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July 20, 2021 2 min read

Shea butter is fat that’s extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It’s solid at warm temperatures and has an off-white or ivory color. Shea trees are native to West Africa, and most shea butter still comes from that region.

Shea butter has been used as a cosmetic ingredient for centuries. Its high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids — combined with its easy-to-spread consistency — make it a great product for smoothing, soothing, and conditioning your skin

Science

Shea butter contains UV-B absorbing triterpene esters, such as cinnamic acid and tocopherols. In addition to these, it also has a high percentage of phytosterols, triterpenes, and hydrocarbons such as karitene. It also contains:

  • Fatty Acids: Shea butter contains five principal fatty acids namely palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic acids, with a higher proportion of stearic and oleic acids that together accounts for 85-90% of fatty acids. Stearic acid provides a solid consistency, whereas oleic acid influences the hardness or softness of the shea butter.
  • Phenolics: Phenolic compounds are known for their antioxidant properties. Shea butter contains 10 phenolic compounds, 8 of which are catechins. Traditionally extracted shea butter has higher phenolic levels than that extracted with hexane. In fact, the catechin content of shea butter is higher than the total phenolic content of ripe olives. The overall concentration and relative percentage of the shea kernels vary from region to region, depending on the level of environmental stress endured by the trees (3).
  • Vitamin E: Tocopherol is otherwise known as vitamin E. Different versions of this are found in shea butter, but their concentrations fluctuate depending on climate and some other factors like the butter extraction method (4).
  • Vitamin A And Vitamin F: These are also found in shea butter naturally. They can aid in the treatment of skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and even slow down premature aging (5).

Shea butter is considered as a superfood for the skin as it is rich in unsaturated fats, with a large proportion of non-saponifiable components, essential fatty acids, vitamins E and D, phytosterols, provitamin A, and allantoin. It has been used since time immemorial for skin care, baby care, and consumption. Given below are its various shea butter benefits for the skin.

History

The shea tree has naturally inhabited West Africa for centuries, stretching from Ghana to Senegal to Sudan and up to the foothills of Ethiopia. African history documents mention jars of a rich butter used for skin and hair care being transported during Cleopatra’s reign.

The tree was used to make coffins for the early kings in Africa, and the butter extracted from the nuts was used for its healing and skin care properties. The tree is also considered sacred by many tribes in Africa. It is still extensively used in Africa to protect the skin and hair from the harsh sun and dry winds.

Provenance

Shea is cultivated for its medicinal benefits.

Did You Know

A single stem of the Wild Rose can produce up to 400 blossoms.


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