Shea butter comes from the almond sized nuts of the Shea Karite tree found in West Africa. It takes 15 years for the Shea Karite to develop and bear good fruit.
To prepare the butter for use the nut is boiled for hours in water and left to solidify as it cools. Some extractors use chemicals (like Hexane which has carcinogenic properties) to dissolve and separate shea butter from its nut or to descent or decolour it. A good rule is if the butter is white it's best not to bother and you're always safer to choose organic shea butter. It's also best used fresh or at least within two years of extraction as many of the healing properties it contains lose their power over time.
Shea butter is commonly found in body lotions, lip balms, soaps, baby balms, cleansers, shaving cream, hair products - it's very easy to find it as a main ingredient in many natural skin care products. Why because it's easy to extract and use and it does wonders for the skin.
Dermatologists recognise Shea butter as an effective treatment for eczema and psoriasis. It's high level of fatty acids and vitamins work on the skins epidermal cells to maintain moisture and elasticity. This is why it can be a good remedy for stretch marks and dry skin. A good assistant in the fight against wrinkles, the vitamin's A and E help to skin stay supple whilst the vitamin F rejuvenates tired skin. Africans use it to cleanse both the inside and out of their bodies. The butter increases the re-oxygenation of the body's tissue and helps to eliminate metabolic waste products.
Shea butter does contain a natural latex so people who suffer from latex allergies should test any product containing it before use.