It used to be that everyone with dry skin would just reach for lotion. But these days, a wide array of moisturizing products are available. The three most common types in the market are body lotion, body oil, and body butter. Each of the three is ideal for a different skin type and has different benefits.
Body lotion is the sheerest of the three and may be the best option for those who have normal or oily skin. Body oil, depending on the formulation, may closely resemble the natural oils in the skin but they can cause breakouts, especially in those with already oily skin. And lastly, body butters have the thickest formulation and are the best at locking in moisture. Even the name itself connotes richness and creaminess. They’re especially good for those with extra dry skin, plus they contain hydrating fatty acids.
There are a number of different types of butter but one of the most popular and beneficial to skin is shea butter.
What Is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a fat that’s extracted from the nut of the shea tree, which is native to Africa. It comes in solid form and is off-white or ivory in color when it’s warm. Shea butter has been used in cosmetics for hundreds of years, with some believing it was even used during Cleopatra’s time. But the earliest evidence of shea butter production dates back to about the 14th century.
Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter
Some might use confuse shea butter with another popular body butter, cocoa butter. They’re both used in many beauty products but they do have some differences. First is their origin: While shea butter comes from the shea tree, cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa bean. Because of this, those with nut allergies might experience a reaction if they use shea butter (although allergic reactions to it are extremely rare). Second is their scent: Cocoa butter has a distinctive, delicious smell (it’s used to make chocolate, after all!), while good-quality shea butter has a subtly earthy, nutty smell. And third, cocoa butter can be greasier, clogging pores and causing breakouts; shea butter, on the other hand, is noncomedogenic.
It all boils down to your skin type and preference. Those with oilier skin might find shea butter more beneficial.
Shea Butter Uses
Some of the shea butter benefits and uses are:
It can hydrate dry skin. Not for nothing is it used as an ingredient in moisturizers. According the American Shea Butter Institute, this body butter comes pretty close to the oils produced by our bodies.
It can protect your skin in more ways than one. Shea butter is loaded with Vitamin A and E as well as antioxidants, which may protect the skin from sun damage, inflammation, and even signs of aging.
According to a study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, the caffeic acid in shea butter may reduce the effects of UV radiation. Another study, published in the Journal of Olea Science found that shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties, which may make it an effective treatment for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Shea butter may help with the production of collagen, the protein that makes skin smooth and bouncy. Thus, it may help to minimize the appearance of wrinkles. While further research needs to be done, shea butter looks to be a promising anti-aging ingredient.
There are also firm believers in using shea butter for stretch marks, there have been no conclusive studies as of yet. Still, keeping your skin moisturized can help prevent stretch marks from forming.
It can moisturize your lips. The vitamins in shea butter help moisturize dry and chapped lips. It’s thus a popular ingredient in lip balm.
It can give you a good hair day. Aside from being an ingredient in lip moisturizers, shea butter is also present in many haircare products. Some people use shea butter for curly hair, use shea butter for hair growth, or make shea butter hair masks.
More evidence is needed from studies, but shea butter moisturizers can help bring life to dry, damaged hair. Its anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce any scalp irritation.
It may help clear nasal congestion. Those with seasonal allergies can try shea butter as a potential treatment. A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that shea butter might be a more effective treatment for nasal congestion than nasal drops. Try applying 2 to 4 grams of shea butter to the interior of your nostril; the study showed that it could clear airways within a minute and half, and kept airways clear for up to 8 hours.
Convinced to give it a try? Just remember that when shopping for shea butter, go for an unrefined version from a trusted source—the more refined it is, the less you’ll reap the benefits of this beauty product.