Shea butter is an ivory coloured fat extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It is used widely in cosmetics as a moisturizer and sometimes used in the chocolate industry as a substitute for cocoa butter.
The use of shea butter has increased in popularity in the last few years with the increase in demand for more natural products for black curly hair types. Although its popularity in the west has only increased in recent years, in some parts of Africa it has been used for hundreds of years!
The best shea butter to use is the unrefined kind as all its healing properties are still intact. The refining process apart from adding different chemicals to the shea butter raises the temperature to about 400 degrees F which makes it lose some of its healing properties. Unrefined shea butter comes in blocks or can be bought already packed in jars. It is odourless if 100% pure or can be bought ready fragranced with essential oils.
You can also make shea butter easier to apply. Place the shea butter in a double boiler and melt it on a low heat. Add a natural oil to the shea butter e.g. extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and stir until thoroughly mixed. The natural oil should make up about ¼ the volume of the shea butter. Pour the mixture back into a jar. Due to the addition of the olive oil, the shea butter will remain relatively soft when completely cooled and set and is easier to apply to the hair.