Several years ago I was introduced to Shea butter. Having super dry skin, I was always on the look out for anything that would keep it hydrated and feeling soft.
After learning about natural beauty products, I quickly found that Shea butter not only moisturized my skin like nothing else had, but it did so without making it greasy.
Shea butter comes from the nut of the African Shea tree. It is only available after a labor-intensive process that includes separating, crushing, roasting, grinding and finally collecting the separated oil and shaping it so it can be sold.
It’s slightly yellowish in color (some can be grayish) and is great to use in skincare recipes that call for fat, like whipped body butters. Because it melts at body temperature, it quickly absorbs into the skin, leaving it supple and moist.
Shea butter can be used for its anti-inflammatory properties. (This study shows that in addition to being anti-inflammatory, it has anti-tumor producing compounds as well.) Because of this, Shea butter is used in all of my ointments and body butters and used liberally on my skin. Shea butter soothes quickly, making it ideal to keep on hand for skin that’s red, irritated or otherwise in need of some TLC.
Shea butter contains a number of fatty acids that promote healing. Because of this, Shea butter plays an important part in my healing antibiotic ointment. This ointment continually amazes me with how quickly it helps wounds heal. I use it for diaper rash, fresh tattoos, scrapes, acne and other minor wounds. Owies just don’t last long in our house.
Shea butter is able to deeply penetrate the skin and a little bit goes a long, long way. My favorite thing about Shea butter is its ability to moisturize without feeling greasy. I’ve tried lotions for dry skin in the past and hated how greasy my skin felt hours later. Shea butter rubs into the skin and after about twenty minutes, skin feels very moist, but not greasy. I’ve found that combining it with coconut oil helps it absorb even faster, leaving smooth, soft skin.
Shea butter offers low-grade UV protection, especially when combined with coconut oil, which also protects the skin from harmful UV rays. Shea butter contains caffeic acid, which this 2009 study indicates is an antioxidant that protects us from UV rays. Applying Shea butter before going out in the sun can help prevent harmful skin damage, especially when you play it safe with sun exposure.
For higher grade UV protection, make homemade sunscreen with Shea butter and other natural ingredients.
Buying Shea Butter
It’s important to get good quality Shea butter for use in your recipes. I recommend organic, unrefined (Grade A) Shea butter. While I like to look for local sources of products, I’ve been unsuccessful with finding high-quality Shea butter in my rural area.
If I drove a bit north to Portland, I might find some, but I prefer to get it online. I first got my Shea butter from Mountain Rose Herbs, but when I started using more (and they were sold out), I tried Shea Radiance. Both have excellent Shea butter, as do many other online sources.
Using Shea Butter
I use Shea butter in a number of recipes. Here are my favorites:
Share your favorite ways to use Shea butter with the community below.