Shea butter is an African super ingredient that can help you achieve smooth, glowing skin this season. As a popular natural ingredient used in the cosmetics industry, many top brands, including The Body Shop and French cosmetics company L’occitane, use shea butter as a primary ingredient in many of their products.
Although it is a highly sought-after natural ingredient in many cosmetic formulas, it also makes a fantastic single-ingredient skin moisturizer. That is, it can be used on its own without adding additional cosmetic ingredients. In fact, raw shea butter has been used for centuries as a skin moisturizer in many parts of Africa. Shea butter is not only good for your skin, but it’s also versatile and great for your hair.
What are the benefits of African shea butter and how is it made?
Shea butter is a vegetable fat extracted from the seeds of the nuts of the shea tree which grows mainly in West and East Africa. The nuts are dried, crushed, roasted, milled, kneaded by hand and boiled to extract the butter.
Shea butter is packed with many skin-beneficial nutrients. It is rich in essential fatty acids such as oleic, palmetic, linoleic, arachidic, triglycerides, cetyl esters and vitamins A, E and F.
For example, vitamins A and E have been shown to boost antioxidant activity that protects the skin from free radicals that can lead to premature aging and dull skin, while essential fatty acids help balance skin oils and to reduce inflammation.
For people with dry skin, shea butter is an excellent natural remedy. The emollient properties of shea butter help retain moisture in the skin, while soothing and softening dry, chapped and flaky skin.
Tips for Choosing African Shea Butter
There are two types of shea butter on the market. Raw and refined shea butter. Unrefined shea butter is a type that has not undergone any modification. The butter is extracted naturally by traditional extraction methods and retains all of its nutritional and medicinal properties. It is usually ivory, tan, or cream in color, with a nutty or smoky scent.
Refined shea butter, on the other hand, has been chemically altered to remove the butter’s natural flavor, is white in color, and has lost most of its medicinal and nutritional properties. If you want to get the most nutritional benefits from shea butter, unrefined shea butter is your best bet!
How to Use African Shea Butter
As mentioned above, raw, unrefined shea butter can be used on its own as a one-ingredient moisturizer. It is also often mixed with other natural ingredients such as coconut oil, argan oil, almond oil and/or essential oils. Remove a small amount from the pan and rub it into the skin or dry, scaly areas.
Shea butter generally melts at body temperature and is easily absorbed by the skin. It is also usually whipped into a decadent fluffy body butter, puffed or melted into a balm. Making your own homemade body butter is always easy, fun and invigorating! Below is a simple recipe for raw, unrefined shea body butter that you can easily make in the comfort of your own home. The recipe is great for winter skin care and can be used as a body or hand moisturizer.
A Simple Homemade Shea Body Butter Recipe
Note: This recipe is taken from the book Botanical Soaps: A Modern Guide to Making Your Own Soaps, Shampoos and Other Basic Beauty Supplies by Marta Tarallo (2021). The recipe formula uses essential oils, which can be irritating to some. Therefore, it is highly recommended to do a patch test before adding them to your mix. Additionally, always source your high-quality essential oils from reputable manufacturers and follow their instructions for use.
- 15 g raw unrefined shea butter
- 15g virgin coconut oil
- Optional: ½ teaspoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch (to reduce greasinesss)
- 1 drop vitamin E and 2-3 drops essential oil of your choice.
- Weigh the shea butter and melt it slowly in a bain-marie.
- When melted and not too hot, add the coconut oil.
- Let the mixture cool and set in the fridge (usually takes about 30 minutes in the fridge or 15 minutes in the freezer). The mixture should not be solid, but semi-solid.
- When semi-solid removed from refrigerator. You can add optional ingredients at this time. Half a teaspoon of arrowroot powder will make the body butter less greasy. You can also add 2 to 3 drops of essential oils according to your desires.
- When all the ingredients are combined, whisk everything together until smooth and frothy. It should take about 5-10 minutes to achieve a light, fluffy and smooth creamy consistency.
When you reach your desired consistency, transfer it to a clean jar and voila!
Safety advice: This body butter does not contain water and therefore a preservative (Vitamin E) is not necessary, but is recommended as it helps to slow down the oxidation process and preserves the integrity of the body butter. There are other places where you can find great shea butter recipes. You can find shared books and lectures at your local library or browse the BrambleBerry website.
Have you ever used shea butter as a moisturizer and did it improve your skin’s texture and shine?