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We're fans of many different superfoods, but shea butter is by far one of our favorites.
It's important to note that shea butter is best used externally, as some studies suggest it could interfere with digesting certain proteins if consumed. Eating shea butter isn't unheard of, but we prefer to stick to the topical benefits - there are many!
Shea Butter Origins: Cleopatra's Best Beauty Secrets
That's right - Cleopatra, the infamous queen of Egypt, helped popularize this near-magical seed butter. The West African cultures utilize the shea tree for its health benefits - regarding it with reverence - and it's easy to see why.
Solid at room temperature (because of the stearic acid), this nourishing moisturizer comes in quite a few forms and has a subtle nutty aroma.
From West Africa outward, shea was used and traded because of the plentiful ways people found to use it, including lotions, moisturizing creams, balms, and even medicines in some cases. It eventually reached Europe in these forms and spread from there.
Shea butter comes from the shea tree, which grows primarily in the dry savannah. After the seed is collected, it is ground and boiled to extract the oil. The raw shea butter that comes from the oil has many crucial nutrients that deliver the health benefits we're after.
The Magic Inside
It might be obvious to some, but shea butter has a high-fat content. One of the types of fatty acids it contains is linoleic acid.
Linoleic acid bolsters hair growth. It helps retain moisture in the hair, making shea butter an emollient. It also floods the scalp with nutrients, improving overall scalp and root health. Those nutrients are delivered rapidly, aided by oleic acid, another fatty acid in shea butter.
The fatty acids also help deliver vitamins to the skin and hair, including Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Vitamin A helps cells reproduce (prompting hair growth) and helps protect the hair by stimulating sebum production (the hair shaft's natural protection).
Vitamin E reduces oxidative stress (being an antioxidant and fighting off free radicals and skin stress in the scalp). That naturally helps maintain the growth and health of hair. It's helpful to note here that nutrients and vitamins are more bioavailable with fatty acids delivering them. So, shea butter contains everything we need to reap the full superfood benefits!
Benefits of Shea Butter
The sheer number of benefits found using shea butter rivals nearly any other natural product.
This treasure may even offer a bit of UV protection. Sunlight protection isn't our first thought when we look to shea butter, but every little bit helps!
Shea butter also offers the nutrients we need to produce more collagen. More collagen means healthier (less wrinkled) skin, hair, nails, bones, tendons, muscles, and more. Collagen production slows down as we age, so anything that can help boost production naturally is a huge bonus, especially when considering the topical application for our hair!
The cinnamic acid in shea butter can help reduce skin inflammation and skin mutations, which are often caused by damage from UV rays. We don't often consider our scalps when we talk about skincare, but we should! And thanks to shea butter, that maintenance should be a tad easier.
Shea helps avoid stretch marks. While it's not likely many of us will have stretch marks on our scalps, restoring and averting damaged skin in multiple ways is a pretty exciting quality of the ingredient.
For the same reasons, shea butter works well on scars! Some people use shea butter and red light to repair scar tissue, with impressive results. Plenty of us have scars on our heads, and this ingredient may help restore the skin where scar tissue has taken over.
To summarize, here are some of the benefits of using clean, quality shea butter!
- You get a boost in hair growth
- Hair hydration and deep conditioning (even more so than with coconut oil)
- Increased shine
- Help with skin conditions (such as eczema, dandruff, and dryness.)
- Potential sun protection (sometimes used in sunscreen)
- Reducing hair breakage and split ends
- Boosts collagen production
- Improved skin health and overall scalp health
But with all the praise we have for shea butter, we need to look into the potential drawbacks to make sure we're reaping the benefits without anything unwanted sneaking in and messing with our health. Sourcing matters, of course.
A Few Potential Drawbacks
First things first: Quality matters. You need to pay attention to where your shea butter comes from, or else toxins could come right along with it. For example, non-organic and bleached shea butter can contain harmful chemicals. They're bad for you and the planet, so we strongly recommend finding a clean, sustainable source. To cover our bases, here are a few things to look out for when in the market for shea butter.
Low-quality shea butter offers far fewer benefits. It contains less cinnamic acid and may be processed with toxins working against our desired benefits.
Although it's rare to have an allergy to shea butter, it does come from a nut. So it's still best to do your research to ensure you don't have an (admittedly rare) allergy.
Storage can also be an issue. If you keep your house on the warm side, unrefined shea butter should be kept in the fridge. Ideally, keep it around room temperature - not so cold it becomes hard, and not so warm it melts down.
If you use unrefined shea butter for DIY projects, watch out for a few little pieces of the ground-up seed. Less processing means small pieces may sneak through. If small flecks of seed would cause problems for you, consider melting and sifting the butter before use.
Our Shea (Clean and Powerful)
We source our shea carefully. All our ingredients go through a strict vetting process, and this is no exception! We source our shea butter sustainably and ethically, using only the cleanest, purest version we can find!
We refuse to risk our families' health or yours. Our hair care products aren't just free from toxins and chemicals; they're full of natural, effective ingredients that support your health and leave your hair even stronger than they found it! We don't cut corners in our sourcing or formulating because we know the health of our families matters more than anything.
We're excited about the benefits shea butter offers, especially for thick and curly hair, and we know you're just steps away from seeing the results for yourself.
Your locks deserve some love, and shea butter is just one of the many amazing ingredients we use to give you the healthy, happy hair you deserve! Say goodbye to dry hair, irritation, and frizz, and say hello to glorious natural hair. Check out our collection to upgrade your routine today!
Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(1), 70. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19010070
Wells, K. (2020, January 03). 21 Shea Butter Benefits and Uses: Wellness Mama. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from https://wellnessmama.com/27324/shea-butter-benefits/