How many times have your friends told you that you should start using shea butter because they have and it’s amazing? How many articles have you read in magazines or online about the incredible benefits of shea butter? Here’s one more which will have you convinced in no time that it’s high time you joined the trend and started using the incredible product that is shea butter. Here are all the benefits, as well as a few tips and tricks on how to use it wisely.
What Is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a type of vegetable fat extracted from the nut of the shea tree. It’s typically off-white, or ivory colored and is considered to be a triglyceride. Even though we mostly use it in cosmetics, shea butter is completely edible and is, in fact, used for cooking in its native Africa. It’s also used for making particular types of chocolate, to replace cocoa butter. The chocolate industry mixes shea butter with some other oils to get to a compound similar in texture and chemical composition as cocoa butter. However, you should know that the taste is completely different, it case you were planning on switching to this kind of chocolate.
The word in itself, shea, comes from the term s’i, which in the Bambara language of Mali is used to describe the tree itself. However, you may also know this type of butter by another name – karite, of African descent as well.
Amazing Benefits of Shea Butter
#1. Natural Healing Qualities
Probably one of the best things shea butter is known for is its incredible healing properties. This performance is due to the fact that the substance has a very high level of fatty acids and plant sterols which include, among others, the following: the oleic, stearic, palmitic, and linolenic acids. They are all soluble in oil and, most importantly, they do not turn into soap when combined with alkali. Since it’s just as non-saponifiable as all the other oils and fats coming from nuts, shea butter can work wonders on the skin and, thusly, heal it.
You can use unrefined and raw shea butter to cure rashes at skin level, sunburn, to hydrate your peeling skin after a tanning session, cure scars, stretch marks, burns, athlete’s foot, frostbite, stings and insect bites, muscle fatigue, and even arthritis.
#2. Benefits of Shea Butter as an Antioxidant
Believe it or not, shea butter has antioxidant properties as well. It’s very rich in the type of antioxidants that come from plants, such as vitamins A and E. It also packs a healthy dose of catechins. The vitamins’ role is to protect the skin from harmful UV rays, free radicals, as well as from all the damages it suffers from the environment. Pollution, dirty rain water and cold take a toll on our skin without us even knowing it.
However, there is no need to fear, as shea butter is here to save us and our precious skin. It’s also chock full of cinnamic acid esters that are especially helpful for the skin that has been exposed to direct and intense sunlight for too long. Therefore, when you’re out shopping for you next body butter or sunscreen, make sure it has some shea butter in it, as it will only do you good.
#3. The Benefits of Shea Butter as an Anti-Inflammatory Substance
As mentioned above where we were detailing the shea butter’s excellent qualities for healing the skin, the fatty substance is very high in cinnamic acid, as well as some of its derivatives. Studies show that these chemicals have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be harnessed and used when need be.
Apart from that, studies have also shown that shea butter also has a substance called lupeol cinnamate. This relatively unknown compound has been found to prevent tumor growth. Thusly, the improvement of skin conditions and those related to them becomes evident.
#4. A Faithfull Partner for Your Skin
When it comes to skin conditions, beauty, and hygiene, shea butter is the one miraculous substance for which we’ve all been waiting. There aren’t enough words to describe just how beneficial it is, but we can take a look back down the history line to be able to have an inkling. Records show that Queen Nefertiti herself used the product and owed her beauty to it. Of course, we can’t be sure if that’s actually true or not, but it just goes to prove shea butter has been used since Ancient times nonetheless. Therefore, if our ancestors saw the benefits of shea butter, it’s time we revisit it as well.
As already mentioned, shea butter is a real haven, made up of vitamins E, A, and D, phytosterols, and allantoin. It can perform in the same way a sunscreen does. Still, you need to be careful, because its level of protection can vary. For example, if you have very fair skin, it might not protect you as well as a commercial solution does.
This idea is also the reason why shea butter is considered to be a good sunblock in the winter time when the UV rays are feebler and not so damaging. You can also use it after you sit in the sun, for its moisturizing effects, nutrients and high protection of the skin.
The health benefits of shea butter go beyond that. It’s also an amazing healing agent for chapped lips, dry scalp, curing the damaging effects of psoriasis, eczema, blemishes, skin discolorations, and dark spots. It can also act as a mild disinfectant and remedy the effects of insect bites and poison ivy.
The list of benefits of shea butter doesn’t stop here, though because it can also act as a skin rejuvenator. It stimulates the skin to produce higher quantities of collagen, a protein that is considered to be the building block of younger looking skin. The Vitamins A and E will leave your skin looking radiant, nourished, and supple, without feeling greasy, all in a natural and additive-free way. Since the butter can penetrate the skin’s cells so well, it will not clog the pores, nourishing it as it makes its way to the deeper levels.
#5. The Benefits of Shea Butter for Babies
It’s a good idea to use shea butter when treating your infant of mild discomforts, as, unlike shelf-products, it is devoid of chemicals and colorants. Since it’s so gentle and moisturizing, it becomes a wonderful way for you to treat your toddler’s skin afflictions. You can use it when he or she has diaper rash or mild eczema, without fear of any side effects. You can also rub it all over the toddler’s skin after bath time when all the pores are open.
#6. The Benefits of Shea Butter for Your Hair
Since it does so many wonderful things for your skin, why wouldn’t it be the solution you’ve always been waiting for as far as your hair is concerned? Here are some of the things shea butter can help you with when it comes to hair.
- It soothes you if your scalp is dry and irritated – if you happen to have dandruff or a dry and flaky scalp that itches all the time, shea butter will be effective as a natural treatment. It will get absorbed into the skin moisturizing it and, thusly, ridding you of the flakes, without leaving your hair oily in the process. It’s also amazing if you have dermatitis, eczemas or psoriasis at the scalp level.
- The benefits of shea butter go deeper than that which means that it can also fix your split ends, as well as any breakage from which you might be suffering.
- Use it as a natural conditioner, without any fears that your hair will be greasy. It will lock in moisture, but it won’t leave your hair feeling heavy.
- Seeing as it has emollient qualities, it can also be used as a treatment for curly hair, to keep those rebel curls in place and looking luscious.
- It’s also a good idea to use shea butter to counterbalance the damaging effects of chemical treatments, hair dye, hair straighteners, perms, curlers and everything in between. These treatments and electronics we use to style our hair, unfortunately, strip it of any natural moisture it has, leaving it looking frizzy and unhealthy. Shea butter will allow some of the moisture to be restored.
- Other benefits of shea butter when it comes to hair include protecting it against harsh weather, such as heavy rain, frost, free radicals, pollution, and prolonged exposure to the harmful rays of the sun.
What Is the Best Type of Shea Butter?
There are two types of shea butter available on the market, the refined and unrefined one.
Unrefined shea butter is the actual fatty substance extracted from the nut in its natural and raw state. This means that absolutely nothing has been added to it. Its texture is soft and creamy, it can be either yellowish or ivory in color, and it has a slightly nutty smell to it. However, don’t worry, because this fragrance will disappear once you apply it to your hair or skin.
The refined type of shea butter is one that has been processed or altered to remove its color, taste, and smell. Manufacturers get to the final product by extracting it with chemicals or solvents, the likes of hexane. The result is an oil, which will again be refined, bleached, and deodorized. After the process is complete, producers heat it up at very high temperatures, and this is what creates the shea butter you can buy in beauty or drug stores.
Out of the two types of shea butter, the first one is considered to be best, as it has not undergone any chemical treatments. Once it is bleached, reduced to oil and then heated back up to solidify it, it looses almost all of its curative properties. Therefore, the benefits of shea butter might be lost to you. It might be softer in texture, colorless and odorless, but if it has no curative properties, it will be no good. Many people are known to prefer the processed type because it lacks any scent, but it might be useless.
If you decide to go for the unrefined and all natural type, here’s a good trick. If it is entirely natural, then it might also have traces of the actual nut or its shell in it. Therefore, you can gently heat it up until it just melts. Do not let it bubble or sizzle. All you need to do is to bring it to an oily form. Strain it carefully through a cheesecloth or a kitchen strainer to get rid of any unwanted or hardened particles that might damage your skin when using it.
When you’re done, you can pour it back in its original container, after you’ve washed and dried it, of course, and let it set and harden. Otherwise, you can get creative with your storage options and pour it into silicone molds, silicone ice cube trays or even cupcake molds. In this way, it will be a lot easier to use. For example, you can utilize it as a lip balm a lot easier when you have a small piece that’s been hardened in the shape of an ice cube. Set in the in the refrigerator until you can see that it is whitish in color once more and that it is hard when you prod it with your finger.
Another thing you need to know is that all the beauty and hygiene products available on the market that contain shea butter such as moisturizers, shampoos, body butters, face creams, sunblocks, deodorants, conditioners, and everything in between fall under the same category of refined shea butter products. Therefore, their healing properties might lack power as well. That also happens because they typically have a very low percentage of actual shea butter in their composition.
Shea butter can be shelved for 18 to 24 months without any risk of it spoiling. However, after that amount of time, it will start to lose its properties and might even go rancid. You need to store your shea butter or shea butter products in a cool and dry place, away from excessive heat or direct sunlight.
Some of the best ways I have found to use Shea butter:
As a natural moisturizer for my face and body
lotion bar stick for easy use
replenish skin after a day in the sun
decreases my stretch marks
under-eye wrinkle remover
On sore nose during a cold
Added to any basic homemade lotion
On scars to naturally help collagen production
As a base for homemade deodorant
low-grade sun protection
Whipped into a magnesium body butter
natural baby-care salve to help avoid diaper rash
in homemade lip balms
On my eyelids before applying makeup to make it last longer
To improve skin elasticity and decrease cellulite
On the hair or scalp
I have used it on my rough feet.
As time goes on, more doctors realize how vital Shea butter is at helping to keep a healthy LDL level.
In one study, shea butter had shown to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) when it was given to young African men in their diet. The study showed that there was a reduction in LDL.
Another medicinal use of shea butter is as a nasal decongestant, and there is actually scientific research which backs this up. Showed that shea butter was more potent than common decongestants and was able to clear the congestion within 24 hours.
Some possible Side Effects Of Shea Butter
These side effects can result from ingestion or topical creams
If you have any of these symptoms listed above.
Stop using shea butter and consult your doctor. An allergy to shea butter is not common.
If you this is your first time using shea butter.
You should test Shea Butter on a small area of your body and wait at least 24 hours to make sure you are not allergic.
Clara was born and grew up in Great Britain, and although she’s now happier with the weather in North Carolina where she resides with her partner, she does miss the ubiquitous teacakes. She graduated from a master’s in literature and worked for about 5 years at local news magazines as a reporter.