Shea Butter ~ Africa’s Golden Gift

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2013

Shea butter is a nut fat, as it is derived from the crushed nuts of the karite tree that grows wild in the African savannah, an area that comprises more than a dozen countries and is approximately the size of America. People from Ghana, Togo or Burkina Faso, three of the largest exporting countries of shea butter, are accustomed to the benefits. They massage it on their skin and hair; they cook with it, add it to soap, and it’s known to help people of all ages with accelerating the healing of minor cuts, burns, and scrapes. Those who try natural shea butter are amazed to discover that applying all natural shea butter onto their skin, a thin protective layer forms, that is relatively non-greasy!

Shea [Karite] Trees Grow In The Wild 
Shea butter comes from karite trees, which live for hundreds of years. Most wild [as opposed to cultivated which is very small scale at this time], karite trees are pollinated by fruit bats, which help to ensure the continued existence of the ‘tree of life’. The shea nuts aren’t picked from the trees as they must mature and fall from the trees where they are then collected. Women are responsible for the gathering and production of shea nuts and helping cultivate them into valuable shea butter. The process of harvesting the shea fruit is time consuming. While the ripe green, fleshy fruit is rich in ascorbic acid as well as vitamin B; it’s the kernels inside the nut that comprises the shea butter.

Making Shea Butter 
The nuts are first sorted and parboiled, and then left to dry in the sun for up to one week. When the shea nuts are dehydrated, they can either be stored for several weeks or months, or they go to the next step of shea butter production.

Crushing the dried nuts is done either with a wooden pestle, or a special press, which separates the nuts and the kernels. Next, the kernels are roasted in large metal pots and processed through a grinder, which results in a brown colored paste. This paste is processed a second time. The labor-intensive procedure continues with the mixing and kneading of the kernels after some water has been added. While this step of the shea butter making production goes on for several hours, it’s a vital step as it creates the shea butter itself. It’s still unrefined, but many people prefer the natural shea butter to the more refined versions. Also, there are places in Africa that have various types of shea refining machinery. For instance, the shea butter is filtered by a natural cold process method that strains the shea butter of any debris such as gourd pieces, dirt, leaves, etc. Most shea butter that is refined in Africa is usually free of hexane solvents that not only bleach and remove many of the vitamins and minerals, but can remain in the finished product.

Unrefined/Virgin Shea Butter

unrefined shea butter from ebook nuts about shea butter by lisa maliga
unrefined shea butter

This type of shea butter has a wide range of colors and some differences in textures. Generally, unrefined, or virgin, shea butter is that which has been filtered [hopefully] and possibly refined at least once in the most natural cold process method. Beige, light or dark green, gray or dark tan are the colors that mark unrefined shea butter. The green colors come from shea nuts that are less mature than the beige colors. Shea colors are also dependent upon the time of year the nuts are harvested and processed, along with the region in which the shea nuts are selected from.

Unrefined shea butter maintains its vitamins, especially vitamins A and E, and minerals; it also retains its aroma. The scent of unrefined shea is what discourages many from trying this healing butter, as it can be an earthy combination of smoky and nutty. The aroma, may sometimes be strong, depending upon the shea butter and your sense of smell, disappears after it has been applied to your skin within minutes. Unrefined shea butter’s texture varies from smooth and creamy; like peanut butter, to hard, waxy and/or chunky. Those of you who have never been around shea butter would be put off if, upon opening a jar, you found a smelly and crunchy looking product! No matter what it looks like, it leaves your skin looking and certainly feeling smoother and softer than it did pre-application.

ultra refined shea butter nuts about shea butter ebook by lisa maliga
ultra refined shea butter

Refined Shea Butter 
This type is usually white to cream colored, has no discernable nutty/smoky scent, and is smooth and creamy. The difficulty with ultra or even refined shea butter, is in knowing whether that product has been commercially refined to remove its minerals and vitamins with a hexane solvent. Also, shea butter can be bleached to make it appear even lighter. One way to determine a shea butter’s authenticity is to see if it has been cold-pressed, sometimes called cold-processed or expeller-pressed. The Refined shea, which ranges in color from white to beige has had some of its vitamin/mineral properties removed in the process of refining, but retains a bit of a beige color and nutty aroma. The texture can be creamy or chunky. The ideal shea butter would feel creamy and smooth and be absorbed into your skin quickly. Also, the nutty and/or smoky scent should be lighter. Shea butter can be mixed with fragrances and essential oils to completely change the aroma, making it sweet, spicy, fruity, floral, herbal, etc.

Shea Butter’s Benefits 

Shea butter is a skin soothing nut fat that can be used in various ways:

  • All-natural hair conditioner. 
  • Promotes quicker healing of small wounds, burns, cuts and scrapes. 
  • Natural makeup remover. 
  • Safe to use on babies, children and adults. 
  • Helps prevent and soothe sunburns. 
  • High in vitamins A and E. 
  • Dry skin moisturizer.
  • Soothes sore, overworked muscles. 
  • Natural lip balm. 
  • Helps restore elasticity of aging skin.

Want to read more about shea butter? If so, check out my eBook Nuts About Shea Butter, where you can learn about other varieties, see more photos and get some recipes.

The Crafty Writer

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2013-2016

giftbasketI was once asked how have crafts inspired your writing? Well, I can’t sew a straight line. I can’t knit without dropping stitches. And I’m sure my signature dish of French Toast would be laughed at by Gordon Ramsay.

But I get creative in the kitchen in a different way – by making soap! Even before Lush opened their first store in Southern California, I was a huge fan of their products. I’d ordered several of their soaps from Canada and eagerly awaited the package’s delivery. I was impressed with the appealing chunks of goodness as they cut the soft soap from a large cheese-like wheel. All were nasal bliss, and did the job of cleaning and softening quite well. I’d never used glycerin soap before and back in 1997 there wasn’t that much information about it online. A few companies sold it in bulk and after making my first batch of soap with some marigold [calendula] petals on top, I was hooked.

I immersed myself in learning how to make soap and found it easy to concentrate on what I was doing. I guess I could compare it with writing. The soap base is the story. The shape of the mold is compared to the characters and their motivation, the color equals dialogue, and the fragrance corresponds with the tone of the story. Wrapping and labeling is like the sense of location[s] found in a novel. Writing involves sitting in front of the computer and staring at the monitor. In the kitchen is where I decide what type of soap to make and I concentrate on that. The creativity involved can be spontaneous…for my La Brea Tar Pits soap I used a plastic cookie liner for a mold and the name came from the nearby tar pits. Tea tree essential oil removes tar from the skin as does lavender, and it enhances the aroma. Whole oats help clean and soften the skin, and cornmeal is an exfoliant, removing excess dirt. Each element has its place.

Taking the same creativity I use when designing soap and other bath & body products, writing about soapmaking is easy. I see it as sharing the joy of a fun and crafty hobby [tho’ it was a business for me for almost five years].  I hope to make everything easier for the reader so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. The recipes I’d created over the years were all handwritten. When I wrote The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting, I actually typed them out for the first time. To this day, every product I make always involves writing down all the ingredients so I know what fragrances I’ve blended, what oils and butters I’ve used, the amounts, etc. I also remembered what it was like when I made my first batch of soap using one page of instructions. I wanted more information as I had many questions. And just like my writing, I’ve learned it all by doing. By making hundreds of batches of soap, and by writing hundreds of thousands of words. 

happy birthday melt and pour soap recipes lisa maliga ebookIn the above photo, I was able to put my creative skills to use by packaging some of my products in a little gift box I found at a thrift store. Learn more about wrapping soap in Happy Birthday Melt and Pour Soap Recipes

About the Author:

Lisa Maliga is an American author of contemporary fiction, psychological thrillers and cozy mysteries. Her nonfiction titles consist of how to make bath and body products with an emphasis on melt and pour soap crafting. Her nickname is The Midnight Soaper as that’s her preferred soaping time. When researching her latest cozy mystery, she discovered the art of baking French macarons. She’s currently obsessed with baking the perfect batch of macarons. When not writing, Lisa reads an assortment of books, watches movies, and is a huge fan of The Walking Dead.

You’ll find more about her work at: [The Discerning Readers’ Newsletter]


Wine Soap Adventures

By Lisa Maliga

I was always looking for ways to color my soap. Sure, I could buy soap that was pre-colored, but where was the challenge? It was like buying soap with shea butter already in it – why bother when I had so much shea butter on hand and it was as simple as measuring in a reasonable amount?
Doing my online R&D I got on a site that had wine soap that was wholesale only. This was several years ago, so the few places I noticed selling soap weren’t the clear glycerin variety but homemade. The color tended towards mauve or beige – not very wine colored at all.
A trip to the 99 Cents Only store took care of my wine needs. I got some merlot from the great state of California and it even came with a cork! Now, I had to find a corkscrew to open the bottle as I didn’t have one. A trip to the grocery store turned up the contraption and about 20 minutes later I was holding the remnants of a cork in one hand and the finally open bottle of wine in the other.  Didn’t have a digital camera at the time for that image!
What I later discovered was that not only did the amount of wine I add affect the soap but so did the type of wine. Making this first batch of wine soap was venturing into the unchartered bubbles of melting and pouring glycerin soap. No book mentioned wine soap and nowhere online did I find any hints as to how to go about it. In fact, after adding what I figured out to be a rational amount of the wine, I thought after pouring it into the mold that I had wine soup instead of wine soap! But I was pleased with the resulting batch of beautiful looking dark red soap that had that faint scent of wine to it.
cabernet wine soap by lisa maliga
When I washed my hands with a small bar I made – it was a loaf soap and I opted for the end piece – I wondered if it would bleed all over my hands or make them smell like I’d been crushing grapes. Neither. I made another discover! Wine soap lathered better! I would later learn this was because of the sugar in it and that sugar can be an ingredient in melt & pour bases.
I made another trip over to my favorite discount store later that week and picked up a bottle of cabernet. I’d written down the recipe so I stuck to the same formula. But as soon as I added the wine I was surprised to see it didn’t remain its lovely burgundy shade: the cabernet turned a grape colored purple! Later in my soaping career this was an advantage as I had 2 different colored wine soaps.
My wine soap was considered a curiosity. I sold a soap sampler containing a travel sized bar of merlot  wine. But I didn’t sell that many bars of the full sized version. Attracting the interest of an enterprising writer, I did have my wine soaps reviewed back in 2005. Here’s a copy of the review.
Chicago Sun-Times NEW IN BREW · Well, we’ve heard of wine massages, but now comes a special four-ounce glycerin soap made with wine from Everything Shea Aromatic Creations based in Los Angeles. The wine soap also contains shea nut butter, which has been added as a moisturizer. “We have variety of wine soaps and they all contain real wine — Merlot, sangria and Cabernet,” said Lisa Maliga, the company’s bath and body products designer. “The wine actually increases the lather. Plus, it just smells good, especially if you let the wine breathe — you’ll get a fruity aroma.” Reported by Celeste Busk.
Want to make your own wine soap? The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting contains two wine soap recipes!

Chocolate, Sex & Soap!

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2008-2018
How many bath & body products have you tried that contain real chocolate? I was intrigued with the idea when about a decade ago I stumbled upon a website that offered a few products like a lotion the color of chocolate milk and some sort of sugar scrub and a massage bar. It was a pink and brown colored site and it fascinated me to think that one could smell like chocolate all day long without eating it. Not that I wasn’t familiar with the main ingredient, cocoa butter, but that was beige and hard and primarily used in lip balms or melted down into a lotion for its emollient properties. Cocoa butter didn’t change color or texture in a handmade lotion, and it usually didn’t alter the fragrance. But that site was the start of my obsession for chocolate scented skin …
After lots of experimentation I discovered that one could add not just cocoa butter to soap, but actual chocolate. It had to be the bittersweet kind which I found at my fave 99 Cents Only store in the form of ye old fashioned baker’s chocolate that came in a yellow cardboard box. So I put some into my soap and there was no earth shattering change of scent or color. Not really, since I was adding my usual sparkling brown mica mineral colorant to it. But when it went into my lip balm, wow wee! It not only changed the color so it looked like a perfect round circle of chocolate, it amped up the cocoa flavor and I just wanted to eat that lip balm. Trust me on this, it’s not a great idea as it’ll eat into your profits. Plus, regular chocolate tastes better.

maximum chocolate soap photo by lisa maliga 12 easy melt and pour soap recipes ebookDuring the peak of my business, I had 3 varieties of chocolate soap. My favorite was the one I named  MAXIMUM Cocoa Butter Glycerin Soap. You’ll find the recipe for it in my eBook, 12 Easy Melt and Pour Soap Recipes.

Yeah, it was fun to create this one as I added no colorant other than this high quality chocolate which I picked up at a health food store. I refrained from eating most of it because I learned real quickly that this was better than Snickers or M&Ms and it was good for you, too! [Unfortunately, I had to remove this soap from my site as too many people were trying to buy it after I moved.]

The best kind of chocolate was the kind that was added to the rebatch soap. This is the real deal soap as I call it as it’s made from scratch and has no added ingredients except what you put in it. And this is where you can include dairy products for an incredibly rich and sumptuous milk soap, or get creative and add yogurt, coconut or soy milk or eggnog. So I made a chocolately bar with the addition of shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter. Then the crème de la crème was the chocolate I could add as a swirl to make a beige and brown bar that looked like fudge.  In my recent book How to Make Handcrafted Shampoo Bars I’ve included a couple of recipes that contain chocolate.

As for other chocolate products, count me in as a Lushie! Well, I’ve mentioned how I felt in a previous post. before I made my first chocolate product, Lush had made theirs. They had this nifty hand sized massage bar called After 8:30 a chocolate mint concoction made primarily from cocoa butter and real chocolate with “scentsational” lashings of peppermint essential oil. The urge NOT to bite down on it was excruciating. The scent, the look, the feel, was chocolate overload. It also contained white chocolate which is really just cocoa butter with added sugar. White chocolate has no true cacao content but it is pure decadent sweetness. 

Rubbing this on my skin was a chuckle as there were brown streaks that resembled skid marks! It was like rubbing a mint chocolate bar on my skin and it did get absorbed after leaving it greasy for a few minutes. Then my skin felt soft and chocolate-y and peppermint-y and I just wanted to lick myself like a cat.  The mint also cooled me off a bit. I’ve never been that intimate with chocolate before after trying that After 8:30 and I doubt if I’ll repeat the experience. 
When making bath & body products, it’s all about experimenting! 

Nuts About Shea Butter

Learn why the world is going nuts about African shea butter in this latest release by bath & body products designer, Lisa Maliga. “Nuts About Shea Butter” explores the origins of shea butter, the different types on the market, and how it enhances your natural beauty.


In NUTS ABOUT SHEA BUTTER the reader will discover shea butter’s benefits, its numerous applications, and how to get optimal use from this healthy and natural nut fat. Learn about the differences between East African and West African shea butter. What is the right kind of shea butter for your needs? Various types of shea butter and shea oil are described in this cutting edge e-book.

Used in African countries for centuries, shea butter has been an ingredient in medicines for the preparation of skin ointments, and to treat inflammation, sunburn, chapping, rashes and more. Written for the consumer and the bath & body products crafter, NUTS ABOUT SHEA BUTTER contains fascinating facts and effective explanations. Shea butter is an ancient African beauty secret that is becoming more popular everywhere.

The author has worked with shea butter for more than a decade and named her company after this star ingredient.

This e-book also includes information on reliable sources for buying shea butter.

Shea butter is recommended for just about anyone who wants to care for their skin and hair the natural way.

NUTS ABOUT SHEA BUTTER can be found online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble NOOKbooks.

Lisa’s Library of Writing