The Benefits are Amazing – You Are Going to Love It!
The benefits of having shea butter in lotion are just amazing! But by itself, it can be a little difficult to work with.
The consistency of pure shea butter is like working with a stick of butter right out of the refrigerator, you have to shave curls of it from the jar or cake, and then mix it with a little warm water or some other medium until the warmth of your own hands melts it enough to spread.
For those of you who are looking to reap the benefits without as much effort, shea butter in lotion is a better choice. For those of you willing to go through the effort, I can tell you it feels like velvet when you are spreading it over warm moist skin, truly delightful!
What is so special about shea butter? Why would you want to look for it on the label before buying your next lotion or cream? Glad you asked!
The Research Is Clear – It’s Butter Worth Spreading
Being a nurse who likes to look for evidence-based, scientifically proven research, I did a little digging to look into the benefits of shea butter and I found several studies. A couple of articles stated that it can actually be used in cooking, similar to vegetable oil, and it can be found in some chocolates and other confections as a cocoa butter substitute. However, you and I mostly know this rich butter for its use in skin care products.
There are other plant oils that serve more than one purpose such as sunflower oil, coconut oil and avocado oil – they, too, can be used for both cooking and applying to the skin. I will be doing another post on oils and their benefits as well.
So let’s get down to the facts, why is shea butter in lotion such a valuable ingredient?
Shea butter contains Vitamins A and E, fatty acids, phenolic components, and several other compounds that explain its amazing healing properties.
In a nutshell, shea butter:
- reduces inflammation
- acts as an antioxidant
- improves the skin barrier (holds in moisture)
- softens scars
- minimizes wrinkles
- aids in preventing stretch marks
- helps with blemishes
- combats muscle fatigue
- boosts collagen production (promoting anti-aging properties)
- …and has anti-tumor promoting agents
Wow, wow, wow, that is quite a list!! All I knew was how I liked the way my skin felt – it is oh, so soft – I had no idea shea butter provided so many other outstanding contributions to skin care. Yep, you can be sure I will be including this is my regular skin care regimen from now on.
Let’s look at one of those many benefits listed above a little closer.
I have affiliate links on this website. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.
Soothe Your Skin and Fight Free Radicals
Shea butter has been proven to contain potent anti-inflammatory properties. What does that mean for you? Inflammation causes redness, swelling, warmth, pain, even itching. Can shea butter cure all of those conditions? Maybe not, but because it can reduce inflammation, it can calm and quiet irritated skin. I can tell you from first-hand experience, pure shea butter that has been softened and massaged into the skin is truly a soothing experience.
There is another item on that list worth delving into – shea butter acts as an antioxidant. We have all heard that antioxidants are beneficial, but do you truly understand what that means?
I like the explanation on healthline.com by Atli Arnarson, PhD. He has an interesting article (if you are into scientific stuff) that goes into detail about how our bodies work. Basically, he explains that all of our cells are made up of molecules that constantly change structure to produce what we need to maintain the body. Sometimes when certain molecules change structure, they may lose an electron they need to remain stable, then the unstable molecule may collide with other molecules and cause them to become damaged. These unstable molecules are called free radicals.
Antioxidants provide the missing electrons that these molecules need to bring things back into balance and reduce the damage. Shea butter acts as an antioxidant to reduce the damage from free radicals. Ok, enough science. If you decide you want to buy raw shea butter for its many wonderful healing attributes, what else would be helpful to know?
Different Types – East vs West, Refined vs Unrefined
Shea butter is made from the pit of the fruit of the shea tree (also known as karite tree) which is native to Africa. There are different types of shea trees, the less common East African variety is known as the Shea Nilotica and is actually a subspecies of the karite tree. The nut from this tree produces shea butter with a light, creamy, almost silky texture, a low melting point, and a mild scent. It is said to be higher in oleic acid (which is said to help with moisturizing and absorption) than its Western cousin, and it is usually more expensive because it is not as readily available.
The West African variety is known as Vitellaria Paradoxa (V. Paradoxa). This is the more common of the two types, the butter is usually darker, more solid, takes more effort to melt and spread on the skin, and has a stronger scent.
Most research on the properties found and the benefits of shea butter has been done using this species since it is much more prevalent. It is also most likely the type found in lotions that contain shea butter.
No matter which one you choose, Shea Nilotica (East) or V. Paradoxa (West), the colors will vary based on the different climates where the trees were grown, the time of the harvest, and extraction methods. So don’t be surprised if one batch is a different color than a previous one you have purchased.
East or West, which is better? It is a matter of preference, really. If you are a die-hard shea butter fan, you can certainly experiment by trying both varieties. I have only used the West African V. Paradoxa type. To be honest, the scent if very “earthy”, some people do not like it, so they opt for refined shea butter or the Eastern variety. I have purchased refined shea butter, but I’m not sure I would buy it again.
When shea butter is refined, it goes through a process using chemicals to break open the seeds, remove the fat, and speed along the process of getting to the final product. Unfortunately, that means many of the wonderful benefits mentioned above are probably stripped out of the product, too (think white bread vs. wheat bread). No, thanks. I’ll stick to the raw, unrefined version. I am tempted to try the East African Nilotica shea butter, but I’ve got a large jar of the West African variety that I know will last a very long time, and it was less expensive…maybe next time!
Now It’s Up to You…
Whether you choose to try raw shea butter for an intense moisturizing experience, or opt to look for shea butter in lotion for an “easy spread”, you will not be disappointed in the luxurious feel of this amazing butter. Give it a try!