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What is shea butter?

Shea butter is a by-product of shea nuts that are harvested from the Vitellaria tree. The shea tree means "tree of life", given its many healing properties.


The shea tree (Butyrospermum parkii), or butter tree, is unique to the western region of the African continent, which lies between the sahel climate and the savannasThe shea tree needs these types of climates to develop. 


The fruit of the shea tree is similar to a nut. The interior of this fruit contains a seed from which “butter” is extracted, which is a mixture of oils and fats.

The shea butter harvesting process is arduous. Includes washing and preparation of shea nuts.




Shea butter is composed of a mixture of fatty acids (oleic acid; stearic acid; palmitic acid; linoleic acid) and an unsaponifiable part composed of tocopherols, triterpenes, steroids, and hydrocarbons.

 Given its properties, it is used as an active ingredient in cosmetics:  


  • Rich in cinnamic acid, Shea butter acts as a natural sunscreen, helping to protect skin and hair from UV radiation (Can be used to enhance the effect of other filters); 




  • Because it contains a good amount of tocopherols, Shea butter has antioxidant properties.
  • It protects the skin and hair, preventing dryness, as, like vegetable fats, it is an excellent emollient. 
  • It improves the appearance and consistency of emulsions and provides a velvety touch and a pleasant feeling of emollience to the skin.
  • Adds light to the face and also to the hair and offers more hydration and elasticity. 
  • Reduces the frizz effect on hairnourishing and restructuring even the driest hair. 
  • Protects the ends and adds vitality.
  • There is evidence that in Africa for thousands of years, foods, skin balms, soaps, shampoos, traditional medicines, cooking oils, and lighting have used shea butter. Its use was documented in the 14th century.


What are the benefits of shea butter?

Shea butter has moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging effects for hair and skin.


  • Moisturizer

One study tested, on the forearms of 10 people, a cream that contained 5% shea butter. Participants noticed moisturizing effects up to 8 hours after application.

Another study found that applying shea butter to the skin helps to treat eczema.

Shea butter is very moisturizing for the hair and scalpPeople with curly, dry hair benefit from the use of shea butter as a sealant, to maintain moisture in the hair and increase smoothness.


  • Anti-inflammatory

Another study found that shea butter helps the skin to react less to irritantsThe researchers say that shea butter contains the chemical compound - amirine, which has well-documented anti-inflammatory properties. 


  • Anti-aging

Several studies have found that shea butter helps cell regeneration, minimizes signs of aging, and increases collagen. Many of these benefits, too, are attributed to amirine.


  • Haircare

Shea butter has a lot of potential in the world of hair care. Although shea butter has not been extensively studied or reported in scientific articles, other butter and similar oils have been the subject of studies in animals and humans. 




  • Prevents hair breakage

The role of Synsepalum dulicificum seed oil, a miraculous fruit in preventing hair breakage, has already been investigatedSynsepalum dulicificum, is a fruit native to West Africa that produces oil. It has a high content of fatty acids such as shea butter ), which facilitates its penetration into the hair in the form of oil. This can help with hair breakage.


  • Hair Moisturizer

Filled with vitamins A and E and essential fatty acids, shea butter has emollient and healing properties for the skin. Some of these ingredients and the high fatty acid content of shea butter are believed to help moisturize hair.

This can reduce dryness and prevent split endsFatty acids also help to increase shine, reduce hair frizz, help protect hair from heat damage caused by hair straighteners and blow dryers.


  • Reduces scalp irritation

The anti-inflammatory properties of shea butter help to reduce redness and irritation of the scalp, providing improvements without clogging the pores. It is safe for all types of hair, even on damaged, dry, or colored hair, as it is a natural product.


Other products that have Shea butter

Conditioners and creamscontaining shea butter. The role of conditioners in general hair health includes strengthening hair fibers, lubricating cuticles, and reducing frizz.


Before using shea butter you need to pay attention


  • Thin or oily hair - Shea butter can be heavy and make your hair smoother or oily.
  • Looser hair texture - shea oil in small portions can be more beneficial.
  • Oily hair - if you have oily skin, it is not suitable to use, to avoid putting even more oil on your face, shoulders, and back, leading to skin rashes. 
  • Shea butter can be used as often as you like.



How to store?


  • At room temperature, shea butter melts in your hand and is quickly absorbed by the skin. 
  • Store shea butter at a constant temperature. Exposure to different temperatures can cause the texture to change.
  • Keep shea butter away from heat. 
  • If it is too hot, it will melt and return to liquid form. 
  • On the other hand, at very low temperatures, it will become solid and hard and will be difficult to use.



Catarina Vilela - Nurse