If you’ve ever paced through rows of beauty products at the store, you’ve probably come across the ingredient shea butter. It’s one of the top ingredients of some of the most effective skincare products. But what exactly is it?
This article shares the basics of shea butter, including its different types and the wonderful health benefits it can offer.
Shea Butter 101
Shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea tree. Locally known as the Karite tree, shea tree is native to West Africa, and most shea butter products still come from that region. Shea butter is ivory or off-white and has an easy-to-spread consistency, although it stays solid in warm temperatures.
To extract shea butter, the nuts are crushed to remove the outer shell and then slowly roasted to extract the butter. The butter is kneaded by hand in a big water basin to separate the oils. These oils are used for most skincare and beauty products. The oils are removed and cooled until it hardens.
Generally, shea butter can be found in two forms:
- Unrefined (Raw)
Unrefined shea butter is shea butter in its raw, natural form. It’s not refined or processed in any way and maintains its natural thick, yellow-cream color with a strong nutty and smoky smell. Unrefined shea butter still has all its excellent nutrients and properties, providing more powerful and effective benefits. Some people prefer unrefined shea butter for moisturisers since it’s easy to scoop and apply to the skin.
- Refined (Processed)
Refined shea butter refers to shea butter treated with high heat and sometimes chemicals to remove the color and smell of raw shea butter. It also helps improve the butter’s texture, so it’s easier to spread and has a smoother texture. The extreme heat or chemicals used during the refining process may cause the shea butter to lose many of its moisturizing properties and nutrients.
Benefits Of Shea Butter
The following are the benefits of shea butter:
- Improves Skin Health
Shea butter’s most popular use and benefit are in improving skin health. Specifically, shea butter is well-known for its moisturizing effects, thanks to its high fatty acid content. When applied topically, these essential fatty acid oils are rapidly absorbed into the skin, restoring lipids and creating moisture. As such, it helps in reducing skin dryness, irritation, and inflammation.
Furthermore, shea butter is also known for its antibacterial properties that can help reduce antimicrobial and anti-fungal activity. This can help prevent acne-causing bacteria on your skin and treat fungal skin infections.
Shea butter also helps promote skin cell regeneration, which helps brighten up and soften your skin complexion. It also helps boost collagen production to minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, resulting in plumper and younger-looking skin.
- Conditions Your Hair
Aside from improving skin health, shea butter can promote healthier hair. Shea butter can provide the necessary nourishment and moisture to your hair. It hydrates each strand and locks in moisture to prevent frizz and ensure smoother and softer hair. Also, shea butter gets absorbed deep into your hair instead of sitting on top, providing better protection against heat-styling tools. This further prevents dry and frizzy hair.
If you’re dealing with scalp irritation, experts also say that the anti-inflammatory properties of shea butter can help reduce itchiness on the scalp due to dandruff. With its antioxidant properties, shea butter can protect your scalp and hair from the sun and fight dandruff and inflammation on the scalp.
- May Reduce Muscle And Joint Pain
Muscular and joint pain often results from inflammation due to a chronic disease or overuse. When applied topically, shea butter may be able to relieve muscle and joint pains and soreness. Since it has anti-inflammatory properties, shea butter is traditionally used in Africa as an ointment to ease swelling and pain.
- May Lower Cholesterol
Generally, shea butter is a well-known ingredient in skincare and hair products. However, it’s also edible and has been used for meal preparation in Africa for generations. When consumed, shea butter may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Shea butter contains monounsaturated fat, which lowers your bad cholesterol. Thus, it may help reduce your risk of heart problems while aiding in the development of cells in the body. It’s important to note that shea butter has as much saturated fat as monounsaturated fat. This may contribute to higher amounts of bad cholesterol, so consume shea butter in moderation.
Shea butter has a lot to offer, from ensuring moisturized, healthy skin to its potential to relieve pain and inflammation. Although it has a variety of applications, skincare is by far its most popular use. After all, its powerful moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties can help you fight against common skin woes. That said, you should always choose high-quality shea butter products to obtain the most benefits.