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.
What It Is?
Shea butter is an oil that is derived from the seeds of the shea fruits. 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.
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 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 as it 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.
- Cure for eczema and other skin inflammatory diseases: due to the presence of anti-inflammatory properties, it helps treat eczema, rashes, some forms of dermatitis and rosacea.
- 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.
Shea butter could be mixed with other natural oils such as coconut oil, olive oil or almond oil to get even better results.