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Shea Butter: the secret to good skin and hair

The sub-Saharan region. That is where they dug out some gold for skin health. Okay, not literally dug it out but that is where you find Shea trees. These trees are known to have served even Cleopatra’s skin. It is said that she always had a jar of Shea butter with her. For those who don’t believe in Mythology, we’ve got some facts for you. Shea butter has been used for ages and all the right reasons. Let’s start with what Shea butter is and how it is made!

What is Shea butter?

Shea butter is an emollient, popularly known for its moisturising properties. The beauty is in the extensive process of extracting this butter. Shea butter is extracted mainly from the seed of the Shea tree. The kernels of the seeds are removed and dried. After this, they are crushed to turn into powder form. Once this is done, the powder is boiled in water. Eventually, the butter starts accumulating and floating on the water. This is then used in various industries. It is used in cooking, skin care, medication for treating wounds, etc. Shea butter is one of the smoothest emollients that can help you address a lot of skin concerns and also prevent many skin concerns. It has a rich dose of Antioxidants and even bio-actives which makes it so potent to heal and nourish your skin. Let’s understand the benefits of Shea butter.

What are the benefits of Shea butter?

The process of making this butter sure looks rich but let’s understand how it serves our skin-

1. Hydration

Shea butter is an emollient that can prevent transepidermal water loss(TEWL). Emollients can trap moisture and plump up the skin. It has Vitamin A, E, and F to heal cracked and dry skin. It also has a high content of Linoleic acid which is known to lock in moisture.

Learn more about Linoleic acid here.

2. Fades acne scars

Shea butter is also known to contribute to cell regeneration. This helps with a particular type of scar called keloid that is usually risen and enlarged scars. To prevent them from growing, Shea butter is known to help in the long run.

3. Plump skin

Shea butter has great anti-ageing properties. How so? It has Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components that contribute to delaying ageing. Let’s not forget that it also traps moisture in your skin to avoid fine lines and wrinkles. Shea butter works great to delay the signs of ageing and this is because it helps you store moisture in your skin cells and make your skin plump.

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How to use Shea butter for your skin and hair?

Given its benefits, Shea butter can be used for multiple concerns. Cracked heels, cracked lips, wounds, frizzy hair, dandruff, dryness, wrinkles, fine lines, etc. Since Shea butter can be used for hair and skin, both, we have listed some of the common uses of Shea butter here-

1. Body butter

Shea butter is great to slather on your body for multiple reasons. It has moisturising properties and is loaded with bio-actives which makes it so nourishing. After a day out, Shea butter fits well in your nighttime body routine. It even works after a beach day. Sun rays can harm your skin but Shea butter can repair your skin which is why it is often used as an after-sun care ingredient.

Sublime recommends Arata Moisturising Body Lotion which has Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Mango Butter, Kokum Butter, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Eucalyptus & Spearmint. If you have dry skin then this one is your best friend. It absorbs quickly to leave you with plump skin.

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2. Hair butter/mask

Shea butter can strengthen your hair follicles by nourishing the scalp. It also helps in giving structure to your hair so that you have smoother and stronger hair. A hair mask containing Shea butter can bring dandruff control while a hair butter containing Shea butter can help you manage frizz.

Sublime recommends Flawsome Kinky Berries Moisturizing & Strengthening Hair Mask. If you have stressed, weak, dry, frizzy hair then this is it. A perfect blend of super berries to inject a good amount of Antioxidants into your scalp, Keratin, Shea butter to moisturise, Coconut, Jojoba oil to ensure that none of the natural moisture is stripped off.

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3. Lip mask

Lip has thin skin hence it is easy to lose moisture in this area. An emollient like Shea butter can condition your lips to retain moisture and hence achieve those pouty lips. Lip masks containing Shea butter can be used as an overnight treatment to heal your lips. 

Sublime recommends Alanna Chocolate Lip ButterMask. No, it is not edible but it does smell delicious. It has Shea butter and Coconut oil to give your lips a good moisture treatment. This small jar in your wallet can save you at any time of the day!

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How do you differentiate between refined and pure Shea butter?

Shea butter can be refined and the first way to distinguish between refined and pure Shea butter is by looking at the colour. If it is yellow then it is pure and if it is white then it is refined.

Once you refine Shea butter, it can lose up to 75% of its bioactives. Bioactives are what make Shea butter so beneficial. So pure Shea butter definitely should be your first choice.

You can distinguish pure and refined Shea butter even by its smell. If it has a nutty aroma then it is pure Shea butter. If the smell is not evident then it might have been refined.

Shea butter can also turn rancid due to bacterial, fungal, and algal growth and that smells just gross, so you will know it has turned bad.

Who can use Shea butter?

You might want to pay attention to this part. Shea butter is comedogenic so it is not recommended to be used by all. If you have oil or acne-acne prone skin then you can skip Shea butter. You must also avoid using Shea butter for your hair if you have an oily scalp. While Shea butter is known to potentially have anti-bacterial properties, it is recommended to patch test before use. An alternate way to use Shea butter for your hair is to opt for a hair mask that has Shea butter in it.

If your skin is extremely dry then you can use it like body butter. We’d caution you if you want to use Shea butter on your face since it is comedogenic. You can probably try another method which is that you massage your body with Shea butter and then after 10 minutes of massage, wash your body with a shower gel.

Shea butter can work excellent for those with cracked heels or chapped lips as an overnight treatment since it has healing power.


Shea butter is true ‘Mother Nature’s Moisturiser’ and its benefits come from the deposits of bioactives and Antioxidants in them. It makes sense that Shea butter is an age-old remedy to heal, moisturise, and protect your skin. It does not suit all since it is comedogenic and hence one must patch test before using it. If anything confuses you, it is best to go to a dermatologist to get clarity.

- Divya Salvi

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