Shea Butter: Uses, Benefits, Buying tips

If you are looking to find a great natural beauty product for your skin or hair, then shea butter is a wonderful choice. Read on!

The shea butter has been made globally famous due to its many uses that are discovered every day. It is known for its uses in skin treatment, hair treatment, and cooking benefits.

It is widely used in the beauty industry because of its benefits on the skin and hair. It is now used commonly in the making of creams, soaps, foundations among other cosmetic products.

So What Exactly Is It:

Shea butter is an oil that is derived from the seeds (nuts) of the shea fruits/tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). These shea fruits are found on the shea tree that grows mainly in the rich soils of Africa.

The shea butter is an oil rich in fats and is solid at room temperature which is the reason it is mainly referred to as shea butter. It contains fatty acids such as oleic acid, stearic acid and linoleic acid.

To derive this fat rich butter, the nuts in the fruits from the shea tree are crushed, boiled and then manipulated to give the butter.

This unrefined and natural form is usually light coloured. It has been discovered to possess skin moisturizing and healing properties as well as being a good anti-inflammatory and, to some extent, a good anti-microbial oil.

Also, with its similarities with the vegetable oil, it is suitable for ingestion.

When deriving this butter, kneading the extract was normally done. But due to an advancement in technology, different methods have been adapted such as clay filtrate and using hexane for the final extraction of shea butter. It is mostly seen in the northern Nigeria.

What Makes It Good…

The shea butter is very rich in fat and this makes it an excellent moisturizer and emollient.

As a result of its anti-inflammatory properties, it reduces inflammatory skin diseases such as occasional rashes accompanied with itching and redness and also chronic conditions like eczema. Its anti-inflammatory properties also reduce the damage of hair and skin due to free radicals.

It contains vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E which, along with providing the skin with nourishment, protect the skin from being damaged by the sun’s harmful ultra violet rays.

This makes the shea butter have a mild sun protection factor (SPF) of about 6.

The vitamin E contained in the shea butter also soothes dry skin and improves skin elasticity by the production of collagen and it therefore a good anti-aging agent.

Types of Shea Butter

These are the refined and unrefined shea butter.

The unrefined shea butter is the raw form of the butter immediately after its extraction from the nut and is usually a bright yellow or bright green colour. It has been subjected to no other procedures besides filtration and it still maintains most of its nutritional value.

The refined shea butter has, after extraction, been subjected to other procedures and methods such as deodorizing process, bleaching process which changes its colour to a whiter like colour.

And it has also been added additives for scent and to increase its shelf life.

The refined butter, due to all the processes it undergoes, loses some of its nutrients and its nutritional value is lower than the unrefined butter.

Shea Butter Buying Tips

Keep these pointers in mind when buying shea butter:

  • Look for the raw or unrefined version of shea butter.
  • Ensure that the butter has come from a reliable source or company that believes in ethics, fair trade, and is environment-friendly.
  • Check the shea butter’s smell. It should be a little nutty or earthy. Any plastic-like or chemical scent indicates that it is not an unrefined version.
  • If possible, try on a small amount of shea butter on your arm. It should be soothing and moisturizing.
  • As far as the color is concerned, it ranges quite a bit when it comes to the unrefined version. Make sure the butter you are planning to purchase is not ivory-colored as a lighter color indicates that it has gone through the refinement process of bleaching.

How To Store Shea Butter

The best way to store 100% shea butter is to store it in a cool environment in an airtight container.

Keep it away from the sun.

Quite often, vitamin E is added to shea butter to increase its shelf life. On an average, 100% shea butter has a shelf life of two years.

If you sense an acidic/rancid smell, it might be time to throw it away.

Uses of Shea Butter on the Skin

Due to its contents, shea butter has a wide range of beautifying effects and benefits on the skin.

Some of the uses of shea butter on the skin are as follows:

As a moisturizer: the fat content in the shea butter are responsible for its emollient and humectant properties.

It locks in moisture in the skin which keeps the skin fully hydrated. A dehydrated skin becomes dry and scaly and may peel, which is a common occurrence in cold weathers.

Using shea butter on the skin in cold weathers and especially in places that my easily peel is advised. Shea butter may as well be used under normal conditions to keep the skin soft, supple and smooth.

Treatment of Acne and blemishes: the presence of many fatty acids and plant sterols attributes to the healing properties of shea butter.

It cures skin rash, stretch marks, burns, frost bites, acne, insect bites, athletes foot, blemishes, peeling skin among some other skin injuries.

For shaving: it is common to have an itchy skin from razor irritations and skin bumps after shaving. Shea butter can help reduce the itching and heal the skin.

Also, applying shea butter to the hair a day before shaving softens the hair, making it easier to shave, and reduces the chances of irritations, itching and razor bumps.

Reduce stretch marks: stretch marks are caused by loss of the skin elasticity due to a sudden increase in weight or weight loss such as in pregnancy.

The skin is stretched beyond its elastic limit and this causes the skin to tear and leave scars known as stretch marks. Applying shea butter on the affected area will restore the elasticity of the skin as well as heal the scars due to its healing attributes and this makes shea butter a good remedy for stretch marks.

Relief to itchy and peeling skin: itchy skin or peeling skin that may result from dehydration of the skin can be remedied with shea butter. This helps to lock in moisture and in the process rehydrates the skin with moisturizes the skin and prevents itching and peeling. This is due to its fat contents.

Anti-aging formula: the presence of vitamin E along with catechins stimulates the production of collagen, a natural body protein that improves the elasticity of the skin.

This reduces wrinkles, prevents immature wrinkles, and it also has the ability to increase circulation to the skin which promotes the skin cell renewal, keeping the skin young and healthy.

Excellent lip care: its moisturizing effect locks moisture on the skin of the lips and keep the necessary nutrients needed to keep the lips soft and supple.

It prevents cracks on the lips due to dehydration.

Its mild sun protection factor (SPF) also protect the lips form damaging ultra-violet rays of the sun which may help prevent the darkening of the lips and keeps the lips looking healthy.

An Alternative To Coconut Oil, Butter, Or Olive Oil In Cooking: Healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds – all of these make shea butter a viable and better option than regular butter or even coconut oil and olive oil.

It might take a day or two to get used to its taste, but its benefits are plenty and worth the adjustment. Use it for stir-frying or simply add a small dollop to your morning smoothie to reap its benefits.

You could even substitute it for butter or lard for your toasts, sandwiches, and pancakes. As always, opt for the unrefined version, even for cooking/eating purposes.

Dermatitis, Psoriasis, And Eczema: Conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema cause the skin to become dry, flaky, patchy, scaly, and/or itchy.

And to treat them, we need an ingredient that works as a deep moisturizer and alleviates the inflammation. Shea butter suits this profile perfectly.

It is considered as an excellent moisturizer for eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis because of its efficacious emollient and humectant properties.

The anti-inflammatory properties of this thick butter can be employed for lessening the swelling and itching. Doctors often recommend shea butter to people suffering from these skin ailments as it is safe and well tolerated.

Wound Healing: Shea butter has skin moisturizing properties, and these are accompanied by healing properties because of the wide variety of phytonutrients it contains.

Wounds, cuts, and abrasions are healed quickly with regular application of shea butter. It gets easily absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin, where it supplies all the essential fats and nutrients while enhancing the cell repair function by increasing microcirculation.

Lowers Cholesterol Shea butter is edible and is used by many people in Africa for food preparation. An unknown advantage of adding shea butter to your diet is its ability to lower cholesterol in the blood.

This butter is rich in stearic acid, a type of saturated fatty acid that was shown to reduce lipoprotein and plasma cholesterol levels in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Arthritis: A chronic joint disorder that is often associated with increasing age, obesity, and trauma, arthritis can be very painful for people who suffer from it.

The pain is almost constant and disrupts basic movement and the quality of life in an arthritis patient. The unsaponifiable material of shea butter is primarily composed of triterpenes.

These compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its usage by arthritis patients has shown excellent results in alleviating the swelling and pain. The exact mechanism of action is still unknown. However, the triterpenes are considered the main contributing factor for these results.

Prevents Hair Loss: The fatty acids of shea butter condition the scalp and hair. It also provides many essential nutrients that improve both scalp and hair health.

These, in turn, will make your hair follicles stronger and reduce hair fall and hair loss. Another important property of shea butter that can prevent hair loss is its anti-inflammatory properties.

Scalp conditions can be treated by these compounds, thus reducing hair loss. Your hair will grow thicker and have a natural shine when you use shea butter.

Repairs Damaged Hair: A number of chemical treatments like straighteners, perms, and curlers are responsible for stripping off the natural moisture from the hair.

Shea butter can help restore this lost moisture. It also protects the hair from harsh weather conditions and the harmful free radicals in the air and water.

Moreover, shea butter has a low SPF that is sufficient to protect the hair from sun damage caused due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It repairs the damage that has already been caused by the harsh weather and the sun.

This is largely due to the fact that once absorbed, shea butter coats the hair shaft so that it is protected from a heat tool or any other damaging material being passed along the hair.

This is particularly beneficial for processed or colored hair. It also protects the hair against salt and chlorine when applied before swimming.

Here is a simple way to include shea butter in your hair care regimen:

  • Take a tablespoon of raw or unrefined shea butter and melt it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.
  • Once the butter cools down slightly, add a few drops of lavender essential oil. This step is not compulsory.
  • Make small sections of your hair and apply the liquefied butter to the scalp and entire hair length.
  • Leave it on for half an hour and then rinse your hair with a mild shampoo.

Shea butter could be mixed with other natural oils such as coconut oil, olive oil or almond oil to get even better results.

So who should use shea butter?

Everyone! Every household should have a jar of shea butter, either in their beauty tool kit for a smooth and better looking skin, or in the medicine’s cabinet for a minor injuries around the house. Shea Butter is the skin’s best friend!

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