Shea butter is a byproduct of shea nuts that are harvested from the Vitellaria paradoxa tree in West Africa.Shea butter is produced through an arduous process of harvesting, washing, and preparing the shea nuts from which oil is then extracted.The shea tree is also known as the “karite tree” (which means “tree of life”) because of its many healing properties.There is evidence that food, skin balms, soaps, shampoos, traditional medicines, cooking, and lamp oils have been made with shea butter in Africa for thousands of years. Its use has been documented as far back as the 14th century.
One study tested a cream that contained 5 percent shea butter on the forearms of 10 people. The participants noted that they could feel the moisturizing effects of the cream for up to 8 hours after it was applied. Another study found applying shea butter to the skin can help treat eczema. Shea butter is also very moisturizing for the hair and scalp. People with curly and coarse hair textures benefit from using shea butter as a sealant to keep moisture in their hair and increase softness.
Another study found that shea butter helps your skin react less to irritants. Researchers believe this is because shea butter contains the chemical compound amyrin, which has well-documented anti-inflammatory properties.
Shea butter also has a lot of potential in the hair care world. While shea butter hasn’t been extensively studied or reported on in scientific journals, related butter and oils have been researched with animal and human subjects.Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory properties might also help reduce redness and scalp irritation by providing healing effects without clogging the pores. Additionally, as a natural product, it’s safe to use on all types of hair, even hair that’s damaged, dry, or color-treated. Raw shea butter isn’t the only hair care solution available. Certain over-the-counter hair care products (especially conditioners) also contain shea butter. The role of conditioners in overall hair health includes strengthening hair fibers, lubricating cuticles, and reducing frizz.