The healing and moisturizing properties of Shea butter can be attributed to its nutritional value.
Shea butter contains UV-B absorbing triterpene esters, such as cinnamic acid and tocopherols.
In addition to these, it also has a high percentage of phytosterols, triterpenes, and hydrocarbons such as karitene.
Shea butter contains five principal fatty acids namely palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic acids, with a higher proportion of stearic and oleic acids that together accounts for 85-90% of fatty acids. Stearic acid provides a solid consistency, whereas oleic acid influences the hardness or softness of the Shea butter.
Phenolic compounds are known for their antioxidant properties. Shea butter contains 10 phenolic compounds, 8 of which are catechins. Traditionally extracted Shea butter has higher phenolic levels than that extracted with hexane. In fact, the catechism content of Shea butter is higher than the total phenolic content of ripe olives. The overall concentration and relative percentage of the Shea kernels vary from region to region, depending on the level of environmental stress endured by the trees (3).
Tocopherol is otherwise known as vitamin E. Different versions of this are found in Shea butter, but their concentrations fluctuate depending on climate and some other factors like the butter extraction method (4).
These are also found in Shea butter naturally. They can aid in the treatment of skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and even slow down premature aging (5).
Shea butter is considered as a super food for the skin as it is rich in unsaturated fats, with a large proportion of non-saponifiable components, essential fatty acids, vitamins E and D, phytosterols, provitamin A, and allantoin. It has been used since time immemorial for skin care, baby care, and consumption. Given below are its various Shea butter benefits for the skin.
Calories 44 Cal / cal
Nutrients Per 1/8 cup (30ml)
Fat Total 28g
Trans fat <0.03g(MAX)
Polyunsaturated fat 1.4g
Monounsaturated fat 12.2g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Octavian acid 0.06 g
Deccan acid 0.06 g
Dodecahedron acid 0.36 g
Contraindicate acid 0.03 g
Hexadecimal acid 1.2 g
Nonacademic acid 10.7 g
Paleolithic Acid 0.03 g
Nonacademic acid (Omega-9) 12.025 g
Nonaddictive acid (Omega-6) 1.355 g
Electrification acid(Omega-6) 0.08 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Upholsterers 99 mg
Total Carbohydrate 0g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Minerals: (All) 0 µg(microgram)
Vitamins: (All) 0 µg(microgram)
Fol ate (total) 0 µg(microgram)
Ingredients: Shea butter 0.03 g
Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer for the face and the body. Its fat content is responsible for its emollient and humectant properties (6). It locks in the moisture in the skin and keeps it hydrated for long. Dehydrated and dry skin becomes rough and scaly. Certain areas of the body can even develop skin cracks due to dryness. Shea butter can nourish the skin with its fat content. It can also help to soften the skin on your hands and feet and make it supple. It penetrates the skin easily, without clogging the pores, and is effective for dry skin.
Use Shea butter to heal cracked heels, dry cuticles, and rough patches on your skin. You can also use it to simply moisturize your skin during the colder months.
Shea butter is known for its healing properties, which can be attributed to the presence of several fatty acids and plant sterols such as oleic, palmitic, stearic, and linolenic acids. These oil-soluble components do not undergo saponification or convert into soap on coming in contact with alkalis. Shea butter is more non-saponifiable than other nut oils and fats, thus imparting it great healing potential.
Raw, unrefined Shea butter is effective in curing skin rashes, skin peeling after tanning, scars, stretch marks, frost bites, burns, athletes foot, insect bites and stings, and acne (7).
Shea butter has several derivatives of cinnamic acid that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. These properties make it beneficial for the improvement of skin conditions that result from an increase in inflammatory compounds (8).
Generalized inflammations from conditions like dermatitis and rosacea can be alleviated by using Shea butter on the affected area.
Sunburns, rashes, cuts, and scrapes that can result in swelling can also be treated using this butter.
Shea butter is considered as one of the best anti-aging agents for the skin. It stimulates the production of collagen, the youthful scaffolding protein in the skin. The vitamins A and E found in this butter keep the skin supple, nourished, and radiant. If used regularly, it reduces wrinkles and also prevents premature wrinkles and facial lines. Its anti-aging properties can also be attributed to its ability to increase circulation to the skin and promote cell renewal. These vitamins, along with catechins, also exert an antioxidant effect against free radicals that damage the skin. These free radicals are often found in our environment in pollutants and irritants. The sun’s rays can also increase the free radicals in our skin, which can easily damage the skin cells. The cinnamic acid esters in the Shea fat prevent damage from these compounds by giving your skin an antioxidant boost (9, 10).
For itching skin, both the moisturizing and the anti-inflammatory properties of Shea butter prove to be beneficial. Dryness can cause your skin to start peeling and/or become flaky. It can cause the skin to itch. The moisturizing fatty acids of Shea butter can provide relief by supplying the skin with the oils it needs. If the itching is due to a skin condition like psoriasis, the anti-inflammatory activity of Shea butter works really well to alleviate it (11, 12).
The non-saponifiable matter and vitamin F in this butter are vital ingredients for maintaining the skin’s elasticity. Shea butter also improves the production of collagen in the skin. Thus, its application restores the natural elasticity of the skin besides hydrating, softening, and beautifying it (13). Restored elasticity also ensures reduced wrinkles and blemishes.
Shaving hair using razors can often leave your skin irritated and itchy. At times, it might even develop bumps post shaving as a result of the irritation. Shea butter can help reduce this as it moisturizes and soothes the irritated skin. You can also apply the butter a day prior to shaving to smooth-en the skin and hair. This will make the shaving process easier and faster and doesn’t leave any irritated spots behind (14, 15).
Shea butter is often used as a base in ointments or creams prepared commercially for stretch mark treatment. This is because it can dramatically help prevent and reduce stretch marks formed during pregnancy due to weight gain and/or weight loss. These marks are formed when the skin stretches beyond its elastic capacity. The application of Shea butter will restore the natural elasticity of the skin and also improve collagen production. It is a natural emollient. Daily massage of the affected area with this skin healing butter can lighten stretch marks (16).
Unrefined Shea butter is an excellent natural moisturizer that is devoid of chemicals. Thus, it is ideal for baby care as besides being gentle and soft on the skin, it is specially adapted for the delicate and sensitive skin of babies. It can be applied after a bath and also used for healing eczema or diaper rash on the skin of babies and toddlers (17).
Shea butter is easily absorbable and provides extra moisture and nutrients that the lips need during the cold season and dry weather conditions. Thus, it acts as a perfect lip balm and is also effective for treating dry and chapped lips. When applied, it forms a barrier on the lips and retains moisture in the skin (18, 19).
After this extensive list of how Shea butter can benefit our skin, let us now discuss its benefits for the hair. It is considered as a natural conditioner for the hair, thanks to its moisturizing and healing properties.
A number of chemical treatments like straighteners, perms, and curlers are responsible for stripping off the natural moisture from the hair. Shea butter can help restore this lost moisture. It also protects the hair from harsh weather conditions and the harmful free radicals in the air and water. Moreover, Shea butter has a low SPF that is sufficient to protect the hair from sun damage caused due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It repairs the damage that has already been caused by the harsh weather and the sun. This is largely due to the fact that once absorbed, Shea butter coats the hair shaft so that it is protected from a heat tool or any other damaging material being passed along the hair. This is particularly beneficial for processed or colored hair. It also protects the hair against salt and chlorine when applied before swimming (20).
Here is a simple way to include Shea butter in your hair care regimen:
Take a tablespoon of raw or unrefined Shea butter and melt it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.
Once the butter cools down slightly, add a few drops of lavender essential oil. This step is not compulsory.
Make small sections of your hair and apply the liquefied butter to the scalp and entire hair length.
Leave it on for half an hour and then rinse your hair with a mild shampoo.
The fatty acids of Shea butter condition the scalp and hair. It also provides many essential nutrients that improve both scalp and hair health. These, in turn, will make your hair follicles stronger and reduce hair fall and hair loss. Another important property of Shea butter that can prevent hair loss is its anti-inflammatory properties. Scalp conditions can be treated by these compounds, thus reducing hair loss. Your hair will grow thicker and have a natural shine when you use Shea butter (21).
Shea butter is effective in soothing a dry, itchy scalp or dandruff. It possesses anti-inflammatory qualities and rich fat that get absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy residue behind or clogging the pores (22). Hence, it is extremely effective in providing relief from a dry scalp, scalp psoriasis, and other scalp conditions.
Shea butter exerts moisturizing and regenerative effects on the hair and scalp. This strengthens the hair strands and reduces breakage. Also, being rich in vitamins A and E, it soothes dry hair and mends split ends (23).
The presence of vitamins A and E makes Shea butter an excellent choice to moisturize your hair from the roots to the tips. It can be used as a natural conditioner. It is highly effective in locking in moisture, without leaving the hair greasy or heavy (24).
Shea butter is great for softening and revitalizing brittle hair. Due to its non-greasy nature, it helps to control and spread the excess oil in the scalp. Massaging the hair with generous amounts of Shea butter can give you soft, silky, and luscious tresses. This benefit of Shea butter is applicable for dry as well as fragile, curly hair. Shea butter should be applied twice a week for hair growth. This will improve the hair texture and moisturize the hair. It has wide usage in curly hair treatments due to its emollient qualities (25).
So, this was all about the hair and skin benefits of Shea butter. However, this rich butter also possesses some more benefits that make it more versatile.
Muscular pain often results from an inflammation at the affected site due to exertion or a muscular ailment. Traditionally, Shea butter has been extensively used in Africa to relieve muscle aches and soreness. Even though there is no concrete proof for this, feedback from people who have used Shea butter to massage the affected site showed that they noticed a reduction in the swelling as well as the pain (26).
Diarrhea is a symptom of many ailments and can also occur just by itself. It can be treated using a wide range of medicines and herbal concoctions. There is increased demand these days for the addition of Shea butter to dietary-aid products that are being formulated for diarrhea treatment. This is based on the traditional usage of Shea butter for its anti-diarrheal properties (32).
Rheumatism is often characterized by joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. The pain and swelling can also be present just in the muscles or the fibrous tissue. It is used as an ointment on the parts of the body affected by rheumatism to relieve the swelling and pain. Its anti-inflammatory properties are of key importance here as rheumatism is basically an inflammatory disease (27).
A chronic joint disorder that is often associated with increasing age, obesity, and trauma, arthritis can be very painful for people who suffer from it. The pain is almost constant and disrupts basic movement and the quality of life in an arthritis patient. The unsaponifiable material of Shea butter is primarily composed of triterpenes. These compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its usage by arthritis patients has shown excellent results in alleviating the swelling and pain. The exact mechanism of action is still unknown. However, the triterpenes are considered the main contributing factor for these results (28, 29).
The next time you experience nasal congestion, all you need to do is apply some Shea butter in your nostrils using your finger. This might sound weird, but it works. Nasal congestion is often a result of inflammation of the inner linings of the nasal passages. The anti-inflammatory compounds of Shea butter can reduce this inflammation and clear your nostrils. In a study conducted to test the efficacy of Shea butter, the participants experienced nasal congestion clearance in just 90 seconds (30).
As we mentioned earlier, Shea butter is edible and is used by many people in Africa for food preparation. An unknown advantage of adding Shea butter to your diet is its ability to lower cholesterol in the blood. This butter is rich in stearic acid, a type of saturated fatty acid that was shown to reduce lipoprotein and plasma cholesterol levels in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (31).
Shea butter has skin moisturizing properties, and these are accompanied by healing properties because of the wide variety of phytonutrients it contains. Wounds, cuts, and abrasions are healed quickly with regular application of Shea butter. It gets easily absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin, where it supplies all the essential fats and nutrients while enhancing the cell repair function by increasing microcirculation (33).
Due to its high content of vitamin A, it promotes healing and disinfection and soothes skin allergies like poison ivy and insect bites (34). The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties accelerate the healing process (35). Insect bites are often prone to developing an infection, and this can be prevented by using Shea butter on it.
Conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema cause the skin to become dry, flaky, patchy, scaly, and/or itchy. And to treat them, we need an ingredient that works as a deep moisturizer and alleviates the inflammation. Shea butter suits this profile perfectly. It is considered as an excellent moisturizer for eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis because of its efficacious emollient and humectant properties.
The anti-inflammatory properties of this thick butter can be employed for lessening the swelling and itching (36, 37, 38). Doctors often recommend Shea butter to people suffering from these skin ailments as it is safe and well tolerated.
Shea butter acts as a natural sunscreen by providing protection against the ultraviolet radiations of the sun, though the level of protection offered may be variable. Cinnabar acid, found in Shea butter, is a compound that provides UV protection, and the SPF ranges from 6-10 depending on the butter’s quality. It is not recommended to use Shea butter alone as a sunscreen as its SPF is considered to be low to provide ample protection from the harmful rays. Shea butter is best used after sun exposure to soothe the skin and also reverse the oxidant damage caused by the sun (39).
Healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds – all of these make Shea butter a viable and better option than regular butter or even coconut oil and olive oil. It might take a day or two to get used to its taste, but its benefits are plenty and worth the adjustment. Use it for stir-frying or simply add a small dollop to your morning smoothie to reap its benefits. You could even substitute it for butter or lard for your toasts, sandwiches, and pancakes.
As always, opt for the unrefined version, even for cooking/eating purposes.
So many benefits! But you might still be a little confused about how to find the best Shea butter. Well, your doubts will be cleared in the next section. We’ll also talk about the best way to store it.
Look for the raw or unrefined version of Shea butter.
Ensure that the butter has come from a reliable source or company that believes in ethics, fair trade,
and is environment-friendly.
Check the Shea butter’s smell. It should be a little nutty or earthy.
Any plastic-like or chemical scent indicates that it is not an unrefined version.
If possible, try on a small amount of Shea butter on your arm. It should be soothing and moisturizing.
As far as the color is concerned, it ranges quite a bit when it comes to the unrefined version.
Make sure the butter you are planning to purchase is not ivory-colored
as a lighter color indicates that it has gone through the refinement process of bleaching.
The best way to store 100% Shea butter is to store it in a cool environment in an airtight container. Keep it away from the sun. Quite often, vitamin E is added to Shea butter to increase its shelf life. On an average, 100% Shea butter has a shelf life of five (5) years.
If you sense an acidic/rancid smell, it might be time to throw it away.