Shea butter is a solid fatty oil that is derived from the nuts of the Karite trees (also known as Mangifolia), predominantly found in Africa (grows wild in the equatorial belt of central Africa between Gambia and Sudan where oil palms do not grow because of insufficient precipitation). The Karite tree bears the fruits and the nuts inside the fruits contain shea butter. The nuts are then crushed, boiled, and manipulated in order to extract a light-colored fat, which is commonly referred to as shea butter.
Pure shea butter resembles lumps of hard caramel ice cream. Being edible, shea butter is often used in food preparations. It has gained huge popularity in the western world due to its widespread use in several beauty products such as lotions, cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners and many more.
The main components of shea butter include oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, etc. It gets absorbed quickly into the skin as it melts at body temperature. Shea butter may be refined or unrefined. Raw or unrefined shea butter is the purest form of shea butter, which is the most natural and the least processed. Since it is extracted manually, it is able to retain its vitamins, minerals and other natural properties. Refined shea butter, on the other hand, is the processed form of butter.