If you have ever used any moisturizer or creamy cosmetics, the chances are high that you have already come in contact with shea butter. Shea butter is the oily extract from the shea nuts of the shea trees, which grow in nearly 20 countries in the African continent.
It is the natural vegetable fat with the highest healing properties of all edible vegetables or cooking oil. Here lies the main advantage of using shea butter extract versus other products.
This is ivory in color when raw and yellowish when some additives are there. Shea butter is edible too!
1. Habitat Of Shea Tree
Native only to the dry savannah belt of Sudan, shea trees do not tend to grow well in domestic plantations- instead, they grow best in rain forests and jungle, often reaching thirty to forty-five feet height. They are native to 19 countries of the African continent.
The shea tree thrives and grows wild in a long hot, dry climate and intense rainy season. Nearly all butter is extracted from the naturally growing shea trees in this forest.
Shea tree begins to blossom during the early parts of dry seasons in December and January. When the rainy season starts, the blossoms transform into fruits and mature in April and May.
The fruits are husk, and there is a seed inside each fruit used to make this butter. Most fruits ripen and fall, and insects eat the fleshy parts. Shea fruit is very delicate, does not travel well, and spoils quickly.
2. How is shea butter extracted?
The handmade shea butter is made and extracted in a wonderful process. The women and families pick up the fallen shea butter from the certified organic areas and take it to their communities.
The fruits are boiled to remove flesh and sterilize the seeds. Once the parboiling is completed, the husks are spread in dry, clean places for the drying process.
Once the drying process is done, the husks are easily crushed, and shea seeds are extracted and bagged. The majority of them are sent to factories, extracted by a mechanical process.
The rest that is entirely handmade are crushed, and paste is made. This process is repeated to make it pure organic shea butter.
3. Types of Shea butter
3.1 Unrefined Shea Butter
This is pure shea butter. It is extracted manually and sold in the form of bars and sticks. This raw butter is extracted manually and retains the vitamins, minerals, and other natural properties.
They are generally yellowish but may differ in scent and color.
Quality-wise unrefined butter is graded from A to F, with A being the best.
3.2 Refined Shea Butter
This is the processed dorm, and they are scented, white in color, and smooth. They undergo filtration and, in most cases, lose some nutritional value.
The refined shea butter may undergo more processing and be used in moisturizers and lotions.
According to CBI, there are 2 types of shea butter,
3.3 East African
Therefore, it has a lower melting point and more liquid at room temperature. It is good for dry skin, peeling skin, wounds, sensitive skin.
3.4 West African
It has a high concentration of vitamin A and sterol. This type of shea butter is dense at room temperature and is suitable for stretch marks, scars, and wrinkles.
4. What are its Benefits
Shea butter soothes skin, heals them, and is also beneficial for hair health. The high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids easy-to-use consistency had made it a great product.
The list is vast, and the benefits of shea butter are enormous.
4.1 Directly on Body parts/skin
You can apply it directly to your skin to heal and moisturize them.
4.1 On Face
It works as a moisturizer for dry skin. It contains fatty acids such as linoleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic and oleic acids. After applying shea butter on dry face, the ingredients restore lipids and moisturize the skin.
The fatty acids present in shea butter help prevent excess oiling of skin, i.e., control excess sebum production. On the other hand, they also prevent the skin from drying. Thus they keep a balance of your skin from being oily and dry.
The majority of us might have the experience of having dry, sore, and chapped lips, especially in the winter. Sometimes they get worse and cause bleeding.
Apply the butter on your lip or use them containing lip balm tins. It will moisturize your lips and will keep them healthy.
The moisturizing effect of shea butter can heal your cracked ankles.
Benefits on hair
Some users claim that it helps in promoting hair growth. Apart from that, it helps in:
- Reducing hair breakage, split ends,
- Softening the hair,
- Locking the moisture.
It also helps in protecting the hair and scalp against UV Rays.
Shea butter gets us to relieve from itchy scalp too.
5. Other Notable benefits
#1 Safe for all skin types
Shea butter is safe for all skin types, whether dry, oily, or sensitive. It contains a meager amount of protein that can cause irritated skin allergies. It also does not contain any irritant that can dry your skin.
Some people may have topical shea butter allergies, but no proof or anecdotal reports exist.
#2 Anti-inflammatory properties
They possess anti-inflammatory properties.
The shea butter reduces the work function of cytokines and other inflammatory cells when applied to the skin. It helps reduce the skin inflammation caused by environmental factors and health conditions, such as eczema.
#3 Antioxidant properties
The presence of significant vitamin A and vitamin E levels indicates the strong antioxidant property of shea butter.
Antioxidants are essential anti-aging agents. Thus they have anti-aging properties too.
#4 Antibacterial properties
A 2012 study suggests that oral doses of shea bark extract can decrease antimicrobial activity in animals.
More research is needed, but we can decipher that it might indicate possible antibacterial benefits in humans.
#5 Antifungal properties
Besides being antibacterial, shea butter and shea oil are antifungals too.
They might not be able to prevent all the fungal infections, but they kill the spores of ringworm.
#6 Boosts collagen production
#7 Anti-aging properties
Shea butter works as an anti-aging product. Some specific properties carry out this function:
- Boost collagen production
They also help in wrinkle prevention.
#8 Heals Eczema
Some anecdotal studies suggest that shea butter can help eczema due to its bio-active ingredients and healing properties.
#9 Soften Scars
Shea butter can soften scar tissues as it has antioxidant and healing properties.
A keloid is a raised and enlarged area of scarring. Shea butter helps in healthy cell growth by stopping keloid fibroblasts.
#10 Lowers Muscular pain
Muscular pain may be caused due to inflammation at the affected site due to exertion. Applying shea butter to relieve muscle soreness is one of the traditional African remedies.
Although there are no such reports to justify it scientifically, people claimed it to help reduce muscular aches.
#11 Reduces Arthritic pain
Arthritis is technically the joint pain associated mainly with increasing age. People suffering from obesity or trauma may face this painful disease.
One component of shea butter is triterpene ester. This contains antioxidants and inflammatory properties that reduce pain and swelling. The mechanism is still unknown. If you are keen to know more about this, refer to this article.
#12 Reduces Nasal Inflammation and Nasal Congestion
Preliminary studies on nasal decongestant activity from the seed of the shea butter tree suggest that the participants experienced nasal congestion clearance in just 90 seconds after applying shea butter.
Nasal congestion often causes inflammation of the squamous epithelium, and the vise-versa may happen too. As the butter has good anti-inflammatory properties, in this case, the patients can apply shea butter in the nostrils. They might get relief.
#13 Lowers Cholesterol
Shea fruit is edible. Most of the African people eat the fleshy part of it. Shea butter is enriched in stearic acid. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this is a type of saturated fatty acid that reduces lipoprotein and plasma cholesterol levels.
#14 Promotes Cell Regeneration
The shea butter and shea oil can penetrate your skin and go to the deeper layer of the dermis. There they provide essential fatty acids and nutrition needed for growing cells.
The new cells are at the bottom, and on the top are the dead cells. The moisturizing effect of the shea butter extract also helps keep the balance between them.
#15 Heals Wound
The wide variety of phytonutrients gives the shea butter magnificent healing properties. They quickly get absorbed in the deeper layer of skin, supplying nutrition to the repairing and growing cells.
Wounds, cuts, and abrasions are healed quickly with regular application of shea butter.
#16 Additive to Sunscreen
Shea butter can not be used as sunscreen directly, but it can give you extra sun protection when added to sunscreen.
It can absorb UV-B as it contains cinnamic acids and tocopherols. It can provide an estimated SPF of 3 to 4.
#17 Heals Insect Bites
Have you ever noticed that the part swells up where a mosquito bites? Not only mosquito, but it also happens with most insect bites. One of the significant reasons is allergic reaction and inflammation.
Due to the high content of vitamin A and being an anti-inflammatory product, shea butter helps in reducing infection caused due to insect bites.
#18 Helps in Dermatitis and Psoriasis
Conditions like dermatitis psoriasis, cause the skin to become dry, flaky, patchy, scaly, and itchy. And to treat them, we need an ingredient that works as a deep moisturizer and alleviates the inflammation. Shea butter perfectly fits into the profile.
6. How to use; The science behind It
Shea butter contains triterpene esters, phenolics, 85-90% fatty acids, like- oleic acid, stearic acid, vitamin A and E. These ingredients make shea butter a super-food for the skin. Refer to this article to gain more knowledge in this field.
It will help if you put shea butter in your daily skincare routine for healthy skin. Here are some tips for using it properly and effectively.
6.1 On skin
You can use this butter on your skin in different ways:
- Through a DIY mask.
- Raw shea butter.
- Have a moisturizer that contains shea butter.
- Shea butter containing beauty bar and body washes.
For applying raw unrefined shea butter, wash your face gently with water. After washing your face gently clean using cotton or cloth. Don’t rub it – only apply it to your face and body. If you wear makeup, remove them before applying it.
6.2 On hair
There are different ways to protect your hair by applying this wonder product. Some of them are mentioned here.
Divide your hair into sections.>1 Melt a small amount of butter using a double boiler. After the liquid is cooled down, apply it using your fingertips and massage it into your scalp gently in a circular motion. You may use it as spray also. For dry hair, apply thoroughly from roots to ends and comb through.
>2 It can protect the hair against heat damage. Use it raw or add other natural oils like almond oil and avocado oil. Then apply in small amounts before using heat on the hair.
>3 Mix it with the leave-in-conditioner to get the extra softness of the hair.
>4 If you add it to your hair creams, shampoo, or conditioner, it will help seal the moisture to the hair.
>5 To prevent hair loss and growth, mix the butter with any carrier oil like olive or coconut oil. Apply to the hair and massage into the scalp.
You can use it as a component of a hair mask also. Watch this to know how to make a DIY hair mask using this butter.
There are no side effects as such. Some people may have allergies, but that’s not proven yet.
According to American Shea Butter Institute, the unrefined butter contains latex. As a result, people with latex allergies may find it an irritant. The American Academy of Dermatology Association says that it should not be used as acne preventing product as it may clog pores.
You should consider talking to a doctor if you experience any unusual reactions when using shea butter.
How to store it?
You can store it in the refrigerator. Please do not keep it in high-temperature areas. To know more, go through this article.
How long can it be stored?
The average shelf life is one to two years. Remember to check the date of manufacturing for the product that you’re using and its specific expiry date.