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What is Shea Butter and Is There More Than One Type?

In a region of Africa, a tree known as "The Tree of Life" grows. This tree is actually the Shea tree which may reach the height of sixty feet and may live up to two hundred years. Each year these trees produce a fruit that contains a nut from which the shea butter is harvested.

The nut is crushed and then boiled after which the oil is extracted. For centuries, the shea butter has been used in cooking as well as for the treatment of skin conditions. It was found to have amazing natural properties that would renew and repair the skin as well as protect against the effects of the sometimes harsh climates.

All Natural Contents

Found to be one of the best all natural products, shea butter contains elements that all improve the condition of the skin. It has a very high level of essential fatty acids. These include oleic, linoleic, stearic, and palmitic acids that are aid in the softening and moisturizing of the skin. They also play an anti-inflammatory role and stimulate the renewal of cutaneous cells.

Shea butter offers many vitamins such as A,D,E, and K which are known to slow down the skin's aging process. Lastly, it contains phytosterols that provide a boost to skin regeneration and protection. All of these elements are greatly affected by the manufacturing processes. Many of its vitamins and its natural efficiency are lost when it is refined by manufacturers. In its natural state the butter has a shelf life of 18 to 24 months. After this time period it begins to lose some of its healing ability but will still be an excellent source of moisturization.

Two Types Of Shea Butter

There are two different types of shea butter. The first is the unrefined which is extracted naturally. It is raw and has no additives. Unrefined shea butter has an extremely soft feel and varies in color from a pure ivory to a light yellow. Its aroma is that of a mild nutty fragrance that tends to gradually disappear after application to the hair or skin. This type of shea butter is the most effective in healing and moisturizing as it is unaltered and undiluted by manufacturers.

The second type is refined shea butter which has been processed causing it to lose the natural color and aroma as well as many of the other effective qualities. Manufacturers process this shea butter by bleaching and deoderizing it as well as heating it to very high temperatures. All of this processing causes the shea butter to lose many of its natural and effective ingredients.

Benefits of Using Shea Butter

Shea butter in any form can be beneficial to many in providing relief from dry skin or dry scalp as well as aiding in the healing of small skin wounds. Many discount and department stores as well as drug stores offer shea butter in lotions, lip balms, soaps, creams, moisturizers, and conditioners in many different price ranges for every budget.

Some of the frequent uses of shea butter are:

• Can be applied daily to the face and body as a moisturizer.
• May used to relieve the discomfort of skin rashes especially diaper rash.
• Often used to comfort sunburns and peeling skin associated with tanning.
• Reduces razor irritation when used as a shaving cream.
• Helps to lessen the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles.
• Softens the skin of the feet and helps to prevent cracked heels.
• Useful during pregnancy to prevent the formation of stretch marks.
• Relieves the pain of minor burns.
• Applied to cuts and wounds to prevent scarring.
• May eliminate irritation to scalp after chemical processing of hair.
• Reduces and prevents acne. • Restoration of elasticity to the skin.
• Maintains luster and produces healthy hair.

Individuals should keep in mind that when purchasing shea butter or a product with shea butter included that the less processing that it has underwent the greater the results they will obtain. This type of shea butter may be more expensive but may also be worth the extra cost.
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