What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a skin superfood which comes from the seeds of the fruit of the Shea (Karite) tree and that is naturally rich in vitamins A, E and F. It offers UV protection and it provides the skin with essential fatty acids and the nutrients necessary for collagen production.
Shea butter protects the skin from drying out
Generally, Shea butter remains constant at room temperature, but it melts on the skin by forming a non-greasy coating which effectively seals in the moisture. By applying Shea butter all over the body after a bath or a long swim will help you to keep the skin hydrated and soft. Alternatively, you can add a tablespoonful of the butter into your warm bath water before your final rinse. It will quickly melt and cover your body with a thin, protective layer of oil, but the best part is that it does not make the skin oily.
Shea butter offers protection against sun exposure
Shea butter can provide some protection against UV exposure. Shea butter has been estimated to have a sun protection factor of 6 (SPF-6). It may not be sufficient for full sun exposure on a summer day but may be enough for a quick trip outside when the sky is overcast.
With rising concerns about the possibility of chemicals in sunscreens themselves causing skin cancer, it may be a good idea to apply Shea butter as a base coat before applying another sunscreen on the skin. An anti-inflammatory action of the Shea butter is also helpful in reducing burning and also soreness after sun exposure.
Use it as a lip balm
Make your own long-lasting lip balm with this Shea butter. Since it is nearly solid at room temperature, you don’t have the hassle of melting beeswax or have to use petroleum products as a base. Shea butter will keep the lips moisturized, and the vitamin A and E in the butter nourishes the tender skin and keeps it healthy.
To make the simplest form of lip balms for everyday use, add 2-3 drops of peppermint oil or any other essential oil of your choice to a tablespoonful of Shea butter and whip it up. Fill a small container.
For baby care
Shea butter can be used for baby massage in the place of olive oil. Olive oil’s oleic acid content is comparable to that of olive oil, but it has higher stearic acid content that makes Shea butter is closer in composition to the fat naturally found in the skin. The butter can be applied all over the body or to selective areas such as elbows, knees, and cheeks that tend to dry out faster in babies and young children.
Adding a teaspoonful of Shea butter to the bath water is another way to use it on babies. It can form a protective layer on the skin that seals in moisture and acts as a barrier to dust and other environmental contaminants. If the natural nutty smell of Shea butter is irritating, by mixing in a drop of pure essential oil of your choice to the bath can solve the problem.
Shea butter helps smooth out wrinkled skin
Shea butter has higher stearic acid content than other vegetable oils, making it much closer to animal fats in chemical composition. The elasticity and suppleness of the skin are maintained by the structural protein collagen that binds the skin tissue together. Loss of collagen due to aging and sun exposure is the main reason for skin wrinkles. Dehydration of the skin aggravates wrinkles further.
The fatty acid profile of the Shea butter allows it to be absorbed into the deeper skin layers to nourish them and support collagen production. The humectants action of the butter helps restore hydration of the skin layers, making them more turgid and visibly smoother. The regular application protects against moisture loss from the skin. Being a non-sticky form, Shea butter is comfortably used day and night. It is a non-toxic to protect the skin from regular sun exposure in the day to day living.
Shea butter is for external use only. Consult a doctor or dermatologist before using, especially with underlying skin conditions. Those with nut allergies should avoid or check with an allergist.