Shea Butter is a popular cosmetic ingredient that can be found in many makeup, skin, hair, and nail treatments. Although it has only exploded in popularity over the past few years, shea butter and products made with shea butter have been used for centuries as a food source, cooking oil, and skin product in Africa. Shea butter comes from the Shea Tree. Other common names for the Shea Tree are Shea Butter Tree, African Butter Tree, Shea Nut Tree, or Shea-Karite Tree. The scientific/INCI name for shea butter is Butyrospermum parkii, which you may see on drugstore labels.
The Shea Tree can be found in regions of eastern and western Africa, and is cultivated there to use and export to other countries such as the United States. Shea butter is extracted from the nut with water, and goes through a purification process before it reaches cosmetics. Manufacturers can purchase shea butter in different forms. Natural and unrefined shea butter has a yellowish color that varies depending on the batch. It has a pleasant nutty aroma, and is used in many skin care products. Also available are refined and ultra refined shea butter. This butter has gone through a refining process to remove the nutty aroma and also make the shea a pure white color instead of yellow.
All of the varieties have the same benefits, but can be used in different applications. Sometimes, the yellow color is not desired, and sometimes the aroma, though pleasant, does not work well with scented products. In addition, shea butter can also be purchased in a blend with other butters. A 50/50 blend of shea butter and mango butter is very popular, although shea can be blended with virtually any butter that is good for the skin.
Although pure shea butter is solid at room temperature, it has a low melt point and melts on skin contact. This makes shea butter excellent for skin use and for use in lotions, shampoos, and the like. Shea butter can assist many skin ailments, and has many other uses, such as soap making and extreme moisturizing. First and foremost, shea butter is an excellent emollient. Shea’s ability to completely moisturize the skin is amazing. Many healthcare professionals even use shea butter in their daily routine to moisturize their hands from frequent washing.
Shea can moisturize any skin type, and is also hypoallergenic. As a matter of fact, it can assist with symptoms of eczema, psoriasis, sunburn, cracked and flaky skin, dermatitis, and other chronic dryness. Shea butter has extremely soothing and healing properties when used on the skin, and is also great for diaper rash, dry heels and elbows, razor burn from shaving, and is even used to help prevent scarring and stretch marks! Many pregnant women regularly rub shea butter into their stomachs to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, and it can also help reduce the appearance of existing stretch marks. And though shea butter is an oil, it can even assist with acne and improve skin tone and evens color if used in moderation.
In addition to skin treatment, shea butter is also an excellent moisturizer for the hair. Many people use a shea butter treatment in their hair once a week for healthy and moisturized hair, and it also reduces split ends and frizz. To use at home, simply melt one half to one ounce of shea butter in the microwave until it is warm, but not hot. Gently massage shea butter into scalp and hair with fingertips until covered. Wrap head and hair with a towel to hold in heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Some also like to run a hair dryer over the towel to give a little extra heat treatment. When the time is up, wash and rinse oil residue from hair and style as usual. Regular use of this technique will produce great results.
With the many benefits of shea butter, it is no wonder that is has caught on so fast in America. More and more products are using shea for it’s wonderful benefits, and for the fact that is high in oleic acid, vitamin E, vitamin A, unsaponifiables (the butter retains its benefits rather than losing them in the soap making process), and others. Pure shea butter, of course, has the biggest concentration of beneficial properties, but other over the counter products that contain shea butter are also wonderful. They can offer a lot in the way of skin care, as long as a good percentage of shea butter is used. When buying products made with shea butter, the closer to the top of the ingredient list it is, the more shea butter the product has. A product that lists shea butter as its last ingredient probably doesn’t have enough shea to get the full benefit, so look for it higher on the list. Once you find a product that has the quantity of shea you would like, use it regularly and results will come in a short time. Like many say with shea butter, once you try it, you won’t go back!
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