 3 fatty acids) derived mainly from stearic acid and oleic acid.
Shea butter is edible and also widely used in the cosmetics as a moisturiser. It melts at body temperature, absorbs rapidly into the skin and has good water-binding properties. Shea butter is sometimes used as a base for medicinal ointment and some of the isolated chemical constituents are reported to have anti-inflammatory , emolient and humectant properties. Shea butter also has a limited capacity to absorb ultra-violet radiation and has thus be used as a sun-blocking lotion.
It helps fade scars and stretch marks too but here we will specifically look at its benefits for natural African hair. I use it to seal moisture into my hair after moisturizing with water or my AVC leave-in and applying my oil mix and I have to say that I LOVE THIS STUFF!
Not only does it help make my hair soft and shiny, it also works very well as a styling product, be it as a hold for my edges and twists or as a curl enhancer for my twist outs.
My hair responded so well to it that when I didn’t find my staple product African Black soap at my local grocer, I happily settled for the shea butter soap instead and as expected, both my skin and hair love it. I should buy the soap in bulk before the store runs out of it too.
Here is how I mix it. I make my shea butter mix thick as I have come to notice that my hair loves thick products, this was evidenced when I ran out of my shea mix and settled for my oil mix as my end all be all hair product.
Good God I have not seen that amount of stubbornness from my Charlene-my hair’s name- in a very long time. There was massive tangling and just general stupidity all round, it was a very sad situation which may be partly due to my experimentation with a store bought leave-in conditional but that a story for another day, back to the mixing process.
I mix 200g of my raw, unrefined shea butter with a teaspoon each of castor oil, olive oil and coconut oil then manually mix with a wooden spoon till it turns into a thick sticky creamy consistency. Perfect for sealing and styling my Charlene. You can use any oils you prefer and increase the amount of the oils you use if you prefer the mix less thick and sticky.
I store my mix together with all my hair product in my bedside cabinet where its nicely cool and dark so as to maximise its shelf life. A good quality shea butter should be good for use for up to 18 months.
Now there is some debate on what the “right” colour of shea butter actually is,some say the paler colour is the best shea while some argue that the yellow has more nutrients as it is unprocessed, I have been privileged to use both versions and while both had the same nutty scent, my hair responded better to the mustard yellow coloured version, that is just my personal observation not a testament as to which colour shea butter is superior.