Natural Beauty: Shea Butter

Shea butter has been used by many cultures around the world for centuries, and is considered a staple in a number of cosmetic products.  You can easily find it in many stores as well as online, and can be found with it's natural aroma preserved, or in an unscented variety, as well as organic or conventional.  But what are it's origins, and why is it so special?

Shea butter is derived from the vegetable fat of the Karite Tree, found in various countries in Africa, particularly West Africa.  Being a nut butter, it naturally has a thick consistency and nutty aroma, and in it's natural form, is a creamy color.  Many companies use bleaches, deodorizers, or chemicals to alter the scent and appearance of shea butter for use in cosmetic products. However, the process also depletes the product of its healing and medicinal properties, and destroys the vitamins and minerals naturally present in the butter.  While it does have a distinctive color and aroma, once applied to the skin, the scent is largely dissipated.   

It has been used for centuries in Africa for its moisturizing and healing properties, as it forms a breathable, water-resistant film on the surface of the skin which helps the skin to retain moisture.  It's naturally rich in Vitamins A, E, and F, as well as a number of other vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E help to soothe, hydrate, and balance the skin. They also provide skin collagen which assists with wrinkles and other signs of aging. Vitamin F contains essential fatty acids, and helps protect and revitalize damaged skin and hair.  It promotes skin renewal, increases the circulation, and accelerates wound healing. It is also beneficial for the treatment of many different conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, stretch marks, sunburn, diaper rash, and skin allergies.  It also offers a low level of UV protection (approximately SPF-6), and may be incorporated into natural sunscreen recipes. 

How Can I Use Shea Butter?
  • Lotions and body butters containing shea butter are wonderfully soothing for the skin, and help to protect you from environmental pollutants.
  • Add a small spoonful to your bath to promote healing.  (Be careful getting in and out, as this can make the tub quite slippery.)
  • Use in massage to help heal overexerted muscles or for dry skin. If the natural odor is too strong, warm the butter slightly over a double boiler, and add essential oils. 
  • In soaps, it's a fabulous skin conditioner.
  • It's long been used by pregnant women to rub over stretch marks, as it has been shown to improve skin elasticity.
  • Shea butter is a wonderful product to use on nails & cuticles to keep your fingers soft and supple.
  • If you have particularly coarse hair, you can put just a small amount on your finger tips, and use to tame flyaways and/or frizz.
Hopefully this has shown you some ways to use shea butter in your beauty regime while maintaining your commitment to affordable, natural skin care.  Do you have other uses for shea butter?  Please comment below and share with us!

Namaste -


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