What is shea butter?


We take our shea butter seriously. After all, it's our most important ingredient. We even named our company after it! That’s right: Karité is the French word for shea butter.

Keep reading to find out more about shea butter, where it comes from, its benefits and uses and why we love this magical ingredient so much!

Where does shea butter come from?

Shea butter is a product of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). Shea butter is the fat extracted from the shea kernel. Shea nuts are a wild-growing, natural ingredient that have been harvested and processed in West and East African countries for centuries.

Unrefined shea butter—the type of shea butter Karité uses—has no additional chemicals or preservatives added during the extraction process. This allows us to create shea butter that retains all of its incredible natural properties.

Raw shea butter is ivory in color, but you may have seen shea butter products that are white. White shea butter products are a result of processing during production. When shea butter is refined, it loses its natural ivory color.

Unrefined shea butter has a natural, nutty aroma that processed shea butter does not. Additionally, further processing of the butter can remove up to 95% of its natural vitamins!

What is shea butter made of?

Shea butter naturally contains beneficial compounds like...

  • Tocopherol, otherwise known as vitamin E, and catechins, which act as antioxidants

  • Vitamins A and F, which have pro-aging and moisturizing properties

  • Oleic, stearic, linoleic and palmitic acids are just some of shea butter's fatty acids. These are excellent for the skin's barrier and allow the butter to meld seamlessly with the natural oils on your skin.

Shea butter benefits

With a myriad of therapeutic benefits for the skin, shea butter has been used for thousands of years. In addition to being an exceptional moisturizer, this all-natural ingredient has antioxidant, pro-aging and anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe and heal the skin.

Here's why people love shea butter so much...

  • It’s full of antioxidants thanks to the tocopherol and catechins.

  • It prevents signs of aging. Shea butter also contains lupeol, which inhibits the enzymes that degrade the skin's supportive proteins.

  • It reduces inflammation. The triterpene alcohols found in shea butter have anti-inflammatory properties. Shea butter has been shown to help with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, as well as arthritis.

  • It has antimicrobial properties. People in West Africa have used shea butter as a natural remedy to treat wounds and other ailments for centuries.

  • It has UV protection. Seriously! The cinnamic acid esters in shea butter have been shown to absorb a limited amount of UV rays. Unrefined shea butter has the equivalent of an SPF between 3 or 4.

  • It's incredibly hydrating and moisturizing without the greasiness that comes from other moisturizing ingredients.

  • Just remember: When you use refined, processed shea butter, you won't see most of these incredible benefits!

Uses for shea butter

Shea butter is a versatile ingredient that can help with all kinds of issues and ailments. From the skin and hair to sun protection and collagen production, it's no wonder that shea butter is found so many different products. The therapeutic nature of shea butter makes it effective for repairing the skin's barrier, which in turn provides relief for those suffering from dry skin, eczema and other conditions.

Here are some uses for shea butter:

  • As a regular, daily hand and body moisturizer

  • To relieve dry or itchy skin or eczema

  • To reduce the appearance of stretch marks or scars

  • As an effective acne treatment

  • As a moisturizing lip balm

  • To help alleviate skin rashes, burns, and insect bites

  • To reduce skin inflammation

  • To help soothe razor burn

  • As a low-grade sunscreen, and to replenish the skin after sun exposure

  • As a moisturizing hair and scalp mask

  • And there's so much more! It's pretty magical stuff.

Once you try shea butter creams from Karité, you'll see what we mean!

The Karité difference

From luxury retailers to mainstream drugstores, you can find shea butter—and other similar butters, like cocoa butter—in many different formulations and price ranges. Shea butter products come at various price points for a reason: The drugstore brand products actually have a very low concentration of shea butter.

Karité creams, however, have high concentrations of shea butter compared to other products. With 30% shea butter, our body cream has one of the highest—if not the highest—concentrations on the market today.

When you buy a shea butter lotion at the drugstore, you'll likely see all kinds of ingredients you can't pronounce. These are often chemical additives, preservatives and synthetic fragrances that are used to make up for the loss of shea butter's natural aroma in highly-processed and refined products.

On the other hand (no pun intended!), we know exactly what goes into our Crème Mains hand cream and Crème Corps body cream: Shea butter, organic coconut oil, sustainably sourced palm oil and other beautiful, natural botanicals. No dyes, silicones, artificial fragrances or parabens here. Partnering with women-run farming co-ops in northern Ghana allows us to know exactly where and how our shea nuts are processed, meaning we can track our butter from tree to tub.