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Natural Beauty

Benefits of Shea Butter

History of Shea butter

Shea butter may be something that you're used to seeing in high end beauty stores, with glamorous packaging and beautiful models advertising.

For this reason, it may surprise some individuals to know that the butter is in fact a fat, and one that is taken from a tree.

Indeed, Shea butter is taken from the nut of the African shea tree, natively called a Vitellaria paradoxa (and before that, a Butyrospermum parkii).

The tree is part of the Sapotaceae family, which are only found in Africa.

Areas that one may find a shea tree include Mali, Camerood, Congo, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria.

Although the tree is indigenous to Africa, specialists from across the globe extract the pulp for a number of beauty and food purposes.

Overall, the butter is composed of five principal fatty acids: palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic, although the main components are stearic and oleic acids, which together account for 85 to 90 per cent of the butters composition.

Because of the high volumes of these acids, the butter is solid in consistency, ivory in colour and is used for a variety of purposes.

Depending on the levels of these acids, the butter can be slightly more hard or soft, and this often changes in accordance to what the use of the butter is.

The benefits of unrefined Shea butter

Most beauty experts would recommend pure, unrefined Shea butter as opposed to refined and ultra refined.

Not only is unrefined Shea butter produced under fair trade laws, it is far better for the skin.

It is completely unbleached, non-deodorised and contains no additives.

Because of this, the butter can be used on even the most sensitive of skin.

To qualify as unrefined, Shea butter must not have passed through any filtering systems that use chemicals.

The content of the butter must be completely pure, with none of the vitamin content, aroma, colour or texture at all altered.

Uses of Shea butter

Because of its high, natural fat content, Shea butter is the ideal moisturiser.

It is most commonly used in cosmetics - in things like lip balms, hair conditioners and emulsions - places where moisture is most needed.

Because Shea butter melts at room temperature, it is perfect at adapting to the skin and is absorbed instantly.

This makes it easy to use, as well as non-greasy.

It has been reported that some of the chemicals in Shea butter have anti-inflammatory, emollient and humectant properties, making it an ideal moisturiser for those with skin problems such as eczema and dermatitis.

Some people believe that Shea butter can be used to protect the skin against sun damage, particularly in hotter countries such as Africa where the butter is from.

Anti-aging properties

According to Dr. Robyn Tisdale Scott, Shea butter has anti-aging qualities.

"It actually has anti-aging properties which fight lines and wrinkles, dull skin and dryness. This will help immensely in the fight against aging," he explained.

"Shea Butter contains Vitamins A and E, and is a great source of specific healthy fats and acids which are great for your skin. In fact, some studies show that you can tell a difference in the way your skin looks in just 4 to 6 weeks.

As it is thought that Shea butter protects against the sun, it could also be a protector against the signs of aging that come from sun damage.

"Smoother, softer and supple skin can all be achieved with Shea Butter, and it also protects your skin from the sun."

Winter uses

Shea butter is most effective in the cold, winter months, although it can be used all year round.

When we are cold, our skin is stripped of its natural oils. When this happens, our skin ends up feeling dry, pulled and cracked. It also opens your skin up to signs of premature aging.

Adding oil to the skin through Shea butter adds a protective barrier to the skin in dry, winter environments.

Not only will this keep your skin looking and feeling smooth and supple, it will also protect it against premature aging and chapping.

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