5 Skin-Boosting Benefits Of African Shea Butter
If Mary Poppins wasn’t so obsessed with cough syrup, she’d probably have a tub of shea butter in her magic carpet bag instead. It’s just that versatile.
Shea butter is the fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree. When it’s raw, it has a yellow color and when it’s refined, it usually has an ivory or white color. The body butter is mainly used in the cosmetic industry for your skin, hair and lips, but in some African countries, it’s used as a cooking oil or as the base for medicinal ointments. Shea butter, because of its cinnamic acid, comes with a wealth of anti-inflammatory properties. Here are five ways African shea butter can improve your skincare regimen and give you a ton of health benefits in the process.
1. Moisturizes Dry Skin
When it comes to shea butter benefits, there are five grades. There’s grade A (raw or unrefined), grade B (refined), grade C (highly refined and extracted with solvents), grade D (the lowest uncontaminated kind) and grade E (with contaminants).
Naturally, grade A unrefined shea butter offers the maximum benefits (and West African shea butter is the most popular variety over East African). Since shea butter has a rich fatty acid content, it’s great for moisturizing your skin until it’s smooth and soft. It melts when it reaches body temperature, and its creamy nature takes away the tightness and discomfort that comes with dry skin. You can also cover your body with shea butter after a long day at the beach in order to replenish your skin hydration levels.
2. Provides Anti-Aging Benefits
Both the environment and genetics play a role in how quickly we age, but we can control some external factors. Shea butter can help prevent premature aging, thanks to its high antioxidant content and phytosterols (compounds that help reduce bad cholesterol) that nourish your skin. Full of vitamins A and E, the rich body butter can help fight free radicals that stem from a variety of environmental factors.
Vitamin A can also help to boost collagen production, which we produce less of as we get older. Diminishing amounts of collagen can lead to unwanted wrinkles, sagging skin and weakened joints.
3. Softens Under-Eye Wrinkles
The vitamin E, A and F in pure shea butter can help reduce eye wrinkles and facial lines. You won’t have to spend a fortune on expensive beauty products with a container of raw unrefined shea butter on hand. The vitamins and fatty acids help to nourish your skin while keeping it healthy. Depending on your particular skin condition, you might see your facial lines smooth out within a couple of days.
4. Hydrates Lips
You can make your own nourishing lip balm with shea butter. Here’s a recipe that calls for coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax (you can find beeswax anywhere from Walmart to Whole Foods). You can also add any essential oils you have on hand. The vitamin F in shea butter helps protect your lips from cold, dry weather, keeping it hydrated and elastic and free of cracking and chapping.
On that note, you can also use shea butter as a gentle all-over body butter when you need a moisturizing boost from head to toe. Use it for dry knees, stretch marks and everything in between.
5. Soothes Insect Bites
For relief from itchy insect bites, shea butter is a naturally soothing ingredient. The anti-inflammatory properties of the thick body butter help dissipate the stinging pain and general discomfort that comes with a bug bite. So if you’re ever in the woods camping or hanging out on a particularly muggy day, keep a little container of shea butter handy. It may not be as strong as chemical-based repellents, but it’s safer and easier on your skin.
You can find African shea butter at health food stores, natural skincare stores or online for less than $15 per jar.
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