Shea butter is one of my favorites when it comes to moisturizing ingredients. It goes into the skin fast, doesn't leave a greasy residue, and actually softens the skin (at least mine). However, it's not as easy as 1-2-3 with this versatile ingredient.
Traditionally produced by hand in Africa, shea butter is now also produced in factories. Still, the production and export of it is still a really important export for some African countries, and not only as a an ingredient in skin care products. The butter from the nut of the Shea tree is also used for cooking in certain parts of the world. Hooray for food-grade skin care ingredients! Anyway -- the process is relatively long from nut to butter, but if you're interested you can read more here.
So, it makes your skin soft, it's non-greasy, and it is natural. It helps with collagen production, has a natural mild sun protection factor, and promotes skin elasticity. What's not to love? Well... It smells. It really does. Just like argan oil, this ingredient is lovely in what it does but seriously off-putting in scent. Fortunately, it's much too solid to be used conveniently at 100% concentration (though you can, and people do), so it will most often be diluted to help with the consistency and indirectly also with the smell. In the product that I use it in, the NORRSKEN body butter, it's present at about 25%. This concentration is way too high for the regular smelly-butter, so I use a naturally deodorized version. And, it's mixed with other goodness such as mango butter, sweet almond oil, and an intoxicating fragrance from lime, ylang ylang, and cinnamon bark essential oils. Ingredients for another post!