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People who praise shea butter haven't just fallen victim to another skin care hype — shea butter truly has numerous benefits. Here are 13 good reasons to try shea butter.

Jojoba oil, coconut butter, avocado oil, black seed oil, bees wax, neem oil, cocoa butter, argan oil, lanolin, almond oil... With so many different natural butters and oils — all of which have their own distinct benefits — to choose from, it can be really quite challenging to decide what to put on your skin.

What are the specific advantages of shea butter? Who should choose it, and how do you use it?

What Is Shea Butter?

Shea butter, a fat that comes from the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa), is a very rich butter that melts at skin temperature. Depending on how refined it is, shea butter may be beige, yellow, cream, or white in color [1]. Unrefined shea butter, processed in a traditional way without harmful chemicals, is considered the most beneficial. This kind of shea butter is either beige or yellow.

Shea butter is rich in fatty acids like linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid [2], as well as tocopherols — a potent group of antioxidants better known simply as "vitamin E" [3].

For anyone who often wonders how safe the stuff we put on our skin really is, it's also interesting to hear that shea butter can actually be eaten, and people in parts of Africa have been doing just that [4] for a very long time — as well as using shea butter to care for their skin and for medicinal properties.

Who Should Use Shea Butter, And How?

Shea butter can be found in all sorts of products, ranging from body butter to soap, and from lip balm to facial moisturizers. You can use shea butter on its own, or in combination with other ingredients. 

Being an excellent emollient, meaning a substance that softens the skin, prevents the loss of moisture, and covers the skin with a protective layer [5], shea butter is primarily very suitable for people who suffer from dry skin. That means you'll love shea butter if you've recently suffered a sunburn and have peeling skin, if you want something rich to replenish your skin with after shaving, or if you're being exposed to harsh winter weather. [6]

Dry skin is an important feature of eczema too, and everyone with atopic dermatitis knows that the use of emollients is one of the main ways to manage the condition. Research shows that shea butter is more effective at reducing the severity of eczema — by relieving redness, irritation, and rough skin — than petroleum jelly (Vaseline) [7]. While further research is needed, and people suffering from eczema will still need to follow their doctor's instructions by using medications such as Zyrtec, replacing your current emollient with shea butter will likely serve you extremely well. 

Shea butter has proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties [4], and this makes this awesome moisturizer a top choice for people who are hoping to look younger for longer. Many people who have been using shea butter for a while swear that it helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Its anti-aging properties no doubt play a large role in shea butter's rise to popularity, but it's excellent for pregnant women who are hoping to prevent stretch marks for the same reason.

What's more, people across Africa have successfully used shea butter to heal small cuts and wounds [8]. Shea butter is used as a component in many creams used by tattooists for the same reason. Lip balms with shea butter will do a pretty great job at managing (chronically) dry lips. As someone who has suffered from really dry, chapped lips since childhood, I've been pretty grateful for the butter. 

So far, so good — but not so surprising! Of course a rich emollient with antioxidants would treat dry skin, help in the fight against visible aging, and encourage healthy wound healing, no? Shea butter does exactly what it says on the proverbial tin, but so will many other, likewise beloved, skin care ingredients. 

You may, however, be surprised to hear that shea butter is good for more than just your skin! The butter was traditionally used for a variety of medicinal purposes [8]:

  • Shea butter's anti-inflammatory properties may make it a useful tool for people who suffer from inflammatory conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and even asthma. While further research is necessary to determine just how much shea butter can do in this realm, studies have indeed found that shea butter works as an anti-inflammatory agent. [9]
  • Shea butter may be able to rid you of itching (pruritus), whether because you are suffering from eczema or for other reasons, such as contact with Poison Ivy. [10]
  • Shea butter may relieve sore and tired muscles. [11]

The Bottom Line

Are you a "skin care junkie", and especially one with dry skin, eczema, or sensitive lips? Don't miss out on shea butter! You'll find accompanied by other oils and butters in numerous commercial cosmetics, but true fanatics will advise you to try unrefined shea butter on its own. It will help your skin remain or become silky smooth, and it might even help you deal with inflammatory conditions or sore muscles. 

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