Shea Butter: the original African miracle cream. How is it that there seem to be so many African trees with the most luxuriously moisturizing nut butters and oils? Seriously, they’re fantastic, and this is the gold standard.
Shea butter is a dense, natural oil made from the inner nut of the Karite tree. It is cleaned, crushed, roasted and milled until it can finally by hand-processed and refined into the smooth white cream that is so soothing to chapped skin. The butter has been made for centuries by the people in its native land, typically Western Africa. It’s used for its moisturizing and protecting capabilities, as well as to reduce inflammation and soothe muscle pain.
Shea butter has a smooth, waxy consistency and a very mild, nutty smell. The powerful ingredients in shea butter include very high concentrations of oleic, stearic, palmitic and linoleic acid, vitamins A, E, and F, and a compound called lupeole cinnamate. Those fatty acids are what give shea butter its penetrating and coating qualities that are so delightful as a moisturizer and a skin protectant, but the real power is in everything else.
The active part of shea butter is in the skin vitamins and lupeole cinnamate, or cinnamic acid. Vitamin A is effective because it’s useful in the healing of skin conditions and signs of aging in mature skin. It also helps the body deal with mild skin allergies, as well as insect bites and burns from sun and frost. Vitamin E is a vitamin that, topically, greatly increases your body’s ability to heal wounds and reduce scarring. It has been shown to fade age spots and blemishes, and it is thought to increase the blood circulation to skin for greater blood supply and cell regeneration.
The real powerhouse that makes shea butter stand apart though, is cinnamic acid. It has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation, which is a unique quality in a butter. Cinnamic acid also helps to take away irritation and itchiness, while calming irritated and inflamed skin. This can reduce pain and aid in healing, and makes shea butter a particularly good cream for cuts and scrapes.
Keep in mind that it’s important to only buy this product fresh, because these benefits are only available when the butter is newly made and of high quality. Over time, the bioavailability of some of the nutrients deteriorates. Time does not, however, affect the moisturizing ability of shea butter, meaning that older shea butter is still good as a moisturizing base, the same way cocoa or mango butter would be, but it no longer contains the necessary nutrients for actually encouraging healing the way a fresh version should. For this reason, shea butter should be used within eighteen months of production.
Whether it is being used for its moisturizing qualities or its healing ability, shea butter is a staple in commercial beauty products as well as homemade ones.
For DIY Beauty Products
For at home use, it’s an especially common base that provides structure to a cosmetic blend. It has a great consistency for lotion bars and salves and incorporates well into lip balm, deodorant, and baby products. Most natural products with comparable moisturizing abilities are liquid at room temperature, making them impossible to use as a solid base without the addition of lots of beeswax. Shea butter is much simpler to use.
The solid, underlying structure also benefits your skin. The various fatty acids that make up shea butter support healthy skin function by strengthening the very cells your skin is made of. Long-term use has been shown to soften and strengthen skin while also removing wrinkles. Meanwhile, the vitamins fight free-radical damage and the cream itself protects skin from the sun. Shea butter actually has a natural SPF 6. It’s also commonly used by the women in Africa who make it as a massage oil in order to ease the strain in tired and achy muscles. Whether this is a further quality of the butter or just the massaging process is up for debate.
Shea butter has long been popular as belly cream to reduce stretch marks during pregnancy because of its dense and deeply nourishing moisturizing ability, and it can be used alone as a cuticle cream. Many people swear it is the best under-eye cream they have ever used as it firms and tightens the often loose skin there as well as improving the circulation to remove dark bags under eyes. It can be applied as a base before makeup, providing a solid foundation that will make the makeup last longer. It’s also wonderful after sunburn to take away the sting and soothe the burn and it can be used as a protective barrier on sore noses and lips during a cold.
As a hair product, shea butter can be massaged in the hands and run through the hair to reduce frizz. It should be used sparingly though, because it’s a very heavy product and if you go overboard, the sealing quality of shea butter can actually block out water and dry out your hair. A little bit goes a long way. Over time, even occasional use will soften hair.
To make sure you are getting all of the amazing benefits of shea butter for your homemade medley or for direct use, we recommend buying Better Shea Butter’s Unrefined Shea Butter. It is a pure, raw, unrefined, grade A butter from Ghana. The company also includes an ebook with every purchase that contains easy-to-follow, DIY recipes for how to use the butter in every possible way. This is an incredible help! From hair defrizzers to cuticle creams to luxurious whipped body butters, they have a great variety of satisfying experiments to try.
Better Shea Butter sells a natural ivory shea butter as well as a tinted, yellow shea butter. The ivory version is the pure stuff. The yellow version is made by the simple addition of borututu tree root extract during cooking. The reason for the added color is to add tint for darker skin or add a slight glow and tan to light skin. The yellow version is slightly harder than the ivory, but works just as well in mixes and blends. Each one is completely vegan and cruelty free. Their butters are also made in small batches to ensure that you’re not just getting a moisturizer, but the healing properties as well.
Whatever you need it for, shea butter is a timeless ingredient that will inspire and please you. It’s safe to use and satisfying as a product that works. Once you start getting creative, we guarantee that you will fall in love with this easy-to-use natural product.