Shea Butter

  • Vegetable Fat
  • INCI: Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter
  • Melting point: 28-38 °C (82 – 100 °F)
  • Comedogenicity: 0
  • Composition: Oleic acid (up to approx. 55 %), stearic acid (up to approx. 50 %), linoleic acid (up to approx. 8 %), palmitic acid (up to approx. 7 %), unsaponifiable (up to approx. 11 %), tocopherols, vitamin A, triterpenes.
  • Cosmetic use: Dry, chapped skin.

Amuzujoe [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


The Karité tree (Vitellaria Paradoxa), also known as the shea nut tree, belongs to the Sapotaceae family and can reach heights of up to 25 metres. The large, dark green leaves are arranged at the branch ends and are elongated, elliptical and rounded at the front with a wavy edge. The cream-white flowers grow in denseclusters (50-100 flowers) at the branch ends andsmell like honey. The egg-shaped, mostly single-seeded drupes are 5-7 cm long and have a thick shell. The fruits contain a sweet pulp that surrounds a seed. The roundish seeds have a length of up to 5 cm and a glossy brownish color.

Extraction of Shea Butter

First, the flesh is removed and the nuts are dried in the sun or in ovens. The nuts are then ground in oil mills to remove the shell. The kernels obtained are extracted in an oven, crushed and diluted with water. This greasy mass is processed by hand until the shea butter becomes almost white and separates from the impurities. This requires a large amount of water. The resulting extract is boiled and filtered until the water is completely removed.

In general, unrefined, native shea butter is considered more effective because it contains morenatural nutrients than the refined variant. The refining process gives the product a pure white color and deprives it of its odor-intensive ingredients. However, other important ingredients are also lost in the process. Unrefined shea butter has an aromatic, spicy odor that is often perceived as unpleasant. Shea butter is therefore also available in an unrefined, deodorised version.

Cosmetic use of Shea Butter

Shea butter is firm at room temperature and becomes supple when warmed in the hand and can be applied to the skin. The unsaponifiable ingredients of shea butter (almost 11%) are considered skin-friendly and nourishing with protective properties. The butter has replenishing, moisture-regulating and smoothing effects. This makes it an excellent care agent for dry, low-grease, scaly skin. Shea butter can be applied pure or used in lotions. The butter is accredited with a natural sun protection factor of 3.