Where Does Shea Butter Come From

where does shea butter come from?

Where Does Shea Butter Come From

Shea butter is one of the best moisturizers that the skin and hair can benefit from.  But where does shea butter come from?  It is a butter that has been used for centuries but many don’t understand where it comes from and how it is grown and produced for the masses.  We will go over the details of where it comes from and how it is produced for better understanding.

The Karite Tree

The karite tree is known as the tree of life.  Shea butter is the fruit of the karite.  The tree is found in abundance in several parts of West Africa, Central African Republic and Ethiopia.  Shea butter is fat that is extracted from nuts derived from the karite tree.  

Tall And Mighty

The tree grows up to about 60 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  One fun fact is that the karite tree starts to produce large amounts of nuts when they reach about 20 years old.  They go on to bear fruit for 200 years or more! Now that’s super impressive.  The karite tree has become a major part of the African Culture and it is known as the women’s gold.  Why? because it gives women in Africa a source of income to produce and export it to other countries.

"The Belt"

The tree’s can be found in what is known as the savannah belt.  It runs east and west through Africa.  The savannah belt is a dry climate which gives the karite tree an opportunity to grow to its fullest potential.  This tree can be found in several countries.  Some of them are Guinea, Kenya, Uganda, Togo, Ghana, Ethipoia, Benin, Nigeria and several others.

The Different Types Of Shea Butter Based On Origin

There are two different types of shea butter.  What is popular on the market is yellow and ivory.  They are the exact same types of butter.  The only difference is one has borututu root added for coloring.  They can come in 2 different varieties.  These are Butyrospermum parkii (from West Africa) and Vitellaria Nilotica which is from East Africa.  When East African Shea butter is placed in room temperature it has a softer and creamier texture than West African shea butter.  It makes it easier to apply to the hair and skin but is much more rare because the production is lower.

It's Produced From The Nuts

There is a different extraction process for each depending on what region of Africa the shea is coming from.  For easier transportation, the pulps are removed from the shea nuts right away from the area of harvest.  They are removed so that the weight of the load is drastically reduced before they are carried back to the co-ops so that they can be harvested.  It is also important that during the process, the shea nuts are not left for a long period of time under the trees because they will begin to mold.


Unrefined shea butter is one of the best quality that is available. To extract unrefined shea butter the process is a simpler than the others and is sometimes labeled as raw shea butter.  The first step in processing is cracking, grilling and pounding the shea nuts that have been harvested.  With that being said, the highest quality of shea butters comes from specific regions within Africa.  These countries carefully extract the shea from the nuts which produces a nice moisturizing cream for the skin and hair.