Shea butter is packed with essential nutrients that can enhance your natural complexion and help you glow from the inside out.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is fat extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It is solid at warm temperatures and has an off-white or ivory color. Shea trees are native to West Africa, and most shea butter still comes from that region.
Full of Benefits Used for centuries in African countries for moisturizing and healing, shea butter comes from the seeds of the fruit on the shea tree. Like aloe vera, shea butter is naturally full of vitamins A, C, and E, which are not only ideal for skin care but are potent antioxidant compounds.
Shea butter has been used as a cosmetic ingredient for centuries. Its high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids — combined with its easy-to-spread consistency — make it a great product for smoothing, soothing, and conditioning your skin.
Types of Shea Butter
According to the CBI, there are two main types of shea butter — West African and East African.
East African Shea Butter:
- is more yellow in color than Western African shea butter
- has a lower melting point, so is more liquid at room temperature
- has a higher concentration of leicacid
- has a soft and creamy texture
Western African Shea Butter:
- has a higher concentration of vitamin A
- has a higher melting point, so a denser consistency at room temperature
- contains a lower concentration of oleic acid
- is harder in consistency
- has a higher concentration of sterol
Note that Shea Butter is safe for all skin types
Shea butter is technically a tree nut product. But unlike most tree nut products, it’s very low in the proteins that can trigger allergies.
In fact, there’s no medical literature documenting an allergy to topical shea butter.
Shea butter doesn’t contain chemical irritants known to dry out skin, and it doesn’t clog pores. It’s appropriate for nearly any skin type.
10 Outlined Benefits of Shea Butter
1. Shea Butter is moisturizing
Shea butter is typically used for its moisturizing effects. These benefits are tied to shea’s fatty acid content, including linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids.
When you apply shea topically, these oils are rapidly absorbed into your skin. They act as a “refatting” agent, restoring lipids and rapidly creating moisture.
This restores the barrier between your skin and the outside environment, holding moisture in and reducing your risk of dryness.
2. Used as Treatment against Eczema
Shea butter contains bioactive ingredients that give it anti-inflammatory properties.
A small 2015 studyTrusted Source consisting of 25 people with mild-to-moderate eczema found that shea butter may help alleviate the signs and symptoms of eczema.
3. It Cures Dryness of the Skin
Shea butter contains high levels of linoleic acid and oleic acid. These two acids balance each other out. That means shea butter is easy for your skin to fully absorb and won’t make your skin look oily after application.
4. It Fights inflammation
Shea oil is rich in triterpene, a compound thought to reduce pain and inflammation.
One 2013 study of 33 people with osteoarthritis of the knee found that those who used a shea oil extract for 16 weeks had less pain and could bend their knees better.
The plant esters of shea butter have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
When applied to the skin, shea triggers cytokines and other inflammatory cells to slow their production.
5. It Helps Minimize Irritation
Shea Butter help minimize irritation caused by environmental factors, such as dry weather, as well as inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema.
6. It is Antioxidant
Shea butter has significant levels of vitamins A and E, which means it promotes strong antioxidant activity.
7. It is an Anti-aging Agent
Shea butter being an antioxidants is an important anti-aging agents. They protect your skin cells from free radicals that can lead to premature aging and dull-looking skin.
8. It may help prevent Acne
Shea butter is rich in different kinds of fatty acids. This unique composition helps clear your skin of excess oil (sebum).
At the same time, shea butter restores moisture to your skin and locks it in to your epidermis, so your skin doesn’t dry out or feel “stripped” of oil.
The result is a restoration of the natural balance of oils in your skin — which may help stop acne before it starts.
9. Shea Butter help relieve arthritis pain
Arthritis is caused by underlying inflammation in the joints.
A 2016 animal studyTrusted Source on shea oil concentrate suggests that it can help reduce inflammation while also protecting joints from further damage.
Although this study focused on knee joints, these potential benefits could extend to other areas of the body.
10. It Is Used for Scars
Shea butter may have an ability to soften scar tissue.
A keloid is a type of raised and enlarged area of scarring. There is evidenceTrusted Source to suggest that using shea butter may help prevent the formation of keloids.
However, it is important to note that the researchers used lab cultures. As a result, there is not enough research to show how effective shea butter is at preventing keloid scars.
How to use Shea Butter
You can apply shea butter directly to your skin. Raw, unrefined shea butter is easy to spread.
You can use your fingers to scoop a teaspoon or so of shea butter from your jar, and then rub it onto your skin until it’s completely absorbed.
Shea butter is slippery and can keep makeup from adhering to your face, so you may prefer to apply it at night before bed.
Raw shea butter can also be applied directly to your hair.
If your hair is naturally curly or porous, consider using shea butter as a conditioner. Make sure your hair has absorbed most of the shea butter before rinsing and styling as usual. You can also use a small amount of shea butter as a leave-in conditioner.
If your hair is naturally straight, thin, or fine, consider using shea butter on the ends of your hair. Applying shea butter to your roots may cause an oily-looking buildup.
Shea butter should be stored slightly below room temperature, so that it stays solid and easy to spread.
Side effects and risks of Shea Butter
There are no documented cases of topical shea butter allergies. Even people with tree nut allergies should be able to use shea butter on their skin.
That said, discontinue use if you begin experiencing irritation and inflammation. Seek emergency medical attention if you experience severe pain, swelling, or difficulty breathing.
If you want to get the most out of your shea butter, purchase it in its raw and unrefined form. The more that shea butter is processed, the more its amazing, all-natural properties are diluted.
For this reason, shea butter is classified by a grading system from A to F, with grade A being the most pure form of shea butter you can buy.
Buying shea butter that’s raw and unrefined also helps more of your purchase count toward supporting the communities that actually harvest and grow shea nuts. You can go a step further by purchasing grade A shea butter that’s labeled “fair trade.”
Although it’s considered safe every skin type, many products containing shea butter have other ingredients mixed in.
If you experience any side effects that you suspect are connected to a shea butter product, discontinue use and see a doctor or other healthcare provider. They can help determine what’s causing your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.