Shea Butter – Africa to Beard
Shea butter is a natural and organic product used in many of our beard products. Throughout this blog, we look at where it comes from, the harvesting, the production from nut to butter, health benefits and the use of Shea Butter in our beard products.
Shea Butter is a by-product of the Vitellaria paradoxa, commonly known as the Shea Tree or Shi Tree. The Vitellaria paradoxa is indigenous to Africa and is found in 21 countries across the savannah belt. From Senegal and Ghana in the West to Sudan in the East and on to the foothills of the Ethiopian highlands.
These trees are not grown on plantations and are only found in the wild. Each tree takes between 20 and 30 years to bear fruit, so all trees must be protected by the local communities. In many of the countries that the Vitellaria paradoxa is found in, the destruction of the Shea tree is forbidden due to its economic and health benefits.
Shea Butter has been imported into the United Kingdom since 1846.
Shea trees are harvested during three to four months, once a year, from May to August, which is the rainy season. When the kernels get ripe, they turn brown and fall to the ground.
During the harvest season, millions of kernels are collected and processed by the local women.
Once the local women have collected the kernels, the next stage is to extract the nuts from the fruit. This is all done by hand. No machinery is used in this process.
They will then boil the nuts for 30minutes. Any longer than this and the quality will start to deteriorate.
The nuts are then left to dry in the sun before cracking and then roasting. The nuts are ready to be cracked when they rattle in the shell.
Once cracked, the nut is removed completely from the shell and left to dry for a second time.
The dried nuts are then crushed into small pieces before being milled. There are a few techniques used but the more common method, of recent years, is to use a mechanical mill. This process leaves them with a thick, dark brown pulp.
With the pulp now in large mixing bowls, the women add water and mix with their arms until the Shea Butter separates and floats on top of the water. This is then removed and placed over a high heat and boiled.
This part of the process allows the pure Shea Butter to rise to top and be removed and cooled.
During the cooling process, the Shea Butter turns from a now light brown to the creamy colour we are familiar with.
At this stage, the Shea Butter is packed and boxed, ready for market or export overseas.
The Center For The Promotion Of Imports state some of the main applications of Shea Butter are the following: Hair treatment, anti-ageing and anti wrinkle, skin moisturizing, sunscreen and treatment for dry scalps. This is due to the high moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties.
For the purpose of this blog and focusing on the beard, i will highlight the benefits for use on hair.
When Shea Butter is applied to hair follicles, it helps to keep them soft by providing nourishment. The hair draws out the fatty acids to ensure your beard hair remains hydrated.
By keeping your individual beard hairs soft, the Shea Butter will also improve the texture of your beard naturally. As a result, your beard becomes less brittle and thus, reducing the amount of hairs falling out.
If you use straighteners of hair driers on your beard regularly, this can cause split ends. By using Shea Butter, to keep moisture locked in, you will reduce the chance of getting split ends, resulting in hairs falling out.
Our supplier in the United Kingdom get their supply of Shea Butter from Ghana in the West of Africa.
According to Center For The Promotion Of Imports, Ghana is the largest exporter of unrefined Shea butter. There are around 94 million Shea trees in the country, which produce around 60,000 tonnes of Shea nuts a year.
The exports of Shea butter from Ghana are currently valued at US$66 million.
Use In Bigfoot Beard Co
You will find Shea Butter in several products produced by Bigfoot Beard Co, these include: Beard Balm Beard Butter Beard Fluff and Moustache Wax and is also found in the ingredients of our Beard Conditioner and Tattoo Aftercare.
This means we are using Shea Butter in over 30 of our products currently available on our website.