Shea Butter, the Skin Salvation Super Star

Since lockdown, we’ve been looking for silver linings everywhere lately.

Giving in to small pleasures – because now is the time to do what truly makes us happy.

And if not now, when? Surely we deserve it?

One way to approach this is with a daily moisturisation ritual and the show’s star: lovely shea butter.

Shea and I go way back; like an old friend, it’s a beautiful relationship that’s lasted almost an entire decade.

Since graduating from using coconut oil on my sunkissed skin, I often adorn my skin in shea butter – only the raw, unprocessed stuff, of course.

So, without further ado, here are all shea’s moisturising benefits.


What the Heck is Shea Butter, Anyway?

Shea’s superstar qualities are endless;

  • heals wounds
  • it reduces irritation
  • minimises redness
  • moisturises your skin
  • wards off premature ageing,
  • with its SPF properties, it protects your skin

Shea butter contains phytosterols, vitamins E and D, allantoin, and even vitamin A.

Often referred to as Butyrospermum parkii butter or Vitellaria paradoxa, it’s a natural fat obtained from the fruit of the Karate tree.

This towering tree can grow as tall as 60 feet and yield fruit up to 200 years.

It can produce berries the size of plums; one tree alone can produce 20 kg of fruit, yielding up to 4 kg of kernels, producing roughly about 1.5 kg of butter.

Now I think you’d agree; that’s a tree of plenty.

There are two methods of extraction:

  • cold pressing is the traditional method of extraction. Shea nuts are traditionally harvested, crushed, and boiled to extract the shea butter
  • the hexane extraction process is where solvents are used to remove the butter.

We only use the organic, unrefined, hand-crafted shea, which has maximum healing and moisturising properties.

The Skin Salvation Benefits

A natural antioxidant: As shea butter contains a ton of vitamin E in the form of tocopherol and tocotrienols, it acts as a natural antioxidant for your skin. It has several catechin compounds, which also offer anti-bacterial properties.

Natural SPF: This study (1) found that the cinnamic acid esters in shea butter work as a UV protectant – SPF 3. This also gives the shea butter healing properties because these esters can reduce the skin’s superficial irritation and redness.

Anti-inflammatory: In Africa, shea butter treats muscular pains and rheumatoid conditions due to its cinnamic acid and oleic fatty acid properties. The cinnamic acid esters help to reduce redness (erythema) within your skin tissues.

Shea is extremely skin-healing; It contains allantoin, which the FDA approves. It is used as a skin barrier ingredient to prevent and protect chafed, chapped, cracked, or windburned skin by speeding up your skin’s natural processes and increasing the water content.

It is very moisturising. This study (2), amongst many other, have found that shea butter has superior moisturising properties. You can find up to 50% oleic acids in shea butter; this gives the butter its moisturising, regenerating, anti-inflammatory, skin softening properties, and around 40% stearic acid, which allows it to boost skin flexibility and moisture retention. It also acts as an occlusive, locking water against your skin.

Anti Elastase: Shea helps to restore suppleness within your skin and increase moisturisation; this is due to its stearic acid, which helps to give the skin its flexibility. Shea is also thought to be helpful for the prevention of stretch marks.

Penetrative Abilities: Your skin readily absorbs this butter, making the delicate tissue appear fuller and more hydrated after use.

Treats Skin Conditions: Keratosis Pilaris is one such skin concern that creates tiny bumps on your skin. Shea’s occlusive nature helps to lock water against the skin and deeply moisturising, helping to relieve the itchy, dry symptoms associated with this condition.

More than a match for dry or irritated skin, our Nectar Treatment Balm is full of this beautiful, nourishing ingredient, helping to bring relief and comfort to troubled skin, from lips and hands to elbows and feet, to soothe the appearance of irritated skin. Shea is packed full of polyphenols, giving it excellent skin-softening properties.

It is much milder and less solid than cocoa butter and gives skincare products more of a creamier, rich texture.

Not all Shea Butter is Created Equally

If you’re purchasing shea butter, you must be selective, as the quality can vary tremendously.

Shea can be affected by several things: the variety, season, how the nuts have been collected, and how they are handled – all of which affect your shea butter quality and colour. It is common for many natural companies to supply refined butter.

So be sure to take our advice and only purchase the unrefined, cold-pressed variety we use in our formulae, such as our healing treatment balm.

Why Does my Shea Butter feel Grainy?

Sometimes, shea butter can feel grainy in skin balms. This is due to the shea butter fractionating when heated, meaning the various fatty acids separate.

These fatty acids have different cooling points; some become hard more quickly than others, which results in some of the fatty acids being solid while others remain liquid.

To get around this, a good manufacturer will want their formulas containing shea butter to cool down very quickly, ensuring that the different fatty acids solidify simultaneously. They usually achieve this by crash-cooling in a fridge or not melting it, which is the best thing for these formulas.

To Conclude. The Naked Chemist

So, to quickly recap the benefits of the amazing qualities of shea butter:

  • anti-inflammatory reduces redness – cinnamic acid esters
  • protecting, regenerating, and wound healing – allantoin, oleic, stearic
  • moisturising skin – polyphenols, oleic, stearic, occlusive nature
  • skin softening, suppleness – polyphenol, tocopherols, oleic, stearic
  • anti-bacterial – polyphenols, catechins
  • sunscreen SPF 3 – cinnamic acid esters
  • irritation – cinnamic acid esters

We think you’d agree; we could all do with some shea butter love in our lives.


1. Butyrospermum parkii butter increased the photostability and in vivo SPF of a moulded sunscreen system

2. Moisturising power of shea butter.

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