Living Healthy Naturally

The Benefits of Natural Handmade Soap with African Shea Butter

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Shopping for Christmas Holiday Gifts

In the over-commercialized Christmas marketing blitz that smothers North America every year, we often forget that there are products that make a positive social impact on impoverished peoples all over the world and at the same time, can provide natural skin benefits for healthy skin and provide relief for a host of inflammatory-related skin conditions.  One of those gifts is the gift of natural handmade soap with African shea butter.

Conscientious handmade soapmakers often use the emollient, nutrient-rich shea butter to enhance the properties of the products they make from creams, to lotions, to soaps.  In fact, shea butter has been used for centuries with history recording jars of the rich butter being used for skin and hair as far back as Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba!

What Exactly is Shea Butter?

Found primarily in Africa as the seed fruit of the Karite (shea) tree, shea butter is a skin superfood, melting quickly and readily absorbed into the skin.  It is rich in vitamins A and E (that protect and repair the skin) and also contains essential fatty acids such as oleic acid, stearic acid, and linoleic acid (that boost collagen production resulting in anti-aging properties).  Additionally, the butter has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and emollient properties so beneficial to the skin and hair.

It even has a natural SPF of 6!Extraction of shea butter

The miracle of using shea butter in handmade soap making is that it doesn’t undergo saponification or turn into “soap” when it comes into contact with alkali used to turn other oils into soap!  The shea butter in soap remains … shea butter … ready to heal skin, soothe rashes, and even treat acne on the face!

Shea butter is so natural that it can be eaten and is often used mixed with palm oil for cooking in third world countries.  Some chocolate makers use shea butter as an alternative to cocoa solids to alter the taste of their confections.

Grades of Shea Butter

Pure African Shea ButterWhen shopping commercially for products containing shea butter it is important to note that there are grades of shea butter that correspond directly with their innate ability to improve skin health and treat various inflammatory skin conditions.

  • Grade A:  Premium Shea butter, raw or unrefined, extracted from water and rich in cinnamic acid (necessary for scar reduction)
  • Grade B:  Refined Shea Butter  (this grade and below have had the cinnamic acid reduced to lower levels or removed)
  • Grade C:  Refined using solvents like Hexane
  • Grade D:  Lowest uncontaminated grade
  • Grade E:  Contains contaminates (leaf particles, ash, dead insects, etc)

Benefits of Shea Butter for Skin

While shea butter is not a necessary component to use in making natural handmade soap and increases the raw cost of making the soap, the best soapmakers often incorporate it into their bars to assure their final product provides skin benefits to the user. A 2010 study from the National Institutes of Health found that high levels of triterpenes in shea butter provides anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor-promoting properties that can improve skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.Skin Benefits of Shea Butter

Is Shea Butter found in Commercially Prepared Soaps?

Not commonly.  Read the label.

But you say, Brand “D” contains ¼ cleansing cream.  Take a look at the list of ingredients and see if you find shea butter listed! Quite often companies selling products shaped as soap bars will explain that its bath bar is not a “soap”, it is a beauty bar. A search of Unilever’s SmartLabel ingredient listing program for common bath care items will reveal that what you may have referred to as “soap” has been named “beauty bar” or “body wash”.  Also notice the number of petrochemicals (not natural) components of what you may have thought was going to cleanse your skin safely.  Many of these are now known to cause other inflammatory reactions after years of use.Where's the Shea?

When, in fact, mass manufacturers claim to use shea butter,  the butter used in commercial preparations are subject to the economy of production and common sense would suggest NOT Grade A or even Grade B are being used in the manufacture.  Look at the shelves of stores with SHEA BUTTER emblazoned on the commercial label.  Do the math.  Which grades of butter do you think are used in a commercially-produced product?

Where Can I Buy the Best Shea Butter Soap?

Fortunately, the art and science of natural soapmaking is far from dead and relegated to the past.  The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild is a trade association for the handcrafted and cosmetic industry. They estimate there are at least 200,000 artisans making handcrafted soap and cosmetics. This is important because products are made quite often by certified handcrafters in small, handmade batches which take advantage of processes and ingredients that are unworkable in large, commercial manufacturing.  To find the best shea butter soap, search for a handcrafter near your location or a certified soapmaker online who will ship beautiful gift-ready bars either to your door or to your recipient!

So this Christmas, give a gift that gives twice and more.  A gift for the recipient and a gift to hard-working women and their chidren in Africa. Every sale means the women can make more and earn more to improve the quality of life for their families; the direct impact on these children, families, and communities is huge.  We know you want to buy good, natural products that benefit the recipient and make a positive social impact.  Shea butter containing soaps are a unique, socially conscious, natural and healthy gift to gift anyone on your Christmas list.  Natural handmade soap made with African Shea Butter are amazing products with incredible impact…for the giver, the recipient, the handcrafter and the gatherer.

7 thoughts on “The Benefits of Natural Handmade Soap with African Shea Butter

  1. Hi and thanks for giving some great insight into Shea butter soap. I have, kike so many people seen Shea butter products in supermarkets and not fully realised what it’s actual health benefits for your skin were. I certainly did not know where it came from. Or if ot could help poeple less fortunate than me by buying it. Thanks for opening my eyes to this, and I will consider purchasing this in the future. Kenny 

  2. I heard that African Shea butter is mainly used in the cosmetics industry for skin. Shea butter has been used as a sunblocking lotion and has anti inflammatory effect. I think it is good when you put into the soap. I would love to try it and see how to does on my skin.

    1. Hello Kit!

      The amazing thing about shea butter is that it is actually incorporated into the soap unchanged and remains shea butter.  This is because the alkali solution will not break the chemical bonds in the shea butter, but rather all the other butters and oils in the soap. You’re right.  It has an SPF of 6 and is marvelous for skin conditions that are inflammatory in nature.  If you’d like to try it in a soap, there’s an underlined section in my article, which when clicked on will take you to my website.  The address is http://www.oliomanna.com

      Blessings!

      Sharon

  3. I’ve always been interested in shea butter ever since I saw it being sold at the French Market in New Orleans.  I actually picked up a tub of it several years ago, but I only used it sporadically.  I think I still have it, actually.  Do you think it is still good after all this time?  Or should I look into picking up another tub somewhere?

    1. Hi Brandon,

      Just yesterday I was talking to a Shea Butter import specialist about this same question.  Our opinion (based on his wife’s experiment in using some 10 year old product and making a successful soap) is that if the oil is not rancid (you’ll know if it smells funky!), it is probably ok to use!  That being said, personally I think I’d invest in a new jar – or try some of my shea butter soap – bathe and benefit at the same time!   http://www.oliomanna.com

      Blessings!

      Sharon

  4. I love Shea butter, not only for its moisturizing effects but also for its smell. This is actually one of ingredients I look for in the skin products that I use daily such as lotion, body cream and hand cream, petroleum jelly, etc. It just never occurred to me that Shea butter can be incorporated in hand soaps too. Because unlike the products that I mentioned, I have yet to read on a hand soap label the words, “with Shea butter.” 

    I am currently based in the Middle East and I am wondering if there are certified soap makers online who are willing to ship Shea Butter soap here at an affordable cost. 

    1. Hi Alice,

      Thank you for reading my post.  The reason you won’t find hand soap with shea butter is because mass producers will not use it in their “beauty bars” – read the labeling – I’ll bet it doesn’t even say it’s soap.  In order to incorporate shea butter in a soap, it has to been blended with other butters and oils and processed with an alkali.  This is cost prohibitive for big companies with mass marketing.

      There should be local soapmakers near you in the Middle East who actually handcraft soaps.  I know that there are several in Dubai,  but since I don’t know your location perhaps you could do an online search and support someone near you as opposed to ordering from the US.  That being said, if you are unable to find a maker near you, please private message me and we can discuss what I can do to help you!

      (PS – Please don’t use petroleum jelly! – It’s 100% petrochemical)

      Blessings!

      Sharon

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