Crooked and diminutive, the shea tree grows in the African savannah region, where the locals have long prized its nuts, rich in fat and oils. Shea butter, extracted from these golf ball-sized nuts, both moisturizes and heals the skin, making it a sought-after beauty product throughout the world. Whipped shea butter incorporates air into the butter, leaving it creamy, soft and easy to spread onto your skin. (See References 1, pp 3--4, 11) With a few basic ingredients available from natural markets or health food stores, you can mix up your own whipped shea butter at home in your kitchen.
Items you will need:
- Double boiler
- 8 oz. of Grade A shea butter
- Candy thermometer
- Large non-glass mixing bowl
- 1 tbsp. jojoba oil
- 1/2 tsp. vitamin E oil
- Mixer with whisk attachment
- 1/4 tsp. essential oil
- Glass jars
Fill the bottom of a double boiler with 1 to 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium.
Add the shea butter to the top of the double boiler, stirring frequently until it is evenly melted.
Bring the melted shea butter to a temperature of 175 degrees F. Maintain this temperature for 20 minutes. Exceeding 175 degrees can damage the shea butter's nutritional qualities, while heating for too short a duration can cause the product to become gritty. Use caution when heating shea butter, as it is flammable.
Transfer the melted shea butter to a large mixing bowl and immediately add the jojoba and vitamin E oils.
Mix the blend in a mixer with a whisk attachment for five to seven minutes. The shea butter will remain liquid.
Place the bowl in the freezer for five to 10 minutes. When you remove the bowl, the mixture should continue to be liquid, except for a thin solid coating on top. Mix again for five to 10 minutes and continue repeating this process --- placing the bowl in the freezer, and then mixing --- until the shea butter achieves the consistency of whipped cream.
Add the essential oils and mix for five minutes to ensure they are blended throughout.
Transfer the finished product to glass jars and label each with the date. Store in a cool place and use the whipped shea butter within one month. (See References 2)
- For maximum benefit to your skin, choose shea butter rated Grade A. Lower-rated shea butters lack the essential nutrients that provide the butter's benefits or they may consist of rancid product. Grade D shea butters have almost no nutrients; Grade F are not safe for human consumption. Avoid both of these. (See References 3)
- If you have a nut allergy, avoid the use of shea butter. While no research has established the level of risk for allergic consumers who use shea-nut products, the American Shea Butter Institute currently recommends that people with nut allergies avoid the use of shea. (See References 4)
- "Shea Butter: The Nourishing Properties of Africa's Best-Kept Natural Beauty Secret"; W.G. Goreja; 2004
- Aroma Web: Whipped Shea Butter Recipes
- American Shea Butter Institute: Lab Testing and Grading
- American Shea Butter Institute: Nut Allergies and Shea Butter Use
First published in 2000, Dawn Walls-Thumma has served as an editor for "Bartleby" and "Antithesis Common" literary magazines. Walls-Thumma writes about education, gardening and sustainable living. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and writing from University of Maryland and is a graduate student in humanities at American Public University.
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