Shea butter is one of the most popular natural substances used for skin care. This, thick, creamy substance is extracted from the nut of the Shea tree, giving it its name. Like traditional butter, it is soft and smooth and will melt easily when it comes in contact with heat.
Unlike regular butter, it contains a number of substances that give it extraordinary healing properties. It has long been incorporated into natural beauty treatments for its ability to soften and smooth the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Musicians have used it to soften leather straps, wood and the skins of drums.
But this amazing substance goes far beyond the merely cosmetic and can also be used for medicinal purposes, providing relief for everything from poison ivy to psoriasis. For this reason, homeopaths recommend including Shea butter in every medicine cabinet as well as on your vanity table.
How exactly does Shea butter help?
The benefits of Shea butter are numerous and stem from the various vitamins and other substances that it contains. As with most butters, there are a number of fatty acids and plant sterols found in the butter. These substances prevent the butter from breaking down into a soap, thereby allowing the body to benefit from its healing properties for a longer period of time.
That healing comes from a combination of antioxidants and the potent anti-inflammatory cinnamic acid. Also found in cinnamon and balsam trees, cinnamic acid gives Shea butter the ability to reduce inflammation and has also been shown to have some effect on tumor development. Vitamins A and E as well as catechins all provide antioxidant properties, helping to rid the body of built up toxins and reducing skin damage from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Can it treat any common skin ailments?
Aside from battling the common signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles and helping to prevent sun damage, Shea butter can also be used to treat a number of conditions including eczema, dermatitis, skin allergies, sunburn, frostbite and psoriasis. It can also be used to reduce the appearance of stretch marks from pregnancy, to sooth itching and flaking and to ease the effects of severely dry skin.
What makes it such an effective healing agent is its ability to work as a natural moisturizer. In fact, the natural moisturizers in Shea butter are the same as those produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin, so it is the closest thing you can find to the body’s own moisturizing process. That being said, not all Shea butter is created equal so it is important that you know exactly what to look for in a product.
You want to make sure that you are using only premium quality Shea butter in order to get the maximum healing properties. Fortunately, the American Shea Butter Institute has come to the aid of consumers by grading various Shea butters on the market. Grades range from Class A to Class F, and only Class A is suitable for medicinal purposes.
The lower classes can still be used for cosmetic reasons and as natural moisturizers but they do not have the healing properties of Class A Shea Butter. In any case, you should always look for the seal of approval from the American Shea Butter Institute to ensure that you are getting the best quality Shea butter.
How does it compare to traditional treatments?
Because it is a natural source of moisture, Shea butter can provide the skin with soothing and healing results without throwing off the balance of moisture. Most common moisturizers can actually serve to dry out the skin even more by exposing it to harsh chemicals, thereby negating any positive effect they claim to have.
Pure premium Class A Shea butter provides nothing but natural healing and your skin will feel the difference, so you should never settle for anything less.