Shea butter is a common ingredient in skincare products and you’ll find it in a lot of the shaving products we stock at The English Shaving Company. Discover what shea butter is, how it’s beneficial and why it’s used in so many skincare products.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a fat that is extracted from the nut of the West African shea tree. At room temperature in its raw form, it’s a soft, ivory-coloured solid that’s easily spreadable. It can be used in this raw form, but is most commonly mixed with other ingredients to form a massive range of different skincare and cosmetic products.
It’s been used in skincare and cosmetics for centuries because of its natural combination of vitamins and fatty acids in a texture that’s perfect for spreading onto the skin, hair or mixing with other ingredients.
Shea butter is made from:
- Triglycerides: the fatty part of the shea nut itself which helps to moisturise and condition your skin.
- Fatty Acids: linoleic, palmitic, stearic and oleic fatty acids help to balance oils on your skin.
- Vitamins A, E and F: antioxidants that promote circulation and skin cell rejuvenation.
- Cetyl esters: the waxy part of the butter which is a highly effective moisturiser.
The makeup of shea butter - including the precise ratio of chemical compounds it contains - does vary according to where the shea tree it comes from is found, but they all contain very similar compounds which mean shea butter has the same set of benefits no matter its origin.
The Benefits of Shea Butter
This is perhaps what shea butter is best known for. It contains a range of different fatty acids including linoleic, palmitic, stearic and oleic fatty acids. When applied to the skin, they are very quickly absorbed and work as ‘refatting’ agents; they restore the lipids in your skin and therefore create moisture.
Not only that, it also creates a barrier between your skin and the air helping to lock in the moisture and minimise drying out.
The combination of linoleic acid and oleic acid mean the oils in shea butter are balanced and don’t feel greasy.
These acids actually help the skin to keep oil levels balanced, reducing the production of excess sebum (your skin’s natural oil). It’s thought that this might help prevent acne which is caused by excess sebum production.
One reason that shea butter is very popular is because of a key difference from most other tree nut butters: it’s low in the proteins that trigger allergic reactions. The proteins that cause an allergic reaction in those with peanut or other nut allergies aren’t present in shea, or exist only in trace amounts.
This means that it’s a fantastic, allergen-free way to keep your skin healthy and is also appropriate for those with sensitive skin or very dry skin.
Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antifungal
Shea butter contains vitamins A and E which are effective antioxidants, protecting your skin from free radicals that cause wrinkles. It’s also been found that shea butter kills spores of the fungi that cause ringworm and athlete’s foot. The plant esters in the shea also trigger a slow down of cytokines which are associated with inflammation.
While shea butter doesn’t have an SPF high enough to function as a replacement for sunscreen, it does have an SPF of 3-4. This means that it provides some protection from UV rays which can harm your skin. Regularly applying shea butter products to your skin will help to keep it protected in the long run from everyday levels of UV light, but you’ll want to stick to the suncream on sunny days!