Why we use Unrefined or Raw Shea Butter

Why we use Unrefined or Raw Shea Butter

When we started Honey Sweetie Acres, we decided that we were going to be different.  We did not want to be like every other natural product maker.  A lot of time and research was spent during our very first year on determining what ingredients we would and would not use.  We pride ourselves on using raw ingredients wherever we can, especially when true, revealing skin benefits can be obtained.  But that being said, we also had to determine where they worked the best. Not every natural ingredient is right in all situations.  Today we will discuss our use of Virgin Organic Unrefined or Raw Shea Butter as we do use a significant amount in our products.

Virgin Organic Unrefined or Raw Shea Butter

Shea Butter is the darling of the natural skincare world and is used literally world-wide. It comes from the nuts of the Karite Tree.  There is a really big difference in shea butter quality depending on its country of origin, the methods used to extract it, and its storage.

Starting with Refined Shea Butter, let’s look at how it is made.

Processing Shea Butter

Extreme processing if the first thought that comes to mind. Refined Shea Butter is devoid of any odor, is nearly pure white in color, and sometimes has a firm, grainy feel. It is the most common kind of Shea Butter available in the average retail store. The whiter it is, the more processing it has undergone.

When shea butter is refined it is subjected to extremely high heat. HEAT is a destroyer of beneficial nutrients including fatty acids and vitamins.

Heat specifically affects those fatty acids that benefit the skin the most…notably linoleic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic. These acids are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes. Vitamins A, E, and F support the natural barrier function of the skin.

Next, preservatives are often added to keep the refined butter shelf-stable. These include sodium hydroxide or sodium carbonate.  Both are forms of salt and salt removes moisture from the skin.

Frequently, natural product manufacturers complain about the ‘scent” of unrefined shea butter. They want to use refined as it has less variation in aroma or color. It is easier to use and does not require as much formulation knowledge or expertise.

To remove the natural scent of shea butter, refiners use Hexane to strip the butter of its earthy scent and natural color.  Hexane is a chemical made from crude oil and is found in gasoline.  It is a solvent, is a volatile compound, and is also a neurotoxin.  We’d prefer to design formulations to deal with the shea butter aroma than to use an altered version created using Hexane.

Once the hexane has been employed, it is the final blow in the destruction of the fatty acids, vitamins and skin bioactive nutrients. The curative properties are severely impacted.  Refined shea butter will still moisturize and condition the skin to a lesser degree, but there is the potential for leftover extraction impurities as well.

We use unrefined, organic, virgin shea butter in all our soap making and in various other products as appropriate. We have vetted our suppliers to be certain that the shea butter we use is USDA approved organic, and they have been tested and confirmed as truly “clean”.  We are happy to share this documentation to any customer who requests it. The next time you wash or shower with our soap, take a moment to appreciate this wonderful ingredient from the other side of the world!


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