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While there’s hundreds if not thousands of posts I could write concerning holistic wellness and tools for your wellness basket, I’m always perplexed as to what the next post should be. So this morning when my husband sent me a photo of a package of shea butter and asked if he should get it (he found it at a local discount place), I thought – this may be my sign. Now it was time for me to learn. What exactly is Shea Butter and what can I do with it?
What is Shea Butter?
Other than being a natural creamy moisturizing product, I really didn’t know. It turns out that shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree.
The butter has been used both internally and externally for centuries to soothe the skin.
This fat is solid at warm temperatures and has an off-white or ivory color.
Shea butter definitely deserves a place in your wellness basket.
Besides it’s antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and moisturizing properties, there’s actually a lot of benefits and good uses for it.
The Benefits of Shea Butter
This is probably the best known quality of shea butter. It’s blended into a lot of cosmetics and items for the skin. There’s a large concentration of natural vitamins and fatty acids in shea butter.
Shea butter can be worked into the hair and scalp as a pre-shampooing conditioner.Not only will it moisturize the hair but will also help to nourish and soften your hair as well.
I will be trying this one and will update as soon as I do. Sources say to work a small amount into your fair from roots to ends and let sit for 20-30 minutes, and then wash your hair normally.
Shea butter contains cinnamic acid. Cinnamic acid is also naturally found in cinnamon. This is an organic compound reported to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This and other natural components of shea butter reduces inflammation that make it beneficial for acne and other skin inflammation.
In addition to reducing inflammation on the surface of the skin, shea aids in natural collagen production (it contains triterpenes which are thought to deactivate collagen fiber destruction). Shea nourishes the skin and helps prevent drying. Shea easily penetrates the skin and because of it’s high fat content is highly emollient. All of this with a high essential fatty acid content lets it help build the skin barrier.
Stretch Marks and Scarring
One article that I read on Healthline stated that shea butter may stop scar tissue from reproducing, while encouraging healthy cell growth to take their place. Hmmm, now I’m thinking I HAVE used this before. Long ago after a surgery which left a scar on my abdominal region – appendicitis. Ugh. What an experience. But yes, that was oh probably 33 years ago but I recall using a thick, off-white cream to reduce scarring (as told by my doctor). I bet that’s what it was! I bet I should have used that for stretch marks too!
Reduces Fine Lines and Wrinkles
So it would only follow that if it’s going to help with scars and stretch marks, it would help with fine lines and wrinkles! Indeed! The moisturizing effects, fatty acids (see below) and by boosting collagen production and promoting new cell generation, shea butter may help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Essential Fatty Acids
As mentioned above, shea butter has a high essential fatty acid content. Shea butter contains arachidic,cinnamic, linoleic, oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids. All of thee help give a boost to cellular energy and regeneration.
Healthline.com reported that shea products have ingredients that help fight skin infections caused by fungi. It’s not claiming that shea butter can treat every kind of fungal infection, but apparently it does kill the spores of the fungi which causes ringworm and athlete’s foot.
Natural UV Protection
I’m not a fan of commercial sunscreens. Most contain toxins that have been studied and shown to actually cause skin cancer. But shea butter in it’s natural form, while moisturizing your skin, actually has some mild (one source said up to SPF 6) UV protection.
Relieves Sunburn and Dry Skin
For the effects I’ve discussed (moisturizing, penetration, EFA’s, and more), shea butter is just the thing to reach for to help alleviate that itchy dry skin from sunburn, windburn and more. Dry heels? Rough hands? Try shea butter.
One method discussed on Dr. Axe’s website was to use as a diaper rash ointement. That makes sense! Because of it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, shea butter would soothe and help to heal these rashes.
I can’t guarantee this one. I just haven’t read enough about it and the sources I read for this post only mention that some nationalities do cook with shea butter. Fascinating! My focus here is just external use though so I didn’t put time into researching this. Another future post perhaps?
What do I do With The Shea Butter?
I enjoyed reading about shea butter. But what to do with this block of unrefined shea butter my husband bought?
Well there’s a lot of recipes out there on the web! The possibilities are endless!
- Whipped Shea Butter
- Body Butter
- Face Cream
- Face Mask
- Eye Cream
- Massage Bars
- Hair Conditioner
I did find out it’s best to use the raw, unrefined Grade A shea butter my husband bought. Many on the market are refined and while they are not terrible, the refining process can remove some of the beneficial constituents of shea butter. So raw or unrefined is best.
I also learned that I will need to heat the shea butter gently before using. Apparently raw, unrefined shea butter might not have been filtered and could contain some small particles of nut, hull, or kernels. It’s okay! It just means you will want to heat gently (when it melts around 100-110 degrees or so) and then strain it through cheesecloth. I’ll add pictures when I do mine! (Okay, I put that in writing to make sure I do it! Readers, keep me honest!) Once strained, I plan to pour it into silicone molds so that it’s already measured out for recipes.
What If I Don’t Want to Make Anything?
That’s okay. Not everyone has time to spend researching recipes and trying them out. I’m not sure I do either so while I have my pound of shea butter, it may have to sit for a bit as much as I want to give it a go!
There are a number of products available by reputable companies. Here’s a few I found on Amazon.
Ora’s Amazing Herbal Ultra Healing Body Butter – I love that this one has so many additional herbs added that have known benefits for soothing the skin!
Sky Organics Organic Shea Butter – this one is shea butter still in its raw state but in a container for immediate use. Instead of using it for a recipe you would simply take out a small bit in your hands and let your body temperature warm it up for a minute to apply directly to your skin.
RaGaNaturals Body Lotion – This is a lotion for those of you that prefer that texture so it has more ingredients but appears to be pretty nice. I have not tried it myself. I’m learning I’m more of a whipped body butter type myself.
Shea Radiance Classic Scent Baobab – this looks like a promising shea butter with algae extracts added for a bonus!
How Long Will It Take To Work?
As with anything, time and patience is important. You may feel the loveliness of the creamy texture right away but that doesn’t mean it’s going to leave a lasting effect immediately. Give shea butter, like any other skin product, several weeks of daily use before determining if it works for you. A few days is not enough for any skin product. Your skin is an organ and while it is absorbed easily, it still takes time to have a healing effect of shea butter to come through and show itself.
My reading proved to me there are many healing benefits of shea butter. The years of use for moisturizing is amazing enough but adding on the antifungal, EFA’s and antiinflammatory properties and I am hooked!
So I’m on an adventure now with shea butter. I know more about it now and how amazing it is for skin with so many fantastic benefits! I’m looking forward to experimenting with it. I know I want to try it as a conditioner for my hair. I’m thinking a nice whipped shea butter may be the way to go. I did find a video with a recipe on YouTube that I’ll be trying! I just need to order some rosehip oil first. So….. stay tuned!
Have you worked with Shea Butter? PLEASE SHARE your favorite way to use it! BONUS for me and my readers if you have a recipe to share!