If you're looking to use more plant-based substances in your daily beauty rituals, you have many options, including coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter. Learning more about how to use shea butter can help you determine if this powerful, naturally sourced ingredient suits your personal care routine.
What Is Shea Butter Made Of?
Shea butter is a versatile ingredient that offers a multitude of benefits for your hair and skin. You can find it listed as an ingredient in many products in the beauty aisle—both natural and not.
As a thesis from Rutgers University explains, shea butter (Butyrospermum parkii) is a fat extracted from the nut of a shea tree, commonly found across sub-Saharan Africa. Like other naturally derived fats, shea butter comes in a variety of forms that differ based on how they're processed. Unrefined raw shea butter is the rawest form of the ingredient, as it is extracted in the traditional way and does not contain preservatives, according to the American Shea Butter Institute. In the United States, commercial shea butter is given a grade—A through F—which helps to classify the quality of the butter by its safety and nutrient density, with grade A being the highest quality.
Unrefined shea butter typically has a beige color and a nutty scent. Refined shea butter, by contrast, is white in color and odorless. Once it comes in contact with your skin, the butter will melt and absorb rapidly.
Shea Butter Hair Benefits
The moisturizing property of shea is one of the most obvious uses of shea butter for your hair. According to an academic report published in Forests, Trees, and Livelihoods, shea butter has a high content of essential fatty acids. In its raw form, it's also filled with nutrients such as vitamin E that help to moisturize dry hair and skin. This can be especially helpful to combat damage caused by blow-drying or flat irons. As a study in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences highlights, shea butter also offers moisturizing benefits for the scalp, which may help you combat dry, flaky skin and dandruff.
Shea Butter Skin Benefits
Shea butter's beauty benefits extend beyond the hair and scalp. Those same nutrients and moisturizing properties can also benefit your skin. Not only is shea butter a moisturizing agent, it's also anti-inflammatory, according to the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences study, meaning it may help soothe reactions to skin irritants.
What's more, shea butter may help promote cell regeneration and lead to softer skin, increased collagen production, and reduced signs of aging. It could also prove beneficial before some fun in the sun. The cinnamic acid in shea butter can potentially provide protection against harmful UV rays, according to a review in the Scholars Academic Journal of Pharmacy. That said, it shouldn't be used in place of broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Can You Use Shea Butter for Stretch Marks?
As a mom of two, I definitely spent a lot of time trying find natural products to help minimize stretch marks. There are plenty of anecdotal and historical reports that claim shea butter may be used to treat stretch marks, although none are backed by scientific research.
Research published in the International Journal of Modern Biology and Medicine highlights that shea butter may be an effective treatment for skin conditions, such as scars and stretch marks. It might not be the miracle solution you're looking for, but personally, it helped to soothe my stretching skin, which became increasingly itchy and dry as my belly grew bigger.
How to Use Shea Butter in Your Beauty Routine
Raw shea butter can be used on both your hair and skin. To combat an itchy, dry scalp, massage a small amount into your scalp or comb it through your hair before you shampoo. You can also use a small amount post-washing to help manage frizziness and flyaway hairs. Just work a small amount onto the ends of your hair whenever they need some TLC.
To moisturize and protect your skin, you can use raw shea butter the same way that you would use any body lotion. In the winter, shea butter can help with dry skin caused by blustery weather, and in the summer, it can help to protect and hydrate your sun-exposed skin. This makes shea butter an excellent all-year, single-ingredient moisturizer.
There are countless skin care products that are made with shea butter, such as natural beauty bars and body washes, which are gentle on skin while also helping to maintain your skin's natural moisture. If you find the raw butter too heavy or difficult to use, you can also find lotions and lip care products that contain the ingredient.
Since shea butter is a naturally derived ingredient that is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration, you can feel confident in using it. From moisturizing and strengthening to its regenerative effects, there are so many benefits of shea butter—both for your hair and skin. To make the most of its natural nutrients, use raw shea butter or choose beauty products that already contain shea butter.
Want to learn more about incorporating natural ingredients into your skin care routine? Follow the Ingredients from Nature board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
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Why It's Good
Learning how to use shea butter in your daily routine is easy, especially with personal care products that already contain this beneficial ingredient. You'll get to experience the many benefits of shea butter—for both your hair and skin.