As many of you know I don’t make many products, or have a product line, however last Christmas I had a great deal of fun making up gifts for those special people in my life.  It was easy, fun and greatly appreciated by all.  My Neroli Whipped Shea Butter was a great hit.  It was super easy to make, smelled wonderful and I got rave reviews from those who received it, with comments like, “you should sell this!”  This was the first time I had used Shea Butter in a product and I was very happy with the results.

There is some confusion around the Latin binomial of Shea Butter.  Is it Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa?  Produces of cosmetics and other skin products must follow the INCI database of registered names for cosmetics, cosmetic ingredients and other skin products.  As long as the INCI database continues to use the old name of Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) there will always be a difference between their listing and the listing all current botanical databases show.  Which is Vitellaria paradoxa.

There are two ways in which the Shea Butter is extracted commercially.  Firstly through cold-pressing.  Here all the components remain intact just as they would in the traditional method.  The downside is that the yield is low and therefore the price is higher. Secondly through hexane solvent extraction, which is the more common method of extraction.

The traditional method of extracting the unrefined shea butter is a slow labour intensive process that starts with collecting the seeds, drying them and removing the outer shell.  That is followed by crushing the nuts by hand with mortars and pestles. Then they are roasted in huge pots over open wood fires while stirring constantly to prevent burning.   After roasting they are then ground into a smoother paste. This is done by kneading them by hand, while water is gradually added in order to help separate out the butter oils.  The butter oils will then float to the top in the form of butter oil curds.  Now they will be removed from the pot and any excess water will be squeezed out.  The next step is to melt the butter oil curds over a slow fire so that the slow boiling will evaporate out any of the remaining water.  The creamy shea butter is then ladled out and sorted in a cool place to harden and then be formed into balls.

Shea butter is one of the most affordable and widely used vegetable fats in the Sahel.  The refined fat is sold as baking fat, margarine and other fatty spreads.  Because it has a fatty composition similar to cocoa butter it is sometimes used as a substitute for cocoa.  When it is added in pastry making it helps to create a very pliable dough.  In some African countries it is used as a cooking oil, as a waterproofing wax, for hairdressing, for candle-making and as an ingredient in medicinal ointments.

Shea butter is sometimes used as a base for medicinal ointments.  It has been reported to have anti-inflammatory, emollient and humectant (retaining or preserving moisture) properties.  With an SPF6 it is a useful ingredient in sun-protection or post-sun-exposure products.  It has also been shown to encourage wound healing and soothe skin irritation. In Ghana, it is applied as a lotion to protect the skin in the dry Harmattan season, while in Nigeria it is used for the management of sinusitis and relief of nasal congestion.  It is also massaged into the joints or other parts of the body that are painful.  Because shea butter melts at body temperature it is an excellent base for suppositories and ointments.

Shea Butter is used in: whipped body butter;  creams and lotions; deodorant;  lip balms; soaps; body scrubs; hand creams

It is thought to be SPF6; to help improve skin elasticity; to help with stretch marks; to improve hair and scalp; to replenish the skin after exposure to the sun; to help reduce scars; calm inflamed and irritated skin.

To make my Neroli Whipped Shea Butter I warmed 150 gms Shea Butter in a double boiler until it melted.  Then I added 30 ml jojoba (Simmondsia sinensis) and using a stick blender whipped the two together.  As they began to cool I added 20 drops of Neroli (Citrus x aurantium) and incorporated that into the whole.  Then I spooned the mixture into clean glass jars and added my labels.