Imagine a miracle cream that can relieve dryness, minimize stretch marks, soothe rashes, revitalize hair, and even reduce skin inflammation. Now imagine that this beauty salve is widely available and costs less than a pound of coffee. That’s shea butter in a nutshell, a creamy salve harvested from the seeds of the African Shea tree. It’s versatile, extremely moisturizing, and completely natural—in other words your skin’s new BFF. Allure magazine declared it, “The granddaddy of all beauty ingredients.” Here’s what you need to know.
What is shea butter?
Shea butter, rich in vitamins A, E and F, has been slathered on for centuries for its anti-aging properties. It’s also used therapeutically to heal abrasions; alleviate sunburn and rashes; soothe insect bites; and relieve muscle fatigue and arthritis. Its medicinal chops can be attributed to several fatty acids and plant sterols such as oleic, palmitic, stearic and linolenic acids as well as an abundance of bioactive substances. A study published in the Journal of Oleo Science found that shea butter constitute a significant source of anti-inflammatory compounds.
Best kind to buy
Opt for unrefined shea butter, which means it has been extracted manually and leaves the fat’s copious benefits intact. Chemical extraction techniques can compromise the effectiveness of ingredients, cause quicker oxidation, and leave residual chemicals.
Six surefire ways shea butter does a body good
1. Soothes sunburn
Stayed out too long in the sun, and now have a blistering back? Due to its anti-inflammatory quality, shea butter can be an effective sunburn treatment. Apply to raw or peeling skin and let it work its magic.
2. Softens cracked heels
Summertime brings with it the joys of flip flops and bare feet along with its related nemesis, cracked heels. The constant exposure to air, coupled with the pounding of your heels on the ground, dries out the skin and leads to calluses and cracks. Intensely moisturizing, shea butter rises to the challenge of excessive dryness. Try this: At night, apply on a layer of shea butter to your heels, and then cover up with socks as you sleep to seal in the moisture.
3. Fights the frizz
Shea butter is not just a boon for skin, it’s great for revitalizing damaged hair. In African culture, shea butter is commonly used to tame frizz, reduce breakage and soften the hair cuticle. Try shea butter as a conditioner or as a leave-in treatment for soft, manageable tresses.
4. Pampers your pucker
Shea butter is chock-a-block full of vitamins A and E, both of which soothe and moisturize chapped lips. Shea butter can be directly applied to dry lips—or try making your own lip balm by blending shea butter with an essential oil of your choice.
5. Calms diaper rash
Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory compounds make it a no-brainer for rashes of any kind, especially diaper rash. It tones down red, reactive skin and does not contain any additives that could irritate baby’s sensitive bottom.
6. Reduces scars
Scars are basically damaged skin in desperate need of collagen. The Vitamin A in shea butter can boost collagen levels and help minimize scarring. For stubborn scars, try applying shea butter to the skin two to three times a day. Or get in there early: Shea butter can also be applied to wounds to help prevent a scar from forming.