We all do it, stand there in the cosmetic stores staring at shelf after shelf of creams, moisturizers, lotions, oils and serums, trying to decide which product to buy. I’ve sometimes been stood there for the best part of an hour reading all the labels, checking the prices and refusing to be lured in by the pretty packaging, the 3 for 2 offers and the claims that ‘this will make you 10 years younger!’ All we really want is something that will smell nice, is easy to apply, will keep us moisturized all day, will prolong our tan, heal our uneven skin tone and doesn’t cost the earth….hmmm when writing it down it seems that actually what we do want is a miracle product. Well, I think I’ve found it; Shea Butter! “All we really want is something that will smell nice, is easy to apply, will keep us moisturized and doesn’t cost the earth” When traveling in Africa, where the sun is blistering hot and the seawater makes your skin very dry, I discovered Shea Butter. It’s everywhere, the locals use it, you can buy it in the tiny markets on every corner, it’s cheap and it works. We see Shea Butter in a lot of the products but what does this ingredient actually do and why is it such a selling point? Is that what we should be looking for and saving ourselves hours of pondering? Shea Butter is a whitish-yellow fat that is extracted from the oil rich kernel inside the nut that grows on the Kratie Tree that can be found across Africa and in Sub Saharan Asia, and are otherwise known as Vitellaria Paradoxa. They grow in the wild without much attention or nourishment, yet pretty much the whole tree is found to be useful. The bark, flowers, leaves, nuts and kernels all have immense value and have a number of uses in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cooking and even candle making! The trees bear their first fruit (which then turn into nuts) when they reach 10-15 years old and full production is achieved at about 25 years, these trees then continue producing nuts for up to 200 years. The nuts are crushed and ground until they yield shea butter. This process can take several hours and involves many different stages, but the butter that is extracted is of very high quality, containing a number of fatty acids, rich minerals and vitamins A and E. “Shea Butter is most commonly known for being used in cosmetics, and that is because of its wondrous properties and powerful compounds.” Fatty acids and Phenolic compounds are what makes Shea Butter so nourishing and high in antioxidants. Medicinally as well as cosmetically, Shea Butter has had international recognition for effectively treating a number of skin conditions, including eczema, burns, rashes, acne, skin discoloration, dark spots, severely dry skin and stretch marks…remember that miracle product?! But if you just want a product that will hydrate and nourish your skin then this is it as well. Using Shea Butter in a moisturizer each day will promote cell repair and maintain healthy skin, it really is a natural skin food. Look for products rich in Shea Butter (that means high up on the ingredients list) and if possible, choose Organic as these are the best.