Shea Butter Benefits: The Ultimate Top 20 List For Skin, Hair, And More

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I’m quite sure that you’re all aware of Cleopatra, the ancient Egyptian queen whose beauty has enchanted men (and women) throughout the ages. Now, it should come as no surprise that a beauty such as hers, one that inspires myth and legend and stands the test of time – doesn’t simply build up overnight. Beauty routines require special products, one of the most important being shea butter.

In fact, Cleopatra was known to have some of the most complex, lavish and decadent beauty rituals of her time. These included lengthy honey and milk baths, aloe vera moisturizers, honey and cream face-masks and shea butter! The queen would use shea butter in a variety of ways, as it’s a very versatile natural product  – as you’ll learn here in this feature!

What Is Shea Butter And Where Does It Come From?

Shea Butter Tree

African Shea Tree

Nowadays, most people would frown upon taking a milk and honey bath – too expensive and simply a waste of good milk. However, shea butter is readily available, quite affordable and very good for treating hair, skin, and eating! Essentially, it is a fat, extracted from the nut of shea trees in Africa (found most commonly in West Africa, including Mali, Senegal Nigeria, Gambia, and Burkina Faso). In Northern Ghana particularly, African shea butter is among the most highly valued local products.

The tree (as well as the butter) may also be referred to as vitellaria paradoxa, karite’ or ori, depending on the country you’re in or sourcing the butter from. The fruit of this tree contains a nut, hence the nutty flavor, and this is where the oil/butter is extracted from.

Shea butter can be classified based on its grade. The most popular type is Grade A, which is raw, unrefined and extracted using water. Varieties with Grade A holds onto most of its natural vitamins, mainly vitamins A and E, whereas other grades are deficient in these nutrients.

Shea butter is also high in catechins, which are strong antioxidants that until recently were thought to only exist in green tea.  It’s easy to see why this is such a highly sought after product! Just one spoonful of the stuff contains roughly as many vitamins and minerals as any off-the-shelf multi-vitamin.

What Is Unrefined Shea Butter & Organic Raw Shea Butter?

Organic Shea Butter in a bowl

Unrefined Shea Butter

The organic raw shea butter extraction process does not involve filtration in any way. Traditionally, the shea nuts are removed from the pulp of the fruit and then separated from the outer shell. The nuts are then ground into a smoother paste and water is slowly added and is mixed by hand.  As the water is continually added in, the butter oils float to the top.

The oils, which are in a curd-like state, are removed from the container and are slowly boiled. This process essentially removes any remaining water and leaves you with the butter in it’s yellow, white or greenish state. The butter is removed and set in a cool area to settle. Once it has hardened enough, the butter is hand-shaped into balls – ready for transport or packaging.

Unrefined shea butter has undergone filtration in some way and is ivory in color. It is essentially a triglyceride (or fat) that is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin F, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and cinnamic acid. As a complex fat extract, it has fatty acids, such as palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, and essential fatty acids, such as linoleic acid and linolenic acid.

Since shea butter melts at room temperature, it is used in skincare as it absorbs quickly, with good water-binding characteristics.

Is Shea Butter Comedogenic?

girl laughing in nature

Shea Butter Promotes Clear Skin

Amazingly, shea butter has a comedogenic rating of 0. This means that it absolutely does not clog up your pores – the process that generally leads to the formation of blackheads! Moreover, it is totally suitable for skin-care use on any type of skin and makes for an amazing moisturizer.

However, it’s important to note that when using butter from the shea tree as a skincare product, you must try to source as organic, unrefined and high-quality product as you can (preferably also cold-pressed), because certain types of the butter (generally that which comes from Uganda and Cameroon) may contain a high amount of oleic acid which could lead to a thickening of the sebum in your pores and lead to acne.

Generally, we would recommend that you use varieties that have been sourced in Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria or Burkina Faso because it has a higher stearic acid content than oleic, which means that the butter is more suitable for direct skin use.

Take note that there are side effects that can come from topical use or swallowing shea butter, including itchy rashes, hives, nausea, dizziness, headaches and stomach pains. If you experience these symptoms, be sure to stop using it right away and seek medical attention.

Top 20 Shea Butter Benefits:

Shea Butter For Hair:

Woman Applying Hair Mask

Shea Butter Improves Hair.

1.Reduces Dandruff

Whether it’s the middle fo the winter or a dry-heat summer day, try rubbing in some pure shea butter when your scalp feels dry and itchy. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and fat elements that soak into the skin, without leaving a greasy feel or clogging your pores. As shea butter soothes and softens, it can be used to heal dry scalps, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.

2. Fixes Damaged Hair

After using curling irons, straighteners or other chemical treatments on your hair, you’re likely trying to find some treatment to fix the damage. Que in shea butter, which helps restore moisture to your hair. It also plays a role in protecting hair from extreme weather conditions and dangerous free radicals found in the environment. Once it is absorbed, it coats the hair shaft, which serves as a protection against heating tools or other damaging material that encounters the hair.

3. Protects Hair From Further Damage

Damaged hair.

Shea butter protects hair from further damage.

Although it has a low SPF (around 6-10), it is enough to shield hair from sun damage that comes from UV radiation.  Shea butter also serves as a protection against salt and chlorine when applied before swimming. Acting as a ‘sunscreen for your hair,’ with a chemical protection bonus, you can enjoy a hot summer day by the pool, worry-free! Rich in Vitamins A and E, this solution has moisturizing and soothing properties that help rejuvenate the hair and fix split ends. In addition, shea butter adds strength to the hair strands and lowers the occurrence of hair breakage.

4. Acts as a Natural Conditioner

Among the many benefits of shea butter, it can play the role of a natural conditioner for your hair. As it contains vitamins A and E, it serves as an effective moisturizer for your hair from the roots through the tips. Shea butter locks in moisture, without leaving a greasy or hard feeling, making it an ideal conditioner (with a pleasant fragrance as a bonus!).

Shea Butter For Skin:

Woman laughing with moisturizing lotion lines on face.

Improve Your Skin With Shea Butter.

5. Reduces Stretch Marks

Shea butter is tremendously effective in getting rid of stretch marks and wrinkles. This is because it acts as a moisturizer, and has skin tightening properties. The vitamins and high iron content are effective in promoting skin elasticity, which is very helpful if you’re pregnant. It’s important to remember that shea butter is best used on exfoliated skin, so be sure to take a bath or warm shower before applying the butter for the best results. Be sure to apply a thin layer of the butter, as this will allow for quicker absorption. Note that you can apply the butter up to 4 times a day, although we generally recommend that you apply it once or twice a day.

6. Treats Eczema

Skin can become dry, flaky and scaly with conditions such as eczema, which is where shea butter can serve as a remedy. As it is naturally loaded with Vitamin A and Vitamin F, they allow the butter to work effectively on treating eczema.  It serves as a great moisturizer due to its ability to soothe the skin and retain moisture. Because of shea butter’s natural form, it is a great solution for eczema, as it contains no added ingredients that could stimulate or worsen your skin condition.

7. Moisturizes Dry Skin

lotion dripping on hand

Shea Butter As A Softening Lotion.

Shea butter is also regarded as a very strong emollient, which means that it has the ability to moisturize your skin by increasing the water content and decreasing evaporation. This (plus the natural anti-inflammatory properties) makes it ideal for treating scars, blemishes, sores, dry or itchy skin, insect bites, contact-dermatitis (eczema) and more.

8. Improves Beards

Shea butter is incredibly good for your beard, and many consider products made with it to be the best beard products. It contains Vitamin A and Vitamin F which are essential to keeping your hair (facial and otherwise) conditioned and moisturized, without the addition of harmful chemicals that could dry out your beard. It also stimulates hair growth, which means you’ll be able to keep a lengthy and healthy-looking beard at all times. Lastly, the natural antioxidant content will keep your beard clean and smelling great all the time. Win, win, win.

9. Provides Sun Protection

sun hats help protect skin from harsh rays

Shea Butter Provides Sun Protection.

Before hitting the hot beach, consider applying some shea butter, with its sun-protection properties. With Vitamins A and E, this moisturizer protects the skin from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet radiation, as it has a mild SPF (ranging from 6-10). As the sun’s rays can elevate the presence of free radicals in our skin, which can damage our cells, this moisturizer has components that fight against these harmful free radicals. For hair, it can be used to repair hair that has already been damaged by the sun, as it protects the hair shaft. 

10. Diaper Rash

Keep your baby’s skin feeling soft and moisturized, without slathering on a chemical-filled lotion. Shea butter is an effective, natural moisturizer that is gentle on the skin and suited for sensitive skin types. Not only can it be useful for a diaper rash, but it can also be applied post-bath to treat dry skin conditions as well.

11. Smooth Lips

Brunette woman with pouty lips.

Shea Butter Moisturizes Lips.

Lipgloss or lipstick may already be part of your makeup routine, but what about shea butter? With its absorbable and moisturizing effects, shea butter serves as the ideal lip balm that’s needed in the cold, dry winter months. Shea butter creates a protective layer on the lips and helps lock the moisture in the skin. 

12. Anti-Aging Properties

When you’re feeling nostalgic, try some shea butter to revamp your youthful days. As one of the top anti-aging fighters, shea butter triggers collagen production, the protein in skin responsible for keeping your skin strong with fewer wrinkles. With Vitamin A and Vitamin E, this lotion allows the skin to maintain a glowing, smooth look. When used consistently, it inhibits premature wrinkles and lines on the face to form.  As this moisturizer elevates circulation to the skin and increases cell regrowth, it contributes to its anti-aging qualities.

13. Lowers Inflammation

Shea butter is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which is easily absorbed into our skin and protects against free-radicals due to its high Vitamin A and E content. Free radicals are harmful substances that are highly reactive and can lead to chain-reactions that damage proteins, DNA and cell membranes.

The natural antioxidants help to combat infection and soothe the inflamed area by stimulating cells and keeping your skin moisturized. Shea butter also treats inflammation from sunburns,  bruises, and cuts.  In terms of being a natural anti-inflammatory, it has roughly 7%-12% unsaponifiables (these are components of an oily mixture that contain the elements of moisturization, vitamins, conditioning and texture quality of oil), while avocado oil has roughly 6%.

14. Involved In Wound Healing

wound treatment

Shea Butter As A Wound Treatment.

Whether you have a wound, cut, or scrape, look no further than shea butter. With its moisturizing qualities and plethora of phytonutrients, shea butter is effectively used for wound healing. As it gets absorbed deep into skin layers, it provides all the necessary fats and nutrients, while contributing to cell repair.

15. Bug Bites

When you leave the window open and those unwanted bugs fly in, there is no need to fear! Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory capabilities make a natural solution for reducing the swelling from insect bites. Not only will it lower the swelling, but shea butter is seen to remove the relentless itching sensation within seconds. This natural itch-reliever will not only remove the incessant itchy feeling, but it will also leave you with moisturized, healthy skin.

16. Reduces Premature Wrinkles

Woman checking facial skin in mirror.

Shea Butter Reduces Premature Wrinkles.

We all want to stay young- or at least stay looking young- which is where shea butter comes in. This cream generates collagen production, which helps maintain strong, hydrated skin. This process generates a youthful look. This cream is loaded with Vitamins A and E, which maintain a supple, moisturized, glowing appearance on your skin. When used on a regular basis, it can lower the occurrence of wrinkles and inhibit premature wrinkles and lines on your face. These functions may also result from shea butter’s capability of promoting circulation to the skin and regrowing skin cells.

Shea Butter Health Benefits, Continued:

17. Treats Nasal Congestion 

When the winter months storm in and you’re feeling congested in your nose, the use of shea butter can clear it up! Since nasal congestion typically results from the inflamed lining of the inner nasal passages, its anti-inflammatory properties can lower this inflammation and open up your nostrils. Research suggests that shea butter can be even more effective in resolving nasal congestion than regular nasal drops! Simply apply shea butter in your nostrils with your finger, and take a deep breath to relieve congestion.

18. Reduces Arthritis 

hands soft skin

Shea Butter May Reduce Arthritis Symptoms.

Arthritis, a joint pain disease, can include symptoms such as swelling, stiffness and reduced range of motion in the joints. Shea butter can be used to reduce these symptoms, as it is made of triterpenes, which are compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Arthritis patients claim that using it alleviates swelling and pain. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, adding some shea butter will at least moisturize and hydrate your skin!

19. Anti-diarrheal properties 

Whether a symptom of numerous diseases or occurring on its own, many people experience diarrhea. Among the many medicinal and herbal treatments, shea butter is gaining popularity with its healing properties. Today, shea butter is in dietary products that people use to treat diarrhea. 

20. Replace coconut oil, butter, or olive oil in cooking 

shea butter is a healthy fat from west africa

Shea Butter From the African Shea Tree.

When you’re making a stir fry, smoothie or pancakes, looking for a healthy cooking ingredient? Try replacing coconut oil, butter, and olive oil for shea butter! It can be a healthy addition since it has healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties! Be sure to choose the unrefined version or raw shea butter.  

Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter

Cocoa Butter Chunks

Cocoa Butter

The first point to note regarding the differences between shea butter and cocoa butter is their place of origin.  Butter of the shea tree comes from Africa, and cocoa originates from South America. The differences are subtle, so choosing between the two kinds of butter depends on why you are using either one.

Cocoa butter smells pleasant and distinct, whereas the latter carries a much less defined scent. However, when shea butter is mixed with other essential oils it creates a range of interesting smells.

Due to the high vitamin and mineral content of the butter, it better safeguards your immune system. Shea butter also has high cinnamic acid content, a key factor in absorbing the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Ultimately, both kinds of butter are very good for your skin, hair and for treating sores or stretch marks. We believe that shea butter is more versatile and potent, as it offers your immune system and skin long-term protection.

How Long Does Shea Butter Last?

On average, shea butter may last up to 2 years before disintegrating or dissolving. Be sure to seal it correctly, in an airtight jar or container. It is important to keep it at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. For example, a cool pantry or cupboard, preferably around 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), would be great.

However, if your butter does start to melt, you can keep it in a refrigerator for roughly a day. Be sure not to store it in there for too long, and definitely not in the freezer. It is also important to not mix old butter with new butter as this could speed up the dissolving process.

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Conclusion

A general rule of thumb when looking for natural products, look for moisturizers with less than 10 ingredients listed. Anyone can slip the word ‘natural’ on a label, but nothing is more natural than something in its raw form. Want to grow that beard a bit faster? Looking for a healthy, natural moisturizer or conditioner?

Would you like to condition your hair with the same product that you use to cook supper with? Our solution (and Cleopatra’s) is definitely all-natural shea butter. Natures one-stop, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory moisturizer, sun-block, and conditioner!