You’ll be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t heard, at least a peep, of the benefits of Shea butter. It lines the shelves of both natural and mainstream supermarkets and beauty stores. The hype suggests Shea butter soaps are magical and all healing. Let’s look a bit more closely at a few questions you may have to see if Shea butter is for you.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea Butter soap clearly comes from Shea butter. But what is Shea butter and where does that come from? Shea butter comes from the Shea tree or Karité Tree. The Shea tree is a special tree that only produces fruit after a lengthy 20 years of life. It doesn’t reach a full crop until it is 45 years old. The majestic tree can live as long as two centuries. In traditional collection, a prayer to thank and respect Mother Nature is recited before collecting the Shea nuts. This prayer tradition has been practiced in Ghana for many years. Shea trees are found mostly in West Africa, but are also known to grow in East Africa (Organic Beauty and Cultural Products).
What’s in Shea Butter?
In its purest form, the Shea nut from the Shea tree is made into unrefined Shea butter. In this form, it contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A and E, as well as essential fatty acids (Livestrong).
She butter comes in many qualities, each with a score, so you know what you’re getting yourself into, or rather what you’ll be getting on yourself. The highest quality of Shea is made in a special way. It is 100% natural, free from preservatives and is kept cold. On the other end of the spectrum, the lower grades will have more chemicals and preservatives so that it lasts for a long time on the shelves (Livecate).
What’s so great about Shea?
Shea butter doesn’t have a short list of supposed benefits. The range of benefits is wide and wonderful, most are said to be present when the Shea is in soap form. Let’s see what Shea butter has to offer:
Treats dry skin
Shea butter moisturizes the skin in much the same way that the body’s very own sebaceous glands do. This makes it a perfect, natural approach to treating dry skin.
Improves hair health
Shea butter has been claimed to lock in hair moisture, make curls more pronounced, act as a scalp conditioner, counter hair frizz, and ease the symptoms of dandruff. It can even work as a hair volumizer if applied properly.
Some institutes claim that Shea butter can actually reduce wrinkles after less than two months. It is important to note, however, that a very high quality Shea butter product must be used. So practice caution when buying partially synthetic or blended Shea butter.
If you’ve ever struggled with acne, you know that slow and steady, or rather, small and sensitive, wins the race. Drastic actions usually tend to make the problem worse, especially when dealing with such delicate layers as those of the top layers of surface skin on the face. Using natural products is probably the way to go, and many claim that Shea can help treat acne and even eczema. The application instructions and forms of Shea one should use vary depending on the different conditions being treated. If you are at a loss for a treatment for either of these conditions, at least if you try Shea you’ll be taking a natural and gentle approach to your skin’s health.
Soothes dry lips
The moisture in Shea butter is claimed to protect the sensitive skin on the lips. It also soothes dry lips and should be applied several times a day. Although Shea butter soap may not offer the same results as a cream, the soap will work well for other regions of the face.
Soothes inflammation of the skin
Shea butter, and therefore soap, contains agents that have anti-inflammatory properties. It has cinnamic and chemopreventive characteristics acid as well. So if you find yourself with aching and tender skin, it’s time to lather up with your bar of Shea butter or follow up with Shea butter cream moisturizer.
Reduces the appearance of stretch marks
Although studies have yet to confirm with any sophistication this claim, there is no shortage of individuals and small companies boasting and bragging about Shea’s ability to reduce and fade the appearance of stretch marks. It may not be such a tall claim, considering how many vitamins and contents with healing properties in Shea. You’ll have to try it for yourself!
Fixes painful heels
If you are on your feet a lot and unlucky enough to be one of the many who are plagued with heels that are cracking from dryness then you may want to try Shea. There are many across the web that swear Shea butter, in various forms, can solve the problem.
Treats nasal congestion
Studies have shown that She butter actually treats nasal congestion—maybe even better than nasal drops. The butter was applied to the inside wall of the nostril. Supposedly you can try the same method at home; but I’d probably wait until it is recommended (or at least demonstrated) by a doctor. If your nostrils are annoyed because of a pollen allergy or sensitivity, you can also substitute Shea butter for the usual petroleum jelly.
Treats dry cuticles
Treating dryness seems to be a repeating theme of the magnificent Shea butter and its lotion and soap products. Cuticles aren’t any different. If you have annoying and dry cuticles, try using Shea soap or a treatment of Shea butter. It’s best to treat your cuticles at night.
Nourishes skin with antioxidants
Shea butter is said to protect the skin from various elements. It contains vitamin A, vitamin E, plant antioxidants and catechins. These are all said to help guard the skin from external threats. The cinnamic acid esters and the fat in Shea are also claimed to keep ultraviolet radiation from hurting the skin or diminish the effects.
Soothe insect bites
Because Shea butter is known for its anti-inflammatory properties it is often used for treating minor injuries, including bites. Many swear by this method and use Shea butter directly on an insect bite to soothe an irritating and itchy bite.
Makes shaving easier
Shea butter is said to be helpful in a few stages of shaving, depending on your shaving preferences. It provides a very moist and oily shave crème, if you prefer to use it during shaving. But keep in mind, Shea doesn’t lather as thickly or with as much foam as traditional shaving cream. If you prefer to save your Shea for after the shave, you can also use it as a lotion to soothe easily irritated skin (Mother Nature Network).
Where and how should I get the soap?
When it comes to any purchase, it’s best to research, shop around and know what you’re looking for. Shopping for Shea soap is no different. If you are ready to give Shea a try, check out these shopping tips first.
Whenever purchasing Shea products, it is important to keep in mind the quality you are looking for and the price you are willing to pay for it. When it comes to soaps, you can probably tell the quality, in some regard, from looking at it. If the soap is black, it means it has not been processed. If it is yellow it may have been processed, though it is possible that some versions of unprocessed Shea soap are yellow. If you want the most benefits of Shea butter this unrefined, natural, high quality version is the grade for you.
Many shops offer Shea butter in many products, but for this pure form, you may want to buy from an international shop (which imports from Africa) or perhaps a fair trade shop that specializes or offers in beauty products. When shopping, I’ll remind you again, natural is probably better. There is more chance of putting chemicals on your skin if you buy a mass-store bought, unrefined version of Shea butter.
You can purchase fair trade soaps online as well. These soaps may more directly help the people making the soaps, than other store bought versions. The soaps, too, will probably benefit the consumer more. They may cost a little more, but the nutritional benefits for your skin will more than make up for it (wiseGEEK).
- Breyer, Melissa, Mother Nature Network, 12 Ways to Use Raw Shea Butter, 2014, online.
- Livecate-Live a Better Life, The Benefits of Shea Butter, online.
- Organic Beauty and Cultural Products, Shea Butter, Black Soap, and more…, online.
- Riggens, Kimberly, Livestrong, What are the Benefits of Raw Shea Butter?, 2014, online.
- wiseGEEK, How Do I choose the Best Shea Butter Soap?, online.
- Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org