Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree. It is ivory in color when raw and commonly dyed yellow with borututu root or palm oil. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. Shea butter is edible and is used in food preparation in some African countries. Occasionally, shea butter is mixed with other oils as a substitute for cocoa butter, although the taste is noticeably different.
Shea butter is mainly used in the cosmetics industry for skin- and hair-related products.
It is also used by soap makers and massage oil manufacturers, typically in small amounts, because it has plenty of unsaponifiables, and higher amounts result in a softer soap that has less cleaning ability. It is an excellent emollient for dry skin. No evidence shows it is a cure, but it alleviates the pain associated with tightness and itching.
In some African countries such as Benin, shea butter is used for cooking oil, as a waterproofing wax, for hairdressing, for candle-making, and as an ingredient in medicinal ointments. It is used by makers of traditional African percussion instruments to increase the durability of wood (such as carved djembe shells), dried calabash gourds, and leather tuning straps.
Some of the main applications of shea butter are:
- hair treatment products
- anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams
- moisturizing creams for the body and face
- aftersun products
- hair treatments for a dry scalp. (This is due to its moisturizing and anti-inflammtory properties.)
Benefits for the skin
A person can purchase a variety of moisturizing products that contain shea butter.
Alternatively, a person can apply raw, unrefined shea butter directly to the skin until it is completely absorbed.
A person can also:
- use it as a replacement for shaving cream
- apply it to the lips
- apply it to the nail cuticles
Shea butter contains components that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may aid with:
cell proliferation, which is the process in which cells grow and divide
There is some evidence to suggest that shea butter could be effective against wrinkles.
Shea butter is emollient. As an emollient, shea butter helps trap moisture in the skin.
Shea butter also contains linoleic acid.
Shea butter contains bioactive ingredients that give it anti-inflammatory properties.
Shea butter may have an ability to soften scar tissue.
A keloid is a type of raised and enlarged area of scarring. There is evidenceTrusted Source to suggest that using shea butter may help prevent the formation of keloids.
However, it is important to note that the researchers used lab cultures. As a result, there is not enough research to show how effective shea butter is at preventing keloid scars
Benefits for hair
Because of its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, shea butter may help reduce dry scalp and scalp irritation.
However, shea oil may be more beneficial for hair than shea butter.