What's the difference between Cleopatra's Choice Yellow and Ivory colors?
Since this is the main question we get asked on the phone I'd like to address it first. For an easy breakdown between the differences between these two types of butters please see the easy chart below. First off let me clearly state that both the yellow and the ivory are good products. Any website or salesperson who claims otherwise is simply trying to sell you the kind that they are carrying. That's the reason why at Cleopatra's Choice we offer both options, because the fact is, it all depends on personal preference. I even saw one website claiming the yellow version is not even shea butter at all which is completely misleading. My personal preference is the lighter ivory color, which I like because it starts off softer and absorbs a little easier. It also has a more subtle scent. However I have also had many customers that absolutely love the yellow version and feel that it worked better for them.
The main difference in the color is usually the area where the butter comes from in Africa. Our Yellow version comes from Ghana while the Ivory shea butter comes from Benin, Africa. The yellow butter tends to be much harder at first, and takes a little more effort to get out of the container and rub into the skin or hair. Many of our customers prefer the yellow version for their hair, while they like the ivory for their body and skin. The ivory colored butter is much softer to start and absorbs easier. It also has a more subtle (some say more pleasant) nutty scent.
It depends on the region that the shea butter comes from, as some trees have more carotene than others. Carotene is the same element in carrots and sweet potatoes that make them orange. However, some butters are filled or diluted with Palm Oil. Some suppliers add Palm Oil to stretch their shea butter, and it results in it being a bright orange color. If shea butter is stark white (like Crisco), then that means that it has been refined. The way that you can tell refined from unrefined is that most unrefined West African shea has a characteristic nutty/smoky, earthy scent. Personally, I think it smells similar to chocolate. If the shea that you are receiving does not have this characteristic scent, then you know that you are dealing with either refined or diluted shea. Also, very old product sometimes turns stark white and has a “off” scent to it.
Chart of Differences between Yellow & Ivory Shea Butter
IMPORTANT: Please beware of where you buy your shea butter! There are some unscrupulous vendors out there on certain auction websites and other places that sell versions that have been processed and had the vitamins and nutrients pulled out of them, while claiming that it's the real thing. Please be sure that even if you don't buy from Cleopatra's Choice, that at least you purchase from a trusted vendor with credibility so you know that you are getting only the unrefined, Grade A version (this means the highest vitamin content). According to the Wikipedia article, only Grade A is considered unrefined and unprocessed, meaning the original vitamins and nutrients are still intact. Grades B and C are versions that have had the vitamins pulled out, usually for use in other cosmetics. This lower grade butter does not have the same healing and beauty properties as true, unrefined, Grade A Shea Butter.
Please Note: Grade A, Unrefined, Pure, Organic Shea Butter is the only one we carry and will ever carry at Cleopatra's Choice.
There are so many benefits of this marvelous product on both the skin and hair that it's hard to know where to get started. We will attempt to list just some of many benefits below:
Video on the Benefits of Shea Butter on the skin (gets pretty scientific)
How can I use it on hair?
Take a large enough amount of the butter into your hands and allow it to get as soft as possible from the heat of your hands. The amount needed depends on how long your hair is, you can try with a golf ball size as a baseline. We do not recommend melting it in a microwave or pan as it has a very low melting point, will melt very quickly and will become hot, so you don't want to scold yourself. After you've melted the butter and got it soft enough in your hands apply thoroughly to your hair and scalp until you feel you've achieved enough coverage. Make sure to massage the butter into your hair and scalp to achieve a consistent coverage on all your hair. Wrap your hair in a towel and allow the butter so absorb for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes unwrap you hair and shampoo and condition as usually. Your hair should look more shiny and healthy as a result of using the butter.
My butter arrived very soft and semi-melted, is this normal?
Shea butter contains a high natural content of oil (which is what makes it so deeply moisturizing). Because of this this butter has a very low melting point and if you are ordering it at a warm time of the year, like summer you may receive it slightly soft or semi-melted state. Please be aware that this is totally normal and does not reduce the butter's effectiveness in any way!
If you want to bring it back to the hardened state simply make sure it's sealed tightly (not to let any moisture in) and place in your refrigerator for about thirty minutes. This will make it hard and easy for you to use and it will soften up again quickly with the touch of your hand.
What does "unrefined and raw" mean?
There are various grades of Shea Butter - A,B,C,D and E. Grades D and E are contaminated with pollutants and are rarely sold for personal use so we don't even need to go into them here too much. Grade A is the purest form - the original way it is after it's extracted from the Shea Tree nuts. This version of the butter is the one with the absolute highest concentration of vitamins A and E and therefore has the best healing and beautifying effects on skin and hair. Grades B & C are ones that have been "processed" and had the vitamins and nutrients extracted from them for use in other cosmetics. Obviously the loss of these key vitamins and minerals greatly reduces the benefits of the butter for skin and hair.
What's the difference between the shea butters from East Africa and West Africa?
There are sometimes very slight differences in color, texture and hardness. In my opinion these differences are not major and do not impact the effectiveness or enjoyment of using the products. At Cleopatra's Choice we offer shea butter from West Africa although it's very similar to the one made in East Africa.
What does Fair Trade mean?
Fair Trade basically means that the people in the villages who actually produce the butter are being paid a reasonable wage to sustain themselves and their families. You may have heard this term mentioned in relation to coffee beans, it's a similar concept when it comes to producing Shea Butter. When you purchase a jar the total retail price of that product gets split up between the women actually grinding the shea nuts to produce the butter, the companies that package and export that shea butter and the retailer of the product (Cleopatra's Choice). When it comes to shea butter that is not fair trade usually the middle man or the exporter of the butter gets the bulk of the final retail price. Fair trade means that a reasonable portion of the final retail price gets to the people actually producing the butter, while the other parties in the transaction take a bit less profit. Fair trade also means that the production is done in a way to reduce the amount of environmental impact on the environment of the places where it's made. Finally it also means decent working conditions and benefits for the women making the butter.
How is it made?
The manufacturing process is made up of several stages. First the shea nuts are harvested from the trees and prepared for separation. The nuts are then cracked (sometimes steamed first to create better separation between the shell of the nut and the inner kernels) and the inner kernels are carefully separated from the outer shell. Next the kernels are collected and at this point the real hard labor of production takes place - the crushing of the kernels into something that gets close to resembling a sort of shea paste. This is traditionally done with mallets in clay, stone or wood mortars by the women who produce the butter. This process can take hours and is hard, physical labor. The crushed nuts are then roasted oven an open wood fire, during which process they must be constantly stirred with wooden paddles to prevent burning. Next the roasted kernels are ground further, then the villagers add some water and mix into a fine paste. The water helps to separate out the shea oil from the butter. The oil rises to the top and is removed along with excess water. The rest of the water is lost via evaporation from the hot sun. Finally the resulting butter is collected and shaped into large balls and prepared for shipping. After that it can be packaged into smaller containers or formed into blocks of five or ten pounds, which is the form in which you are able to buy it today from Cleopatra's Choice.
Pure, unrefined Shea has been prized for thousands of years for its hydrating and healing properties. Originating from the tropics of Africa, it is an excellent source of Vitamins A, E and F. Naturally highly concentrated, it is the natural and economic choice to replenish your dry, damaged skin and make it feel softer and healthier than it has in years.