Where does it come from?
Shea butter is a white coloured, solid, fatty oil extracted from the nut of the African Shea Nut Tree. It has been used for centuries in Africa to protect hair and skin from the strong sun and dry winds. It was part of the beauty routines of Egyptian queens like Cleopatra, Nefertiti and the Queen of Sheba. Today, it’s a popular ingredient in many products including lip gloss, skin moisturizing creams, hair conditioners and some soaps.
Shea butter is high in oleic acid, which is a saturated fatty acid very similar to skin’s natural sebum. This means it’s easily absorbed and helps the skin to absorb the other active ingredients. Fatty acids like this are need to retain skin moisture and elasticity. The large amounts of these acids present in Shea butter give it its soft, butter-like consistency that melts easily into the skin.
It’s also full of nourishing nutrients, like Vitamin A, E and F. Thesehelp keep skin healthy, clear, youthful and supple. These vitamins also have many healing properties and can help with treating skin issues such as
- (premature) wrinkles
- insect bites
- sores and scars
- stretch marks
It’s also high in unsaponifiables – another type of fat. Shea Butter has between 7-12% whereas avocado oil, another cult skin conditioner, has only 2-6%. These high levels of unsaponifiables are what makes Shea butter so good at treating skin conditions.
Shea butter is also packed full of antioxidants, polyphenols and phytonutrients. This gives it anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it’s so good at soothing and moisturising all types of skin. Antioxidants also help to protect against environmental and free-radical damage, promote cell renewal and increase circulation.
Shea butter also contains cinnamic acid which helps to protect the skin from harmful UVB rays, as well as helping sun damaged skin. Its also a perfect lip balm for protecting and treating your lips.
However, while Shea butter is fabulous for hydrating your skin, I would avoid using it on your face. It is a very rich butter, and could cause breakouts.
Shea butter is excellent at moisturizing and repairing hair, and protecting against weather damage, dryness and brittleness. It’s very good for treating dry scalps as it helps to re-hydrate without clogging pores, and can also help to control and spread excess oil.
Using Shea butter in your hair can help protect it from harmful free radicals in environment and harsh weather conditions. It also helps treat any damage that’s already been done! The low SPF protection is enough to protect the hair from sun damage and UV radiation. If applied before swimming, it also protects the hair against salt and chlorine.
Highly processed Shea Butter is not as effective as the pure butter, and its benefits can be reduced if mixed with other ingredients. Unrefined Shea butter is the best because it retains all its natural vitamins, especially vitamin A and vitamin E.
Be wary of products that claim to be Shea Butter based, because some actually contain very little shea butter. My personal favourite is Shea Million Soft Shea Butter from Akoma.
Panda Eyes xx