Shea butter made with the fingertips of an African woman

From Senegal to South Sudan, 2 million trees sprout… Formation of a ‘Sheabelt’
Used as a main ingredient in cosmetics… Effective for moisturizing, skin diseases, and cell regeneration

Shea trees growing across 21 African countries from Senegal to South Sudan / Global Shea Alliance

Shea butter was also used by the ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Shea butter, which is born from the fingertips of African women, is making the huge African continent a fertile land. We looked at the African landscape with 2 million shea trees.

Africa is said to be the home of shea butter. Shea Butter is a vegetable fat extracted from the fruit of the African shea tree. It turns into a solid at room temperature and turns into an oil at body temperature, so it is called ‘Shea Butter’. Because of its excellent moisturizing ability and abundant vitamins and minerals, it is widely used as a raw material for food as well as cosmetics. Shea trees grow across 21 African countries, from Senegal to South Sudan, and span about 5,000 km. Two million shea trees not only provide the shea fruit, the raw material for shea butter, but also create a beautiful landscape. Shea trees, also called magical trees on the African continent, grow for 20 to 30 years and then produce fruit for about 200 years. About 20 West African countries in sub-Saharan Africa where shea trees are cultivated form a belt, so it is called the ‘Shea Belt’.

Natural Shea Butter, born from the hands of village women in an unrefined manner, is traded directly with global cosmetic brands or through various intermediaries. Therefore, the increase in shea butter exports is raising the international recognition of African countries and developing related industries. Shea butter, produced in rural African villages, is used as an ingredient in cosmetics for world-class brands such as Lush and The Body Shop, and is particularly effective in creating jobs and income for more than 16 million rural women. all.

African women gathering shea berries / Global Shea Alliance
African women gathering shea berries / Global Shea Alliance

There are two types of shea butter: handmade shea butter and machine-made shea butter depending on the extraction method. In particular, traditional handmade shea butter is born at the fingertips of African women. Pick up the shea nuts, peel them, crush them, knead them, and go through a total of 10 steps until they form into butter. All of these processes are done by human hands, and one person can make 1 kg of shea butter in two full days. They are also some of the best career women in Africa who, through their efforts, educated their children and started a family.

What is the secret to shea butter’s popularity? First, shea butter is safe for the skin. This is because there are very few proteins that can cause allergies. It is a natural moisturizer, not a chemical irritant, and can be used on almost any type. It also boasts excellent moisturizing properties. This is thanks to the linoleic, oleic, ttearic and palmitic acids contained in shea butter fatty acids. Another advantage is that it is quickly absorbed into the skin. In Africa, it has been used as a treatment for skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis. Applying shea butter to the skin can minimize irritation caused by cytokines and other inflammatory skin conditions. In addition, it promotes collagen production and is excellent for anti-aging. Shea butter contains triterpenes, which help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and keep the skin firm. It also contains a lot of vitamins A and E, which promote strong antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are known to be important antioxidants. Helps promote cell regeneration. Shea butter is effective in reducing stretch marks and scars by preventing the regeneration of keloid fibroblasts, which are scar tissue, and promoting healthy cell growth.

By Son Go-eun, staff reporter [email protected]

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