There is a great debate among naturals about the authenticity of Shea Butter. If you go online, you will see a great number of Shea Butter photos that show the butter to be a range from beige like to a bright yellow color.
There is speculation that much of the butters sold in bulk are altered in some way with additives or colorants and it is difficult to know which is which. Is it real Shea Butter or an imposter? Is it supposed to be off white or yellow? The arguments are often heated because so many sources cite that a particular color of Shea Butter is superior over the other.
Shea Butter does come from the seed inside the Shea fruit that has fallen from trees. But there are other factors to consider in this regard. Shea nuts can be shaken from trees, but they may not be ripe yet, and those nuts may be used in the preparation of Shea Butter. Shea nuts need to be harvested, sorted, cleaned, boiled, crushed, roasted and separated over a period of days. Even with machinery to process the nuts faster, there is still a lot of time put into the hands on preparation of Shea Butter. Below is the complete process:
The traditional method of preparing unrefined shea butter consists of the following steps:
• Separating/cracking: The outer pulp of the fruit is removed. When dry, the nut, which is the source of shea butter, must be separated from the outer shell. This is a social activity, traditionally done by Women Elders and young girls who sit on the ground and break the shells with small rocks.
• Crushing: To make the shea nuts into butter, they must be crushed. Traditionally, this is done with mortars and pestles. It requires lifting the pestles and grinding the nuts into the mortars to crush the nuts so they can be roasted.
• Roasting: The crushed nuts are then roasted in huge pots over open, wood fires. The pots must be stirred constantly with wooden paddles so the butter does not burn. The butter is heavy and stirring it is hot, smoky work, done under the sun. This is where the slight, smoky smell of traditional shea butter originates.
• Grinding: The roasted shea nuts are ground into a smoother paste, water is gradually added and the paste is mixed well by hand.
• Separating the oils: The paste is kneaded by hand in large basins and water is gradually added to help separate out the butter oils. As they float to the top, the butter oils, which are in a curd state, are removed and excess water squeezed out. The butter oil curds are then melted in large open pots over slow fires. A period of slow boiling will remove any remaining water, by evaporation.
• Collecting and shaping: The shea butter, which is creamy or golden yellow at this point, is ladled from the top of the pots and put in cool places to harden. Then it is formed into balls.
Unlike manufactured products, it is safe to say that Shea Butter varies in color and scent depending on where the fruits and nuts were gathered and how they were processed. You will see in the videos below a vast difference in the processing of Shea Butter. Some have said that the yellow color in some Shea Butter comes from the flower of he fruit, and is blended with the butter to create a yellow color.
When Shea Butter is sold in bulk, there is a great chance that it may be stretched out with fillers and other butters or ingredients. Some will state that they sell both refined and unrefined butters and the difference in price is remarkable. Choosing a good Shea butter is hard to do online, where most butters are sold, but if you buy from different suppliers, you can compare your butters, their color, scent and most of all, their properties, to see if they are equal in the benefits they provide to your skin.
So the focus should not be on the color of the Shea Butter, but again, in the quality of the butter.