What Is Shea Butter?

Shea butter is a plant fat derived from the nuts of the shea tree, which grows in Africa. Before grinding into a paste, the shea nuts are gently boiled and sun-dried. Finally, the fat is drained from the paste and churned into butter. When untreated, it is usually yellow; however, more refined varieties may be ivory or white in colour.

Shea butter is a naturally occurring plant ingredient that contains a variety of oils and fats. It contains 40 to 60 % oleic acid, 20 to 50 % stearic acid, 3 to 11 % linoleic acid, 2 to 9 % palmitic acid, and less than 1 % arachidic acid. Allantoin, vitamins E, A, and D are all present in the diverse composition of shea butter.

How Shea Butter Works?

Shea butter is thought to have anti-aging effects comparable to green tea, another plant-based anti-oxidant. Shea butter is used in a wide range of cosmetics, including lip balms, skin moisturiser creams and emulsions, bath products, suntan products, and hair conditioners. It helps to protect and preserve the skin's natural barrier, adds antioxidant properties to the skin, and helps to moisturise the skin. Many oil-based ingredients work well with it.

What Shea Butter Does To The Skin And Hair?

  • Moisturizing Properties: Shea butter is a powerful moisturiser that softens and soothes the skin. Shea butter will coat the skin and form a defensive film since it melts at body temperature. This film prevents evaporation of the skin's natural moisture and increases skin hydration by retaining water in the skin's upper layers. Shea butter has been shown to be superior to mineral oil, a widely used protecting element, in terms of preventing transepidermal water loss, or TEWL. 
  • Anti-aging Properties: Shea butter may be able to enhance the appearance of aged skin in addition to its moisturising properties. According to a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, the nonsaponifiable components of avocado and soybean oils can stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin fibres, reversing the degenerative skin changes seen with ageing. As a result, the nonsaponifiable elements of shea butter are believed to have similar anti-aging properties. This, along with the antioxidant effects of vitamin E in shea butter, tends to reduce the noticeable appearance of ageing skin.
  • Sun-protection Properties: Shea butter has a moderate SPF of around 3-4, as Healthline discussed in their paper. Although this is not enough to use shea butter for sun protection on its own, it is an additional defensive advantage of the ingredient.
  • Hair-strengthening Properties: Shea butter is also used in a variety of hair care items, including conditioners, leave-in treatments, and styling aids. Shea butter can help to reinforce hair while also improving its shine and moisture. Shea butter can be a perfect ingredient in higher dosage formulas to help hydrate and style curls and drier hair styles.

Reference Sources

  • Nisbet S, 2018. ‘Skin acceptability of a cosmetic moisturizer formulation in female subjects with sensitive skin’, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, vol. 11.
  • Lin, T, Zhong, L, & Santiago, J, 2017. ‘Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils’ International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 19.