Shea butter is a superfood, but not one we eat. It's a superfood for skin and hair.
Truth be told, in some areas of the world, it is eaten. However, studies suggest it might not be the healthiest food since it could interfere with digesting certain proteins. Using it externally, however, produces more than enough benefits to be thrilled with.
And people from every era, ancient Egypt to the modern-day world around us, have been and continue to be thrilled.
Shea Butter Origins: Cleopatra's Best Beauty Secrets
Yep. The Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, helped popularize this magical seed butter. The West African cultures utilize the shea tree for its health benefits (regarding it almost mystically), and it's easy to see why.
Solid at room temperature (because of the stearic acid), this exciting 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 created to use it. Lotions, moisturizing creams, salves, even medicines in some cases, and more. It eventually reached Europe in these forms, and so on.
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 coming from this 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 in it is linoleic acid.
Linoleic acid bolsters hair growth. It helps retain moisture in the hair, making shea butter emollient. And it makes the scalp healthier, flooding it with more nutrients. And with the oleic acid in it, those nutrients are delivered more quickly.
There are vitamins (which the fatty acids help deliver) as well. Vitamins A and E are in shea butter. Vitamin A helps cells reproduce (hair growth), and it helps protect the hair by stimulating sebum production (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. Remember, it's more bioavailable with fatty acids delivering it. So, shea butter has everything we need to reap the full benefits of the vitamin.
Benefits of Shea Butter
The sheer number of benefits found with the use of shea butter rivals nearly any other natural product.
This treasure might even give a bit of UV protection. Although it's not our first thought when we look to use it in our hair (but it helps!).
Besides shielding us from overexposure to the sun, it offers the nutrients we need to produce more collagen. More collagen means healthier (less wrinkled) skin, hair, nails, bones, tendons, muscles, and more. That's important, especially as we age because we produce less and less with time. So, anything that can help boost collagen production naturally is a huge bonus. Especially when considering the topical application for our precious manes.
The cinnamic acid in shea butter can help reduce skin inflammation and skin mutations (and we're putting this on our scalp). Any time we can avoid mutations on our heads, we should. Thanks to shea butter, that should be a tad easier.
Shea helps avoid stretch marks. Not that we have stretch marks on our scalps, but restoring and averting damaged skin in multiple ways is a pretty exciting quality of the ingredient.
That also means it works well on scars! You could use shea butter and red light in combination to aid in repairing any scar tissue. Plenty of us have scars on our heads, and this may help restore the skin where scar tissue has taken over. That again has to do with collagen production and studies done on photobiomodulation (red light).
To summarize some of the benefits when you use good quality shea butter...
- you get a boost in hair growth
- hair hydration and conditioning (even more so than with coconut oil)
- helping with skin conditions (such as eczema, dandruff, dryness, etc.)
- sun protection (sometimes in sunscreen)
- reducing breakage and split ends
- a boost in collagen production
- better skincare and scalp health (from great anti-inflammatory properties)
- and plenty more
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.
Drawbacks (the Less Magical Possibilities)
The quality matters. You need to pay attention to where your shea butter comes from, or else toxins could come right along with it. To cover our bases, here are a few things to look out for when getting shea butter.
Low-quality shea butter is less generous with benefits. It contains less cinnamic acid and could be processed with toxins working against the benefits we love from shea.
Although pure shea butter comes from a nut, it is rare to have an allergy to it. You'd still want to do your research because you could be in that rare group who develop an allergy to it, although it seems unlikely.
Storage can also be an issue. If you keep your house hot, unrefined shea butter might need to be kept in the fridge.
If you do use unrefined shea butter for DIY projects, make sure to watch out for a few little pieces of the ground-up seed. Sometimes they sneak in there, and it would be wise to maybe heat and sift through the butter after you get it.
Non-organic and bleached shea butter can contain harmful chemicals. They're bad for you and the planet, and it's worth getting cleanly sourced shea.
Our Shea (Clean and Powerful)
We source our shea carefully. It is high quality and not containing any chemical toxins. It's safe to use (and should be used).
We wouldn't want to risk your health or the health of your kids. Along with our conditioners being non-toxic, they are filled with powerful natural ingredients adjacent to the shea butter, delivering truly good for you nutrients. We don't cut corners in our sourcing because the health of our families matters more than anything.
We're excited about the magical effects of shea butter on thick and curly hair, and we know that you're just steps away from reaping them for yourself.
Your locks deserve love, and shea butter is just one of the many amazing pieces in our hair care products that work to bolster them.
Treat yourself to some of the most luxurious and healthy hair care you can. Wave goodbye to dry hair, dry skin, a dry scalp, frizz, and wave hello to glorious natural hair. Check out our collection to find the exact right fit for your special strands.
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/