Shea butter has been around for centuries, yet in the Western World we are still getting to know its benefits. If you are crazy about healthy skin as I am, then you have probably experienced the wonder of shea butter and how beneficial it can be for your skin.
There are a lot of things that make shea butter so special and versatile, so let’s break them down a bit.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is fat extracted from the shea tree, native to West Africa. As most fats, it changes texture depending on temperatures and has a slightly off-light/ivory color.
It can be used for cooking when used in it’s natural, unrefined form and has many applications on the skin, some of which we are going to discuss below. It is rich in vitamins and fatty acids. Pure shea butter mainly contains:
- vitamins A, E and F — rich antioxidants that promote a healthy skin cell growth and stimulate circulation
- linoleum, oleic, stearic and palmitic fatty acids — all of which help you balance the oils on your skin without making it feel oily
- triglycerides — great for conditioning and nourishment
- acetyl esters — adds to the conditioning and locks in moisture for longer due to its waxy texture
Are all Shea Butter products on the market equal?
In order to make sure you are getting the most out of this wonderful fat, it’s best to buy grade A or edible grade unrefined raw shea butter that’s labeled fair trade. In this way you can enjoy the benefits fully, while supporting the communities that harvest them for us. I personally use this one from PraNaturals and love it!
What are shea butter’s benefits for your skin?
Shea butter can do wonders for your skin with all of its amazing properties:
It has amazing moisturizing properties. It not only moisturizes and nourishes your skin, but locks all this new added moisture by providing a barrier between your skin and the outside environment, thus keeping your skin hydrated for longer.
Shea butter also has anti-inflammatory properties, where it’s found to aid skin in extremely dry weather conditions and can fight inflammatory diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis. I have personally used it to help me get rid of eczema on my skin and on my toddler’s skin. It takes a bit of time but it works wonders, especially when combined with honey.
Due to the abundance of anti-oxidants, shea butter also has anti-aging properties and adds on to that beautiful glow without making your skin look or feel oily. It also aids cell regeneration, so it can reduce some of those wrinkles you’ve been noticing lately.
It is also anti-fungal, so it can help you fight fungus on your skin – predominantly ringworm and athlete’s foot. I have personally found it helpful with Tinea Versicolor, however it did not clear it out completely.
Shea butter is known for its anti-bacterial properties as well, where it can help you clear out acne or prevent its occurrence. It may sound counterintuitive to add more oil to an already oily skin, however the fatty composition of shea butter allows it to sink in and balance out your skin’s natural oil composition. This allows your skin to relax knowing that it’s not stripped out of its oils and there is no need to overproduce sebum.
As mentioned, shea butter stimulates cell growth, but it also stops scar tissue from reproducing. When you combine the two, you have some awesome healing properties that can help reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks. I have personally used it in combination with jojoba oil and some added vitamin E to see great reductions in my acne scarring.
Shea butter could also soothe mild sunburns, bee stings, insect bites and muscle soreness. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, shea butter can alleviate some inflammation and pain in those cases. If the pain is severe or if allergic to insects and you notice severe swelling, please make sure to contact your doctor.
As most oils when added to skin that’s exposed to the sun, you can expect to see faster tanning results. Even though shea butter offers some skin protection – SPF varies between 3 and 4, you should be extremely careful when you use it for tanning purposes. It may result in sunburn if exposed to the sun for a prolonged period of time without additional SPF protection.
Shea butter does not clog your pores! It is 0 on the comedogenic scale and it’s perfect to use on your face. Its added anti-bacterial properties can even help you clear your skin and the antioxidant mix will add a wonderful glow. Just make sure you give it some time to absorb before going out or going to sleep if used at night (my personal preference).
Shea butter can also be used to lighten to skin, not to bleach it, but to return it to its natural complexion, especially if you’ve gotten some dark spots or marks over the years. To achieve this, it’s best to use it at night before bed and after a shower on clean skin. You can warm it up, so that the texture is not too viscous and can be applied on your face directly. Give it a minute or two to absorb before heading to bed.
Shea butter has no records of triggering allergic reactions when applied on skin on its own. It can be used daily on all skin types and all body parts.