What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is fat that’s extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It’s solid at warm temperatures and may have an off-white or ivory color. Shea trees are native to West Africa, and most shea butter still comes from that region.
Shea butter has been used as a cosmetic ingredient for centuries. Its high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids, combined with its easy-to-spread consistency — makes it a great product for smoothing, soothing, and moisturizing your skin.
1. It’s safe for all skin types
Shea butter is technically a tree nut product. But unlike most tree nut products, it’s very low in the proteins that can trigger allergies.
In fact, there’s no medical literature documenting an allergy to topical shea butter.
Shea butter doesn’t contain chemical irritants known to dry out skin, and it doesn’t clog pores. It’s appropriate for nearly any skin type.
Shea butter is typically used for its moisturizing benefits. These benefits are tied to shea’s fatty acid content, including linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids.
When you apply shea topically, these oils are rapidly absorbed into your skin. They act as a “refatting” agent, restoring lipids and rapidly creating moisture.
This restores the barrier between your skin and the outside environment, holding moisture in and reducing your risk of dryness.
Shea butter contains high levels of linoleic acid and oleic acid. These two acids balance each other out. That means shea butter is easy for your skin to fully absorb and won’t make your skin look oily after application.
The plant esters of shea butter have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
When applied to the skin, shea triggers cytokines and other inflammatory cells to slow their production.
This may help minimize irritation caused by environmental factors, such as dry weather, as well as inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema.
Shea butter has significant levels of vitamins A and E, which means it promotes strong antioxidant activity.
Antioxidants are important substances that may protect your skin against anti-aging agents. They protect your skin cells from free radicals that can lead to premature aging and dull-looking skin.
A 2012 study suggests that oral doses of shea bark extract can lead to decreased antimicrobial activity in animals.
Although more research is needed, this could indicate possible antibacterial benefits in humans.
Because of this, some speculate that topical application may decrease the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin.
It’s thought that shea butter stops keloid fibroblasts — scar tissue — from reproducing while encouraging healthy cell growth to take their place.
This may help your skin heal, minimizing the appearance of stretch marks and scarring.
By boosting collagen production and promoting new cell generation, shea butter may help reduce what researchers call photoaging — the wrinkles and fine lines that environmental stress and aging can create on skin.
Shea’s anti-inflammatory properties help soothe skin and relieve itching. This may prove especially helpful for inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Shea also absorbs rapidly, which could mean quick relief for flare-ups.
Research Trusted Source even suggests that shea butter could work just as well as medicated creams in treating eczema.
Shea butter is packed with essential nutrients that can enhance your natural complexion and help you glow from the inside out.
Although it’s considered safe every skin type, many products containing shea butter have other ingredients mixed in.
If you experience any side effects that you suspect are connected to a shea butter product, discontinue use and see a doctor or other healthcare provider. They can help determine what’s causing your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.