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The smell of shea butter - let's talk about it

Shea butter (unrefined/raw) is an oil extracted from the shea nut. As discussed in the taste of shea, the shea nut is enveloped in a sweet fleshy green fruit that is eaten in Africa during the hot summer months. Shea butter has been a part of African cultures for generations, and from the looks of it, will remain so for years to come. This butter is an essential part of West African culture particularly because of its healing properties. Stories have it that it is a cure for almost all minor skin conditions such as dryness, eczema, rashes and more. Additionally, it is used as a nasal decongestant, smeared across the chest to open airways during a bad cold. This is especially the case with babies. West African women heavily rely on shea butter as a natural remedy for their babies.

The secret behind a beautiful natural glowing skin and fully moisturized hair is shea butter – except, well it’s not really a secret. So how come we don’t all plaster ourselves with shea butter on the daily to benefit from these properties that have clearly done wonders for its regular users? In Mali, the main reason is because of its odor. Shea butter has a nutty scent, which can range from very mild to very wild. So why exactly does shea butter smell the way it does? We've got the answers for you. 

The shea tree takes 10-15 years before bearing fruits. These fruits contain nuts from which the butter is extracted. Shea Butter is highly coveted all over the world, but the fruits are seasonal. So how do shea butter makers meet the world's demand for shea butter all year long? Simple, during the fruition of the trees, shea nuts are collected, dried and stored one way or another. The most common way of storage is to bury the nuts. During their time underground, the shea nuts can rot, or start to grow again, and if the makers do not selectively sort these nuts, one bad nut will ruin the entire batch with a potent smell. Through the smell does not affect the qualities, it has tendencies to be too potent from which any novice nose turns away from.

Everyone experiences the smell of shea butter differently, but all reap from its benefits equally. If your shea butter does not have a nutty scent, that means it has been refined or treated in one way or another. Refined shea butter is very convenient in the cosmetic world, because it has been stripped away of its natural (sometimes unpleasant) odor and can easily be scented with fragrances. However, this shea butter is not only stripped of its odor but also of most of its natural healing properties and vitamins that make it a remarkable butter. Refined shea butter in Africa is not considered to be shea butter anymore because it has lost its purpose.

Sanoun shea butter is raw, unrefined and brought to you as nature intended. It naturally melts and blends with the skin and hair beautifully to moisturize, soothe and pamper. Sanoun women only make small batches at a time to ensure that all bad nuts are removed. We spend a much longer time on nut sorting in order to bring our customers quality every single time.  


Next time you buy shea butter, it may have an odor that may be unpleasant to the novice nostril, but that should not stop you from reaping from its amazing benefits! Give it whiff every day, rub a small amount on your hands and feel the smell disappear as your nose becomes more acquainted. Nonetheless, whenever shopping for shea butter, we recommend to start with a small quantity, get acquainted, then go big. The effort is really worth it, we guarantee it!

P.S: you can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to please your nose and your skin/hair with added benefits. See our recipes for DIY ideas.

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