Shea butter moisturises and conditions the hair and skin while giving a very smooth and soft feeling thanks to its emollient properties. It has a whipped texture that easily melts at body temperature.
Shea butter is the ivory-coloured fat extracted from the nut of the vitellaria tree (Vitellaria Paradoxa or Butyrospermum parkii), which is native to Africa, and more specifically the Sahel region. To obtain the butter, the nuts are dried and crushed before being roasted and pressed into a silk liquor. This is then whipped and kneaded in large pans until fat forms on top.
Shea has a lot in common with cocoa butter and has often been used as an alternative in the chocolate industry. Both contain oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid that is highly compatible with our body's natural sebum and allows the butter to be more easily absorbed into the skin.
They also contain stearic acid, a skin-softening fatty acid that acts as an emulsifier. This means that the butter helps bind oil and water together, preventing products from separating. Combined with the solid nature of the butter, this emulsifying property creates tight emulsions that leave no room for microbes to move and grow, helping products to remain fresher for longer.
The knowledge and expertise surrounding shea butter’s extraction process are passed down from women to women through the generations. Nowadays, it provides income to many women's groups and cooperatives across the Sahel. Lush buy from two suppliers working directly with women producers in Ghana; one is certified organic while the other is Fair Trade. Each butter is refined to neutralise colour and aroma, a common practice in cosmetics as it could interfere with other ingredients.