When it comes to managing skin, Shea Butter is special. It has been so for many generations of African people. Shea tree is considered sacred because of the bounty it provides for skin, hair, beauty and health. Shea Butter renews repairs and protects skin from aging and harsh atmospheric conditions.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea Butter is extracted from nuts derived from the Shea tree. Shea tree which grows up to 60 feet is treated with high respect in Western Africa. However, Shea tree does not flower until it is 20 years old. It can also live a life of 200 years. Traditionally, Shea nuts are harvested by women and then crushed and boiled in order to extract Shea butter.
Brief History of Shea Butter
Right from Senegal to Sudan and along the foothills of Ethiopia, Shea tree has naturally inhabited West Africa for centuries. History of the African continent documents that jars of rich Shea butter were transported during the reign of Cleopatra. Queen of Sheba is also said to have used Shea butter. Shea tree is considered to be sacred by several African tribes. Some tribes in Northern Nigeria blend Shea butter with palm oil and use it for cooking purposes.
Goodness of Shea Butter
Shea butter nowadays is quite often used in lotions, creams, moisturizers and other emulsions for skin. Being rich in fats make Shea butter an excellent emollient and skin moisturizer. It is also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and therefore helps in controlling damage to skin due to free radicals. Shea butter also contains vitamin A and E which are helpful in keeping skin in optimal health. Alongside this Shea butter acts as a mild Sun Protection Factor (SPF). Vitamin E in Shea butter soothes dry skin while improving elasticity of skin at the same time. In short, Shea butter serves as a good anti-aging agent.
Nutritional Value of Shea Butter
Shea butter contains tocopherols and cinnamic acid UV-B absorbing triterpene esters. It also contains high percentage of phytosterols and hydrocarbons like karitene. Other components of Shea butter include the following.
These are compounds well known for antioxidant properties. There are 10 phenolic compounds in Shea butter and 8 of these are catechins.
There are 5 principal fatty acids found in Shea butter. These are arachidic, linoleic, oleic, stearic and palmitic acids. They account for almost 85 to 90 percent of fatty acids. While oleic acid influences softness or hardness, stearic acid provides solid consistency.
This is also known as tocopherol. Different versions of vitamin E are found in Shea butter and their concentrations also fluctuate depending upon factors like climate and the process of butter extraction.
Vitamin A & F
Both these vitamins are also naturally found in Shea butter. While slowing premature aging, both vitamin A and F are helpful in treating skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.
Rich in unsaturated fats with large proportions of essential fatty acids, non-saponifiable components, allantoin, provitamin A, phytosterols and vitamins E and D, Shea butter is considered as a super food for skin.
Benefits of Shea Butter for Skin
Making Shea butter a part of your regular skin care routine can do wonders. Here are some of the proven benefits of Shea butter on skin.
1. Great for Moisturizing Dry Skin
Fat content in Shea butter with emollient and humectants properties acts as an excellent moisturizer for face and body. When dry and dehydrated skin becomes rough and scaly, Shea butter effectively locks moisture in skin and keeps it hydrated for long. Shea butter easily penetrates skin without clogging pores.
2. Treatment for Blemishes & Acne
Known for its healing properties, Shea butter contains many oil-soluble components which do not undergo converting into soap while coming in contact with alkalis. In comparison with other nut-oils and fats Shea butter is more non-saponifiable. Unrefined Shea butter is very effective in curing acne, stings, insect bites, athlete’s foot, burns, frost bites, and scars, skin peeling following tanning, skin rashes and stretch marks.
3. Excellent for Reducing Skin Inflammation
Derivatives like cinnamic acid found in Shea butter exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. It is therefore beneficial as treatment for inflammatory skin conditions. Conditions like rosacea and dermatitis can also be alleviated by topical application of Shea butter. Other conditions like scrapes, cuts, rashes and sunburns can also treated using Shea butter.
4. Anti-Free Radical & Anti-Aging Agent
Considered as one of the best anti-aging agents for skin, Shea butter stimulates production of collagen which is the youthful protein. Best Shea butter also contains vitamin A and E which are helpful in keeping skin radiant, nourished and supple. Regular use of Shea butter will reduce wrinkles and facial lines. Catechins found in Shea butter along with vitamins exert an antioxidant effect against free radicals which generally damage skin. Cinnamic acid esters found in Shea fat provide an antioxidant boost to skin.
5. Relief From Itchy & Peeling Skin
skin. Skin can become flaky and peel due to dryness. Moisturizing fatty acids in Shea butter with it oils provide relief to skin. The anti-inflammatory activity of Shea butter can also alleviate skin conditions like psoriasis.
6. Restoring Elasticity of Skin
Vitamin F and non-saponifiable matter of Shea butter are vital ingredients required for maintaining elasticity of skin. Topical application of Shea butter improves production of collagen and naturally restores elasticity of skin. Regular use of Shea butter hydrates softens and beautifies skin. Eventually restoration of elasticity ensures reduction of blemishes and wrinkles.
7. Great for Lip Care
Extra moisture and nutrients which lips require during the cold season and dry weather conditions is effectively restored by Shea butter which is easily absorbable. It serves as a perfect lip balm and is also excellent for treating dry and chapped lips. Shea butter forms a barrier on lips so as to retain moisture. Thanks to the moisturizing and healing properties of Shea butter that it is considered as a natural conditioner for hair as well.
Ideal for Reducing Stretch Marks
Quite often, Shea butter is used as base in commercially prepared ointments and creams for stretch marks. Shea butter can dramatically reduce stretch marks formed during pregnancy. These stretch marks usually form when skin gets stretched beyond its elastic capacity. Topical application of Shea butter effectively restores elasticity of skin alongside improving production of collagen. Regular massage of Shea butter to the affected area can effectively lighten stretch marks.
The most wonderful Shea tree is known by many names including Karite Nut, Magnifolia, Vitellaria Paradoxa, Nilotica, Bambuk Butter, Galam Butter and others. It produces first fruit at 20 years of age and reaches full production when it is 45 years old. The Shea tree produces nut for about 200 years after reaching maturity. Growing in the wild, Shea tree is commonly found in Guinea, Zaire, Togo Uganda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Cote D’lvoire, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ghana and Benin.