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Shea butter benefits & recipes

August 24, 2020

Shea butter benefits & recipes

 Sharron Jenkins (pictured below) is the owner and founder of Kalabash®, an award-winning artisan soap and body care brand based in rural Bedfordshire. The products are inspired by the Caribbean and use only natural ingredients, including top quality shea butter. Potentially THE multi-purpose natural beauty ingredient, I have been wanting to know more about shea butter for ages. What’s the difference between the various types, for instance, and how best to use it? I needed to find an expert to ask these questions… When Kalabash listed in the FBWL directory (see the listing here), I realised that in Sharron I had found my expert. I am delighted that she has kindly agreed to share her expert knowledge and tips with us. I hope you are as excited as I am to discover new ways to add this highly prized ingredient to your natural beauty & skincare toolkit. 

Shea butter also known as Karite butter has been used in skincare for centuries because of its natural healing and moisturising properties. 

shea butter benefits and recipes for natural eco friendly skincare and beauty by Sharron Jenkins of Kalabash Bodycaresharron jenkins kalabash skincare

Shea butter – benefits for your skin

Unlike petroleum-based moisturisers such as mineral oils found in many cosmetics, vegan-friendly unrefined pure shea butter can restore the skin’s natural elasticity.

Pure shea butter is also a natural humectant which means it enables our skin and hair to absorb moisture from the air, so it becomes softer and stays moisturised for longer. This is particularly beneficial if you have dry skin or, delicate, afro or curly hair.

As well as protecting and hydrating your skin during the winter months, shea butter is loaded with anti-inflammatory agents, making it effective for sore/blemished skin. 


pure natural shea butter kalabash


Pure shea butter contains vitamin A which can improve many skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis.

It’s also rich in anti-ageing vitamin E, which also doubles up as a natural preservative that lengthens its life and helps to stop it going rancid.



100% natural and unprocessed

Unlike processed shea butter which is extracted, deodorised and manufactured using chemicals and preservatives, unrefined shea butter is not stripped of its natural fragrance or healing properties, so it keeps its natural skincare benefits and vitamins as well as its characteristic natural but not unpleasant nutty scent.

Once you smell pure natural shea butter, you’ll always recognise it!

If you prefer, you can always add natural fragrance with a few drops of therapeutic grade and mood-boosting pure essential oil. Lavender is always a good choice.

Where does shea butter come from?

Shea butter is 100% vegan. It’s extracted from fallen shea nuts which grow on shea trees (Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa). You’ll usually see it listed on cosmetic and haircare packaging as Butyrospermum parkii.

Shea trees can take up to 20 years to mature and grow naturally in the Savanah belt which stretches across sub-Saharan Africa. Like Oaks, they can also live for hundreds of years.

shea tree Vitellaria paradoxa

Natural, sustainable and organic

The trees are not grown on plantations but grow in the wild and thrive in dry soil. Apart from being selectively managed and pruned to avoid overcrowding, they are not cultivated at all, making them a sustainable precious cash crop.

Most of the terrain on which shea trees grow has never been developed.

No chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, toxic or hazardous substances come into contact with the trees. As a result, the nuts are totally organic.

The shea tree is strong and resilient. Its thick trunk is hard and fire-resistant and the leaf canopy provides shade and shelter for people, animals and agriculture.

Vast colonies of shea trees form natural windshields which protect the soil from turning into dessert during droughts. In harsh arid conditions across sub-Saharan Africa, their fallen leaves enrich the soil which allows local people to grow food crops.

Local Traditions

Because of the many benefits and protection shea trees give to local people, they are highly respected and valued by them. By tradition, no individual can own shea nut tree even if the tree is on the individual’s property.

The people of Northern Ghana live in harmony with the shea tree in nature. There is very little room for environmental abuse as the shea tree and shea butter are an absolute lifeline for many African communities.

It is taboo and forbidden to cut or cause damage to a shea nut tree.

The shea tree belongs to all.


How to apply Shea Butter

Although raw shea butter can sometimes feel quite firm to the touch, it has a low melting point and soon melts on contact with your skin. Just rub it between your hands and it begins to melt.


Shea Butter uses:

  • Soapmaking
  • Itchy skin
  • Eczema
  • Blemishes
  • Wrinkles
  • Stretch marks
  • Nappy rash
  • Dandruff
  • Dry, chapped lips
  • Dry, chapped skin, especially hands, elbows, heels, knees.
  • Curly/Afro haircare

Diy Beauty recipe

Raw shea butter makes an excellent base for your  DIY beauty recipes – like my favourite body lotion:

shea butter whipped recipe body lotion


Home made Shea Butter body lotion


1 tablespoon pure unrefined shea butter

2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil

6 drops pure essential oil of your choice


  • Mix the shea butter and oil together in a small bowl using a spoon until smooth.
  • Add your 6 drops of essential oil
  • Mix again thoroughly.
  • Scoop out using your fingers
  • Rub between your palms and smooth over your body – hands, arms, legs, feet elbows etc.

Peppermint foot lotion

TIP: Adapt the above recipe with 3 drops of Peppermint and 3 drops lavender essential oils and apply to tired feet. Cover with cotton socks before bedtime and wake up to super hydrated soft feet! 

Using Shea butter for soap making

For very sensitive or dry skin, soothing and hydrating Fair Trade unrefined shea butter certified by the Soil Association is added to Kalabash Naked Pearl – Unscented artisan soap. This bar won a best Buy Award in the Green Parent Natural Beauty Awards 2019.

 Kalabash Naked Pearl Soap shea butter 

Another award winner, the Kalabash Shea Paradise – Lavender & Shea Butter artisan soap bar, is a customer favourite. It’s fragranced with gentle lavender and exotic ylang-ylang pure essential oils.

lavender shea butter soap kalabash


Why sourcing Fairtrade is important

A National Academies Press report estimates that over 95% of Africa’s shea is exported to industrialised countries in the West. These buyers use this natural resource for making chocolate (as a cocoa substitute), margarine, beauty products etc.

Often the women whose hard work produce the shea butter have little to show for it at the end of a working day, which impacts their livelihood and the lives of their families.

Kalabash suppliers source their Shea Butter from a women’s co-operative in North Eastern Ghana, which cuts out the middlemen and agents in what can often be a complex supply chain, with the women at the bottom rung.

Handmade and labour intensive

It is not unusual for women to spend several hours working outdoors in 45c heat in full sun during harvest time as shea butter production is done entirely by hand in a 24-step process from picking the shea nuts & shelling them, right through to mixing up the butter.

A 2016 report from the BBC discovered:

“After five days of picking, crushing, roasting, grinding and cooking, 65-year-old Rebecca Atornyege earns eight cedis ($2; £1.40) from selling her shea butter at the market.”…

By contrast, in exchange for their labour, co-operative workers receive a fair wage which enables them to sustain themselves and their families and empowers them to be able to send their children to school.

So, choosing to buy Fairtrade really makes a difference.

Because they buy directly from the co-operative, the Kalabash suppliers ensure that these hardworking women are not exploited for their efforts but receive a fair wage for their labour.



Find out more about the Kalabash range of natural soap, body care treats and sustainable gifts at

Kalabash is listed in the From Britain with Love directory

Are you a maker, grower or creative course provider? Like to list with us and benefit from joining our supportive community? We’d love to hear from you. Check out the packages we offer on our Join Us page and get in touch…


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