Know your Shea Butter Better: Words are confusing…
Handcrafted and traditionally made. Those words will lead you to shea butter that has all the natural goodness and maximizes the benefits to the hardworking women who make it. Raw and unrefined can lead you to strange places in the shea butter world.
Did you know that raw and unrefined are often used to describe industrially processed and chemically extracted shea butter?
I was surprised to learn that shea butter that is processed in belching, smoking factories and extracted with chemicals and solvents uses the words raw and unrefined.
They claim raw and unrefined because it isn’t subjected to the high levels of heat, hexane and other processes that are part of ‘refining’, where they remove colour, odour and, many say, most of the goodness. Some reports say up to 75% of the bioactive ingredients are lost during the refining process.
I haven’t found anything that details what is lost during industrial processing and chemical extraction, but common sense tells me that handcrafted and traditionally made, without chemicals and harsh mechanical processes is just better.
Handcrafted shea butter has the best value chain impact too. The women in northern Ghana do the work of processing, keeping more of the money in the communities and impacting them and their families.
Shea Butter that is industrially processed and chemically extracted leaves very little value behind in the communities where the shea tree grows, and where the earnings are so desperately needed.
The factories send reps into the communities to buy up the shea nuts (seeds) and they are then hauled to factories, far from the communities. The only income available is for going out and picking the fallen seeds/nuts.
The traditional work of making shea butter, which is hard work, but done in groups with joy and camaraderie, is gone. The income and the joy are exported from the community along with the raw shea nuts.
Unfortunately, very unfortunately, about 85% of the ‘unrefined’ shea butter that is produced is done through this mechanical and chemical process
Do yourself, and the women who make shea butter a favour. Learn how your shea butter is made. We encourage you to make the choice to buy the best and support hardworking women and communities at the same time.