Shea butter comes from the African shea tree. The fat of the nut is processed to make butter, which is heralded around the world for its many different benefits to users. While widely known as one of nature’s richest moisturizers, some of shea butter’s lesser-known benefits include the fact that it contains antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory, and has healing qualities.
Shea butter contains several natural antioxidants including Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and catechins (the same antioxidant found in green tea). A 2009 study has even shown that shea butter helps reduce the effects of UV radiation on the skin. These antioxidants are good for the improving the overall condition of your skin.
Shea butter contains several derivatives of cinnamic acid. This acid, which is also found in cinnamon and balsam trees, has been shown to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. One study, reported in the May 2012 “Journal of Oleo Science” has even reported that one of these derivatives has the capability of preventing tumor development.
One additional benefit to shea butter is its healing qualities. Raw Shea butter is a great way to heal your dry and damaged skin due to the fact that it contains fatty acids and plant sterols such as oleic, palmitic, stearic, and linolenic. These acids and sterols have a higher healing property due to the fact that they are nonsaponifiable (i.e. they do not convert to a soap when introduced to some sort of alkali). Shea butter has one of the lowest nonsaponifiable fractions among all fats and nut oils, meaning that it has some of the highest healing properties.
Due to all of these benefits, shea butter is used in beauty and health regimes around the world. Not only does it moisturize skin, but it can also reduce the appearance of scars, fine lines, and stretch marks. Many make-up manufacturers use it in their cosmetics. It also works as a natural soother for skin irritations such as sunburns, eczema, psoriasis, and, in some cases, rosacea.
However, shea butter’s use is not just limited to the world of health and beauty. Since shea butter can soften and condition leather and wood, many musicians use it on animal skin drums and leather tuning straps. In Africa, it is also used in cooking.
To get the best benefits out of your shea butter, make sure that you are using unrefined or grade A butter. Lower grades will have lower results.