Answer: Yes. Shea Butter is vegan as it doesn’t involve any animal by-products, which makes it suitable for those who follow a plant-based diet.
Not only that it’s great for beauty products, but Shea butter is also used in cooking, especially in some African countries.
Shea Butter is extracted from the fruit, specifically the nut of the African shea tree. It’s common in cosmetics and edible and is used in African cuisine. It’s also used in candle-making, as well as in medicinal ointments.
So if you’re curious about Shea Butter, let’s find out more about it!
What Is Shea Butter?
Shea Butter is the fat derived from the nut of the African shea tree, which is native to West Africa.
The shea tree naturally grows in the 12 countries of Africa, such as Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia, among others.
The name Shea is derived from the word Shísu, a term in the Bambara language of the Republic of Mali in West Africa.
In Senegal’s Wolof language, the shea tree is called ghariti, derived from the French term and the butter word karité.
Shea butter production can be dated to the 14th century when a testa construction during the Roman civilization was found in the village of Saouga in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
The produced butter was imported to Britain in 1846.
In some African countries, Shea Butter is used for cooking. The Republic of Benin, for instance, uses Shea Butter as a cooking oil.
It’s also used for hairdressing, topical ointments, candle-making, and making African djembe for wood quality.
Shea Butter is also used in Nigeria to treat sinusitis, nasal congestion, and body or muscle pains.
Shea Butter Is Vegan
Shea Butter is 100% plant-based, which makes it suitable for vegans. Some people might think that Shea Butter is non-vegan only because of the term butter.
However, its butter is the fatty substance extracted from the shea tree.
In smaller amounts, it also contains fatty acids such as oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, and a few others.
Shea Butter is also packed with vitamins A, E, and F.
Because of its texture, the butter easily melts at body temperature, which makes it great for skincare products. It quickly absorbs into the skin and binds with water easily.
Unless the skincare product involves animal by-products alongside Shea Butter, it’s no longer considered vegan.
But Shea Butter is extracted without the involvement of animals.
How Is Shea Butter Processed?
Manufacturers may have different techniques for making or extracting the fat from the nuts, but the process is the same.
If you’re curious about how it’s made, here’s the process, which is usually done by most manufacturers using different kinds of equipment.
- Seed Cleaning. To remove any impurities, dust, plant stalks, and more, the shea nut kernels are cleaned and separated.
- Seed Conditioning or Cooking. A kettle with a steamer is used to heat the nut kernels, maintaining a temperature of 110°C. This process will condition the moisture of the kernels without overheating them.
- Extraction by Mechanical Press. The mechanical process leaves around 18% butter residue in the pressed cake, which is cooled down.
- Solvent Extraction. When this is done, the butter residue is brought down to 1.5% or less. This cake is used for combustion for steam generation.
- Filtration. The cleaned shea butter is filtered to separate the crude oil.
- Vacuum Drying. To increase the shelf life of shea butter, the filtered crude butter will undergo vacuum drying to lower its moisture content.
Handcrafted Shea Butter is also preferred by many consumers, especially since it’s mostly unrefined. This doesn’t undergo high temperatures, and no chemicals are used.
Unrefined Shea Butter retains most of its nutrients, which is great for the skin. It has an off-white or ivory appearance and a lightly smoky, nutty scent.
On the other hand, Refined Shea Butter undergoes a heating procedure at high temperatures. It also involves chemical solvents, which remove the natural nutrients from the shea butter.
Just like any other extracted refined oils, it’s also odorless and white in appearance.
Shea Butter Classification
There are five different grades of Shea Butter, as suggested by the United States Agency for International Development.
- A. This is unrefined or raw, which is extracted using water. The color is cream to grayish yellow and offers a nutty aroma
- B. Grade B is refined, and its nutty aroma is no longer present.
- C. The color of grade C Shea Butter is pure white, with nutrients being removed due to the refining process. It’s also highly refined and processed using hexane, a solvent. Also, the contamination levels are reduced to an almost undetectable level.
- D. This is the lowest uncontaminated grade of Shea Butter.
- E. Grade E has contaminants.
Grades A, B, and C are commercially available and are commonly used in many skincare products.
How Healthy Is Shea Butter?
Because of its texture and consistency, which easily melts at body temperature, Shea Butter is widely used in cosmetics.
There are many great things about Shea Butter that are beneficial to your skin, something that you may need to know.
- Shea Butter has no known proteins that set off allergies.
- It doesn’t clog pores and has no chemical irritants that can dry the skin.
- The fatty acids in Shea Butter are known for producing moisturizing properties that act as refatting agents that quickly restore lipids.
- Shea Butter is packed with linoleic acid and oleic acid, which are known to have great balance in the skin. Both acids don’t make your skin oily.
- Anti-inflammatory properties are also present in Shea Butter, slowing down the inflammatory cells and cytokines in the skin. This helps reduce the risk of eczema and other skin conditions caused by dry weather.
- Shea Butter also contains vitamins A and E, antioxidants that work as anti-aging agents. These protect your skin from free radicals that cause dull skin and premature aging.
- It also contains antibacterial properties that help aid acne-causing bacteria.
- Shea Butter also contains antifungal properties, which help reduce the risk of athlete’s foot and ringworm.
- Because Shea Butter is rich in fatty acids, it can help clear sebum or excess oil in your skin. This helps stop acne from developing.
- Triterpenes, natural-occurring chemical compounds found in Shea Butter, are known for stopping collagen fiber destruction. This helps conceal any fine lines, which results in plumper skin.
- The antioxidants and moisturizing properties found in Shea Butter are known to have helped decrease dead skin cells. These properties increase fresh skin cell regeneration for healthier skin.
- Shea Butter may also help stop keloid scarring and stretch marks.
There are many known health benefits of Shea Butter, which is why it’s the most widely used ingredient in many cosmetic products, especially skincare stuff.
Best Shea Butter Products to Try
There are many Shea Butter products that you can buy from beauty stores, but the quality is also important. Most raw or unrefined Shea Butter brands are known for their healthier benefits.
So to help you out with your search, check these brands to see which you prefer the most. You can also find them online, especially on Amazon.
- SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter
- Better Shea Butter
- Mary Tylor Natural Organic Shea Butter
- White Naturals Raw Shea Butter
- Naturise African Raw & Organic Shea Butter
- Majestic Pure Unrefined Shea Butter
- Plant Guru 100% Organic, Unrefined Shea Butter
- Okay Shea Butter Yellow Smooth, Unrefined
- Aroma Depot Unrefined Shea Butter
These are all natural, raw, unrefined, and the best grades available on the market. If you buy refined Shea Butter, check the label, as other brands may include honey.
Bees make honey, which vegans avoid alongside collagen, lanolin, shellac, casein, carmine, and many more. If you see these ingredients on the packaging, don’t add the product to your cart because they’re sourced from animals.
According to PETA, thousands of animal-derived ingredients are patented, which might be overwhelming. However, the best way to know if these ingredients are animal-sourced is to ask the manufacturers.
Otherwise, it’s best not to buy the product if you’re still in doubt about a certain ingredient.
The Bottom Line
Shea Butter is vegan-friendly as it doesn’t contain any animal by-products. It’s also loaded with vitamins and other nutrients that are especially beneficial to the skin.
It’s one of the best vegan ingredients in cosmetic products due to its moisturizing and antioxidant properties. Like many other vegan-friendly ingredients, Shea Butter is one of the most widely used in skincare products.
For instance, St. Ives also uses Shea Butter on their skincare products, such as their body wash, which I detailed in this article.
Moreover, raw or unrefined Shea Butter is a great option for the skin, especially since it doesn’t undergo chemical processes. Whatever your choice is, it must be vegan-friendly!