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Shawna Answers The Internet's Burning Questions: SHEA BUTTER

In this series, I focus on a specific ingredient or process that I use, plug it into the Google machine to find the most popular questions the internet has about them, and then answer those questions! Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds, and it’s definitely informative!

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nuts of the Shea tree (or Vitellaria paradoxa, if ya nasty), which is native to West Africa. It’s been widely used in cosmetics, skincare, and hair care products, as well as in food preparations in some African countries. It has a rich content of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, which means it’s a highly nourishing and moisturizing ingredient for your skin and hair. 

Here are a few key takeaways about shea butter:

  • Composition: Shea butter contains a high concentration of vitamins A and E, as well as essential fatty acids such as oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid. This composition contributes to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

  • Skin Benefits: It is known for its moisturizing effects, helping to hydrate and soothe dry skin. Shea butter can also help to protect the skin's natural oils, promote skin healing, and reduce inflammation, making it beneficial for conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

  • Healing Properties: The anti-inflammatory properties of shea butter make it useful in healing wounds, reducing scars, and treating skin irritations. It also offers some protection against the sun's UV rays due to its cinnamic acid content, though it should not be relied upon as a sole sunscreen.

  • Versatility: Shea butter is versatile and can be found in a variety of products, including lotions, creams, lip balms, soaps, and hair conditioners. Its rich texture and moisturizing properties make it a popular choice for DIY beauty recipes as well.

  • Sustainability and Economic Impact: The production of shea butter is important for the economy of several West African countries. Sometimes referred to as Women’s Gold, it is often produced by women's cooperatives, providing an essential source of income for them and their communities. Sustainable sourcing practices are important to ensure that the production of shea butter continues to support local economies without harming the environment.

Given its nourishing properties, shea butter is a key ingredient in natural beauty and health products, celebrated for its ability to soothe, moisturize, and revitalize the skin and hair.

Is shea butter comedogenic?

You might have to be a skin care expert to know that “comedogenic” means an ingredient is likely to clog your pores. But you don’t have to be a skin care expert to know that clogged pores are something we’d all like to avoid.

Shea butter is considered to be low in comedogenicity, meaning it has a low likelihood of clogging pores. On a comedogenic scale that typically ranges from 0 to 5, where 0 means will not clog pores and 5 means highly likely to clog pores, shea butter is often rated as a 0 to 2. This makes it suitable for many skin types, including those prone to acne. 

The reason shea butter is favorable for such a wide range of skin types is due to its unique composition. It's rich in fatty acids and vitamins that are known to condition and soothe the skin, promoting a healthy skin barrier without leaving a heavy or greasy residue that could lead to blocked pores.

However, individual skin reactions can vary, and what works well for one person may not work for another. It's always a good idea to patch test a new product containing shea butter before applying it to larger areas of the skin.

Does shea butter clog pores?

Well internet, I think I answered this question above, so let me take a moment to feature a few of my products that will NOT clog your pores.

body whips + glow butter

My organic body whips come in 9 different varieties, and they each contain shea butter as a principal ingredient. My personal favorites are vanilla vetiver and pink grapefruit + blue tansy. I use them as a daily moisturizer over my body and face, massaging a palm full into my skin while still slightly damp after a shower. It’s as easy as that!

Is shea butter good for your face?

It is, in fact. That’s why shea butter is a central ingredient in our face butter. It’s good for your face. Your neck. Your legs. Your butt. Shea butter is good for any place you’ve got skin. But okay, okay, usually folks are drawn to shea butter for one of the reasons below:

  • It’s Moisturizing: Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer for the face, especially for dry skin types. It helps to hydrate the skin deeply due to its rich fatty acid and vitamin content.

  • It’s Anti-inflammatory: It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce redness and swelling on the skin, making it beneficial for conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema.

  • It Helps with Skin Healing: Shea butter can aid in the skin's natural healing process, helping with the reduction of scars, skin irritations, and minor wounds due to its rich content of nutrients and antioxidants.

  • It’s Anti-aging: The vitamins A and E found in shea butter help protect the skin from oxidative stress that can lead to premature aging. Regular use may improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, and promote a youthful appearance.

  • Soothing: It can soothe the skin, providing relief from sunburn, windburn, or other environmental factors due to its moisturizing and healing properties.

Is shea butter good for your hair?

Yes, shea butter is also highly beneficial for hair care, thanks to its rich content of vitamins and fatty acids. For that reason, it’s the main ingredient in our beard balm but shea butter also offers many advantages for the hair on your head, as well as your scalp: 

  • Moisturizing: Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer for hair, helping to prevent dryness and breakage by sealing in moisture without weighing hair down. It's particularly beneficial for curly, coarse, or dry hair types that require extra hydration.

  • Conditioning: It provides deep conditioning to hair strands, improving softness and manageability. This makes it easier to detangle hair and reduces frizz.

  • Scalp Health: Shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe scalp irritation and dandruff. Its fatty acids help to nourish the scalp, promoting a healthy environment for hair growth.

  • Protective: It can protect hair from environmental damage caused by wind, sun, and pollution due to its emollient properties. Shea butter also offers some UV protection, although it should not replace conventional sunscreen.

  • Strengthens Hair: The vitamins and minerals in shea butter can help strengthen hair strands, reducing breakage and promoting healthier hair growth.

  • Seals Moisture: It is effective in sealing moisture into the hair, which is especially beneficial in preventing dryness for those with natural, curly, or kinky hair types.

  • Improves Hair Elasticity: Regular use of shea butter can improve hair elasticity, reducing the risk of breakage during styling or combing.

  • Versatility: Shea butter can be used in various ways for hair care, including as a conditioner, a scalp treatment, a hair mask, or a styling aid to tame frizz and add shine.

While shea butter offers lots of benefits for hair care, it's important to use it appropriately to avoid buildup, especially on finer hair types. A small amount goes a long way, and it should be applied primarily to the mid-lengths and ends of the hair rather than the scalp, unless treating specific scalp conditions. As with any new hair care product, it's advisable to start with a small amount to see how your hair responds before incorporating it more fully into your routine.

Shawna Bruch is a chartered herbalist and aromatherapist in Paris, Ontario. She makes Slow Beauty products wildcrafted from natural botanicals.

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