What Is Shea Butter and How Can It Benefit Your Skin?

What Is Shea Butter and How Can It Benefit Your Skin?

Want to protect your skin and the planet? Shea butter is your champion. But what exactly is shea butter? And what makes it such an incredible ingredient?

Shea butter is a much-loved ingredient here at KiteNest. You’ll find it in plenty of our products, from our luxurious lip balms, to our scrumptious body butters and our shampoo bars that will leave your locks squeaky-clean and silky-smooth. 

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is a natural fat that’s extracted from the nuts of shea trees, native to Eastern and Western tropical Africa. Once the kernel of the nut is removed, what remains of the nut is ground up into a powder, then boiled in water. The butter slowly rises to the surface of the water and solidifies. And there we have it — shea butter. Because of its high concentration of fatty acids and vitamins, it’s a brilliant, super-nourishing natural moisturiser. 

Raw vs refined shea butter

You can purchase shea butter in either a raw or refined form. The extraction of refined shea butter involves high levels of heat and sometimes chemicals, such as hexane. This exposure to higher temperatures can cause the shea to lose many of its skin-nourishing benefits. The yellowish colour is also removed, meaning refined shea butter is ivory-white. 

A lot of people prefer refined shea butter because of its ivory appearance, and because it no longer has its natural-earthy fragrance, which not everyone is a fan of. It’s also much smoother and creamier than raw shea butter, which has a thick and chunky sort of texture. However, compared to raw shea butter, refined shea butter lacks nourishing ingredients, such as vitamin A and vitamin E. Refined shea feels lovely on the skin and is still very moisturising, but it doesn’t offer you the same healing benefits that raw shea does, due to this loss of vitamins.





How shea butter benefits your skin 

So we’ve talked briefly about how nourishing and moisturising shea butter is for the skin, but here are the juicier details:


  • It’s safe for all skin types:  Whilst shea butter is technically a tree-nut product, it’s actually very low in the proteins which trigger allergic reactions. It doesn’t contain any nasty chemical irritants that cause dryness in the skin,  and it’s non-comedogenic (aka, it won’t clog up your pores). Even the most sensitive types can reap the rewards of shea butter.

  • It won’t leave you with that oily shine: Shea butter contains high levels of linoleic acid and oleic acid, which balance one another out and allow for easy absorption into the skin. As such, you have no need to fear slippery, wet-looking skin after application. 

  • Potentially collagen boosting: Shea butter is packed with triterpenes,  naturally occurring chemical compounds that are thought to fight against collagen fiber destruction (collagen is a fibrous, supportive protein — aka, the good stuff that keeps our skin young and bouncy). As such, it is speculated that shea butter might have the power to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, whilst also giving our skin a good plumping.

  • Possible acne-prevention: Acne can be caused by a number of different things, from hormones, a damaged skin barrier, stress, diet, and poor-hygiene (to list just a few). It can be really uncomfortable and painful, and a complete nightmare to get rid of. For some people, shea butter works wonders on their acne. This is because shea butter is rich in a number of different fatty acids, which can help to clear the skin’s sebum (aka excess oil). Simultaneously, shea butter also works to restore moisture to your skin, helping to keep your skin barrier (the outermost layer of your skin) nice and healthy. 

  • Silky-smooth hair: Shea butter isn’t just gorgeously nourishing and moisturising for the skin. It also works a treat on your hair (hence we include it in our wonderful shampoo bars). 

  • Sooth and fade stretch marks and scarring: Stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of — practically everyone has them. In fact, just like freckles and other “imperfections”, your tiger stripes are pretty beautiful. However, if you’d rather they weren’t there, shea butter is your best friend. Shea butter is thought to stop keloid fibroblasts (scar tissue) from reproducing and instead encourages healthy cell growth. This may help your skin to heal, reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scarring. 

    Shea butter — a sustainable beauty champion

    At KiteNest, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, so we wouldn’t be promoting shea butter and using it in our products if it wasn’t a sustainable beauty champion. The shea tree grows naturally in Africa’s grassland without the need for any irrigation, fertilizer or pesticides. Shea nuts are harvested by hand and the butter is hand produced. The nuts are not over-harvested because the local people carefully control their resources. And for these reasons, shea butter is one of the most sustainable natural resources in the world. 


    Other natural butters —  how do they compare?

    Of course, shea butter isn’t the only natural butter out there. In terms of their natural composition, both mango butter and cocoa butter are fairly similar to shea butter. They each contain vitamins A and E, oleic acid, palmitic acid, linoleic acid, and stearic acid, all of which are highly beneficial for the skin and hair. 


    However, in terms of sustainability, shea butter is your safest bet. Mango butter and cocoa butter can be sourced from sustainable producers (they’re a lovely bunch). But, when trying to shop sustainably, you have to be mindful of where these products have come from. A lot of mangoes are grown with the use of damaging pesticides, and as demand for cocoa rockets, some farmers are sadly beginning to shift towards unsustainable practices, such as clearing forests in order to grow more produce. That's why it's so important to make sure you're using companies that use sustainable sources.


    However, the key ingredient to watch out for in cosmetics (and everything else, frankly) is palm oil. Over time, western society has become over reliant on palm oil. It’s in everything, from food to makeup and beauty products. It’s often included in skincare for its moisturising properties, but these benefits come at a huge cost. The palm oil industry is responsible for colossal losses to biodiversity. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, at least 50% of all deforestation on the island of Borneo was related to palm oil development. 


    When it comes to sustainable beauty and pampering, shea butter is a true winner, 

    providing you with soft skin, silky hair, less acne, and fewer wrinkles, all without destroying our world’s natural environments. We’re pretty sure that you’re now head over heels for shea butter, which leaves us with only one last thing to say: welcome to the club.