Butyrospermum parkii, also called the shea tree, produces a fruit called the shea nut, which is used to make shea butter, shea butter extract, shea nut extract, or shea oil. The shea tree is indigenous to Africa, and the oils and fats from its fruits have a wide range of uses, including acting as a natural moisturizer, a decongestant, a food ingredient, and even cooking oil, among other things.[1,2] Butyrospermum parkii has been used for centuries as a skin treatment in Africa, particularly for newborn infants. Today it is widely used in cosmetics, bath products, makeup, lotion, and hair care products.
Butyrospermum parkii helps bind moisture. Shea contains vitamin E and catechins, which are also found in green tea, and as an emollient, it helps soften skin, condition hair, and even moisturize cuticles.[6,7,8]
Inside the ripened fruit of the shea tree is a seed rich in oils and fats. At the beginning of the harvest season, the fruits are harvested from the trees and the pulp is removed. The nuts are then dried in the sun, smoked over a fire, or even parboiled to prevent them from germinating and to dry them more quickly.[9,10] After they are dried, the nuts are cracked to expose the shea kernels, which are removed and again dried in the sun. The dried kernels are then ground into a powder that is mixed with water and then pressed to yield the oil.
We use organic butyrospermum parkii in our lotions as a moisturizer. The FDA has deemed shea nut oil Generally Recognized as Safe, and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review labels shea butter and shea oil as safe.[12,13] Whole Foods has deemed the ingredient acceptable in its body care quality standards, and several studies also show shea butter and shea oil are not skin irritants.[14,15,16] While nuts and some fruits and vegetables may cause allergic reactions in some people, refined shea oil generally poses no significant safety concerns when eaten. There have been no reported topical allergic reactions to shea butter from those with nut allergies.