What Is Shea Butter and Why Do We Use It?

What is Shea Butter, and Where Does It Come From?

Shea butter comes from a tree called KARITE, a wild growing tree that produces small fruit from which the butter is extracted. The butter is solid at room temperature and is easily spreadable. KARITE trees grow in the dry savannah belt that runs from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east of Africa.

        Karite Tree

The earliest evidence of shea butter production was in the village of Saouga in the 14th century and through the years has been used for a wide variety of reasons - Cooking oil, waterproofing wax, for hairdressing, candle making and is also used by some African craftsmen to increase the longevity of their carved wooden percussion instruments. We love shea butter because it contains vitamins that can help reduce skin redness from sunburn as well as being a great moisturizer for your skin, scalp and hair.

Here at Surf Soap we source our shea butter from Ghana - it’s important to us to be sustainable and that includes being kind to the environment, but also considerate of where our ingredients come from, and the people who farm them. Our shea butter is Fair Trade which means that the farmers in Ghana receive fair wages and prices for their products and a supplementary amount of money, is used to create a fund that is used to improve the lives of these farmers and their communities.

                               Girl with coconut

The raw material itself is then taken and certified by ECOCERT to verify that it meets COSMOS standards. ECOCERT Greenlife is the global leader in the certification of natural or organic cosmetics and raw materials. Our shea butter has been independently verified to cover all relevant aspects from sourcing to distribution, even down to the use of eco-friendly packaging. 

Surf Soap shea butter is Grade A classified by the United States Agency for International Development which means that it is raw, totally unrefined and unprocessed in any way. It still has its nutty aroma and slight yellow tint - but rest easy - although shea butter is technically a tree nut product it is very low in the proteins that can trigger allergies and there is no medical literature documenting an allergy to topical shea butter.


How It Grows

KARITE trees grow in the wild - there are currently no plantations and it takes up to 30 years before a KARITE tree bears fruit. In most parts of West Africa destruction of the Shea tree is forbidden because of its economic and health benefits.

Harvest begins in June and lasts through till August. Millions of fruits are collected and processed, primarily by the women of Africa. These women work hard and long hours to produce the shea that we use in our products, which is why we feel so strongly about the Fair Trade program that ensures they receive fair compensation.

The fruit is first collected, then the nuts are extracted from the fruit. The nuts have to be boiled and then dried in the sun. After that, the nuts are crushed and roasted before being milled and kneeled - this part is the most labor intensive step and is very hard work. The next step is to boil and filter the shea butter of any impurities before allowing it to cool and harden.


Thats a Lot Of Work!

That is a lot of work to produce just one of the dozens of ingredients in our signature All-In-One bar, but we love shea butter and prefer it over the alternatives because it is great for your skin. Shea butter does not contain any chemical irritants that are known to dry out your skin and it doesn’t clog your pores, as such it is excellent for nearly any skin type!

                              Hair in the wind

Here are a couple of the other reasons why we love Shea:

  • It can help boost collagen production - Shea butter contains triterpenes which are naturally occurring chemical compounds thought to stop collagen fiber destruction.
  • It's an anti-fungal. Shea has long been established as powerful in the fight against skin infections caused by fungi. It is known to be able to kill spores that cause ringworm and athletes foot.
  • It's antibacterial. In a 2012 study it was suggested that oral doses of shea bark extract can lead to decreased antimicrobial activity in animals - although more research is required it could indicate antibacterial benefits in humans too.
  • it's moisturizing. it won’t make your skin oily and it has high levels of vitamins A and E which means that it promotes strong antioxidant activity. 

Most Importantly, Its Natural

The most important reason that we love Shea Butter is because it grows on a tree, not in a lab. It came from the earth and will eventually end up back in the earth (or ocean :D) and that’s huge for us at Surf Soap, everything we use is natural and biodegradable because we know that eventually everything finds its way back to the ground and we want there to be as little impact as possible on the environment around us when our products wash off of us and back into mother nature.


Check out our Shea-infused products:


Better Butter

Shop Now