Shea Butter is by far my favourite moisturizing ingredient. Yep, I have a favourite moisturizing ingredient. I’m weird like that. But this stuff is a godsend. The skin of my body is very dry (I guess all those hot baths and showers aren’t helping, but they’re so divine, especially on cold winter nights), and only body creams chock-full of shea butter seem to keep it soft and smooth for hours on end. How does it do that?
Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer
Derived from the fruit of the shea tree, shea butter is rich in hydrating fatty acids, including oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and linolenic acid, making it an excellent moisturizer. Shea butter works by creating a protective barrier on the skin that slows down water loss. According to a study conducted by AAK, it does this even better than mineral oil, one of the most moisturizing ingredients available on the market today.
It’s true that this company makes and sells shea butter, and there are no independent studies confirming their findings yet, but judging from my personal experience, I think they may be right. Before discovering shea butter, I used creams with mineral oil and, while they kept my skin soft and hydrated for hours, I find shea butter makes it that little bit softer and its effects are more longlasting too.
According to another study, the moisturizing effect of a 5% shea butter cream peak “after one hour and persist for 8 hours.” In my experience, it can last even longer. Plus, shea butter is also an emollient, meaning it gives skin a smooth appearance. And who doesn’t want that?
Shea butter may have antiaging properties
A clinical study conducted by F. Renard as part of his doctoral thesis suggests that shea butter may also have anti-aging properties. 30 volunteers, aged 29 to 82, applied shea butter daily on their skin for 4 to 8 months. The results? Skin looked smoother and clearer, and wrinkles from photoaging “are visibly diminished in half the volunteers”.
In addition, shea butter helped regenerate thinning skin, which, according to Renard may be attributed to the presence of unsaponifiables known to boost collagen production. Of course, because very few people took part in this study, the results need to be confirmed by further research. Until then, I wouldn’t rely only on shea butter to keep premature aging at bay.
Products with shea butter
You can purchase, and use, pure shea butter, but I’m not a big fan of it. The reason? Pure shea butter is greasy and grainy and, while it is an excellent moisturizer, it is not that pleasant to use. Luckily, there are lots of products that contain a high amount of shea butter, and are formulated so as to be smooth and not leave a greasy residue behind. One of my favourites is The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter. It’s super moisturizing! And if coconut isn’t your thing, the body butter is available in lots of flavours, such as strawberry, japanese cherry blossom, and even shea butter itself.
These days, though, I much prefer Haus Of Gloi Pumpking Butters simply because of their complex and original scents. Deprivity, for instance, is infused with a decadent ambery woody scent with nutmeg and clove accents and an hint of coconut, while Honey Tree with a sweet honey and vanilla fragrance with smokey and woody whiffs. For the lips, I love I Provenzali Stick Labbra al Karitè. It keeps them soft for hours.
The bottom line
Shea Butter is a staple in my skincare routine. It’s an effective moisturizer that’s particularly suitable for dry and sensitive skin for its ability to keep it soft, smooth and moisturized for hours on end without irritating it. And it may have anti-aging properties too! Ok, these aren’t fully proven yet, but shea butter is so wonderful that you should be using it anyway. And if it turns out it really helps with wrinkles, well, that would just be a bonus!