Shea butter is available in various grades – A,B,C, D and E. Grade E is given to shea butter that is contaminated with pollutants. Grade D is reserved for the lowest quality of uncontaminated shea butter. Neither grades D nor E are generally sold for personal use.
Grades B and C are given to shea butter that has undergone the refining process, which strips the color and odor, as well as the vitamins and nutrients, from the shea butter. The shea butter will still be an effective moisturizer, but will be useful for little else.
At Cleopatra’s Choice, we exclusively sell Grade A shea butter. This grade is given to shea butter that is raw and unrefined, meaning that all of its nutrients are intact. It has the highest vitamin content, giving it unmatched beauty and healing properties.
Choosing the Right Color
Cleopatra’s Choice raw shea butter is available in yellow and ivory. The color of the shea butter is usually determined by where it comes from in Africa; the ivory shea butter comes from Benin, Africa, and the yellow shea butter comes from yellow shea butter comes from Ghana. While these two varieties can be used interchangeably, they do have some differences.
Ivory shea butter has a soft, creamy consistency. It is a lightweight butter that absorbs into the skin quickly, and has a subtle, nutty scent. Many customers prefer to use ivory shea butter in their homemade skincare products.
Yellow shea butter tends to be a stiffer butter with a more overt scent. It is much richer and generally takes longer to absorb. Yellow shea butter is ideal for homemade hair products, balms and ointments.
Regardless of the color you choose, the properties and benefits of the shea butter remain the same.
Using Shea Butter
By ensuring that you properly melt your shea butter, you can prevent it from becoming grainy. If melted shea butter is cooled to slowly, it will crystallize and lose its smooth, creamy texture. While this may not be a problem for some recipes, such as body scrubs, it may prevent other recipes from yielding the desired results.
To avoid crystallization, experts recommend that shea butter is cooked until it reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius), and then is allowed to continue to cook just above its melting point for 10-15 minutes. This will eliminate the fat crystals that are responsible for causing a grainy texture. After the shea butter has melted, combine the rest of the ingredients per the recipe’s instructions and cool the finished product in the refrigerator or freezer. Once the product has cooled completely, it can safely be stored at room temperate.
Because consistent temperature is required for properly melting shea butter, it is generally recommended that a saucepan or double boiler is used, rather than a microwave.
Melting Shea Butter Using the Double Boiler Method
Even if you do not have a double boiler, you can still use the double boiler method to properly melt your shea butter.
- Fill a medium-sized saucepan with two inches of water, and then set over low-medium heat. Place a large mixing bowl in the saucepan, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not come into contact with the bottom of the saucepan.
- Place your shea butter, as well as any additional ingredients, into the mixing bowl, and allow them to slowly melt
- Refrigerate the mixture until it has reached room temperature
Shea butter should be stored away from harsh lighting or direct sunlight, in a cool, dark space. Unrefined shea butter can safely be stored at room temperature for 12-24 months. After this time, the shea butter is still useful, but will likely have lost some of its nutrients.
The shelf life and potency of shea butter can be extended by storing it below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternately, you can add a natural preservative, such as vitamin E oil.