The Wonders of Shea Butter
Natural Shea butter (butyrosperum parkii) is a white or ivory coloured solid fatty oil which is extracted from the pit of a fruit the Karite nut, it grows on the Magnifolia tree in Central and Western Africa. The pits are taken from the fruit, boiled, and then sun dried for 3 – 5 days before they are roasted to complete dehydration. Afterwards, the shea butter is extracted by hand from the pit of the fruit.
Shea butter is a triglyceride (fat) derived mainly from stearic acid and oleic acid.
Shea butter has many health benefits particularly for the skin and hair and is widely used in the cosmetics industry for skin and hair related products such as lip balm, salve, skin moisturiser, and hair conditioners for dry and brittle hair.
Shea butter melts at body temperature absorbing rapidly into the skin and can be used in a variety of cosmetics and medical formulas in combination with other natural ingredients.
Shea butter’s skin care and healing properties were first harnessed thousands of years ago, and can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, accounts dating back as early as Cleopatra’s Egypt speak of clay jars of valuable shea butter for cosmetic use.
Moisturising and protection for the skin and lips
Shea butter is an excellent natural moisturiser which is devoid of chemicals, it is easily absorbed and provides extra moisture and nutrients that are needed during cold season and dry weather, and it penetrates the skin easily without clogging the pores. Because of its physical properties it acts as a perfect moisturiser and lip balm to protect you from cold and dry weather and is effective for treating dry and chapped lips.
Non-saponifiable matter and vitamin F in this butter are vital ingredients for maintaining skin-elasticity. Application of shea butter will help restore the elasticity of the skin and helps maintain an even skin-tone besides hydrating, softening and beautifying it.
Shea Butter is known to be one of the best anti-ageing and moisturising agents for skin. The vitamins A and E found in this butter keep the skin supple, nourished and radiant and prevent premature wrinkles and facial lines, stimulating the production of collagen.
Moisturising and protection for the hair
The presence of vitamins A and E makes shea butter an excellent moisturiser not only for the skin but for the hair too and can be used as a natural conditioner. It is highly effective in locking in moisture without leaving the hair greasy or heavy. Shea butter has widely used in curly hair treatments because of its emollient qualities. So many modern day treatments like straightening, perms, curlers etc are responsible for stripping off the hairs natural moisture, Shea butter can help restore this lost moisture.
Shea butter is also effective in soothing a dry itchy scalp or dandruff. It possesses anti-inflammatory qualities and is absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy residue or clogging the pores. Being rich in vitamins A and E, it soothes dryness, repairs breakage and mends split ends. This makes it very effective in providing relief for such complaints as dry scalp, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.
Shea butter provides protection to the hair against the harmful free radicals in the air and water and harsh weather conditions. Shea butter has low amount of SPF which is sufficient enough to protect the hair from sun damage caused due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation and can help repair damage that has already been caused by harsh weather and sun. This is mainly due to the fact that once absorbed, Shea butter coats the hair shaft so that it is protected from a heat tool such as straighteners or any other damaging material being passed over the hair. This is particularly beneficial for processed or coloured hair. It also protects the hair against salt and chlorine when applied before swimming.
Shea butter is well known for its healing properties, this is due to it being made up of several fatty acids and plant sterols which include oleic, palmitic, stearic and linolenic acids. Raw unrefined shea butter can help with skin complaints such as rashes, dry and peeling skin after tanning, scars, stretch marks, frost bites, burns, athletes foot, insect bites and stings.
Antioxidant and Sun Protection Qualities
Shea butter contains plant antioxidants such as vitamins A and E, as well as catechins. The vitamins A and E help protect the cells from free radicals and environmental damage. The cinnamic acid esters contained in Shea fat helps prevent skin damage from ultraviolet radiation, acting as a natural sunscreen it has a limited capacity to absorb the suns harmful rays, the level of protection offered may be variable.
Shea butter is used as skin care for winter and after-sun care in the summer, it provides extra moisture, nutrients and protection needed by your skin during the cold season and summer months.
In Ghana, Shea butter is commonly applied as a lotion to protect the skin during the dry Harmattan season.
Shea butter has its uses other than in the cosmetics industry, it can be used as cooking oil, for candle-making, as a waterproofing wax, and also as an ingredient in medicinal ointments.
It is said to have anti-inflammatory, emollient and humectant properties. In Nigeria, Shea butter is used to help sinusitis and relief of nasal congestion. It is also massaged into joints and other parts of the body where pain is experienced.
In Africa, Shea butter is also used by makers of traditional percussion instruments to increase the durability of wood such as dried calabash gourd, carved djembe shells, and leather tuning straps.
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