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What is shea butter?

  • Shea butter is a common ingredient in many cosmetics and skincare products.
  • Cleopatra enjoyed the benefits of shea butter to protect her hair and skin from the sun.
  • What are the origins and the associated benefits of this ingredient?
What is shea butter?

Where does shea butter come from?

Extracted from the nut of the African Shea Tree (Vitellaria paradoxa), shea butter is an off white coloured fat – a triglyceride to be precise. Often used in beauty products, cosmetic lotions as a moisturiser, a balm or emollient, it’s derived from stearic acid and oleic acid.

What’s in a name?

The name Shea comes from Mali’s Bambara word for the tree “s’i”. Another well-known name for shea butter is the French word ‘Karité’ which originally comes from the Senegalese ‘Wolof’ language. It’s also referred to as ‘ori’ in West Africa.

A historic product

The benefits of shea butter have been known for centuries. Even Cleopatra enjoyed the benefits of shea butter to protect her hair and skin from the sun, and arid desert winds. She apparently had terracotta urns transported using it as a beauty product. In fact, some of Egypt’s kings’ funeral coffins were made from Shea trees.

Almost like chocolate….

Did you know shea butter is edible? It’s used for cooking in Africa, and even crops up in the chocolate production – sometimes used in lieu of cocoa butter, but not quite as tasty!

What else can I use shea butter for?

In addition to soap, shea butter is used in lip-gloss, moisturisers, creams, lotions, hair conditioners and shampoo. It’s also used for waterproofing wax and candle making or for medicinal use as in Nigeria where it’s used to treat sinusitis and blocked noses. Because it’s edible it can also be used in soups, and broths or as cooking oil as is done in Benin.

Can shea butter help for dry skin?

Shea butter can be used on its own as an emollient, and is recommended for dry skin sufferers as it helps relieve tightness and itching. Said to hold anti-inflammatory properties, this ingredient melts at body temperature and absorbs quickly.

The La Roche-Posay Lipikar Range is specifically formulated for dry and very dry eczema-prone skin. It’s soothing formulas, containing lipid replenishing Shea Butter, help to relieve itching and dryness of sensitive, atopy-prone skin.