Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It is ivory in colour when raw, with more processed versions being white, although it can be naturally dyed yellow with borututu root or palm oil. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturiser, salve, or lotion. Shea butter is edible and is used in food preparation in some African countries.
The butter comes as a softish paste, ideal for creating balms and ointments or for use on its own with adding a few drops of essential oil. Shea butter has been used as a cosmetic ingredient for centuries. Its high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids and easy-to-spread consistency makes it an excellent product for smoothing, soothing and conditioning your skin.
The benefits of shea butter come from its chemical makeup. Shea butter contains:
- linoleic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic fatty acids, ingredients that balance oils on your skin
- vitamins A, E, and F, antioxidant vitamins that promote circulation and healthy skin cell growth
- triglycerides, the fatty part of the shea nut that nourishes and conditions your skin
- cetyl esters, the waxy part of the shea nut butter that conditions skin and locks in moisture
- An emollient – It penetrates the skin quickly, leaving it soft and supple without the feeling of grease. Beneficial for dehydrated, chapped, or burnt skin; to prevent wrinkles and stretch marks; as a hair, oil to treat devitalised, dry hair and scalp; to soothe rashes, eczema, and dermatitis.
- Anti-inflammatory – It is known by the African people to have anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as a base to help with sprains and rheumatism
- UV protection – The level of protection can go up to SPF6, although this may vary depending on the origin and quality of the butter.
- Safe for all skin types
- Anti-inflammatory – When applied to the skin, shea triggers cytokines and other inflammatory cells to slow production. This may help minimise irritation caused by environmental factors, such as dry weather and inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema.
- Antioxidant – Shea butter has significant vitamins A and E levels, promoting vigorous antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are essential anti-ageing agents.
- Antifungal – shea tree products have been established as powerful ingredients to fight skin infections caused by fungi.