Shea butter has been a go-to in many beauty regimens—especially when it comes to pregnancy and mitigating stretch marks. That’s because besides being super moisturizing, while also providing many other noteworthy benefits.
“Shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea tree, which is native to Central Africa,” says Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, author of the best-selling book Collagen Diet and host of The Dr. Axe Show. “The outer shells of the nuts are removed. Then they’re crushed and slowly roasted into butter. Finally, the butter is commonly kneaded by hand in a basin of water to separate the fatty acids. These fatty acids, or oils, are removed from the butter, cooled, and hardened to make what we know to be shea butter.”
Shea butter is perfectly safe to use for most skin types, adds Dr. Sonia Batra, MD, co-host of daytime show The Doctors, and it has been used in cosmetics for centuries due to vitamins and fatty acids that hydrate and calm the skin.
The Benefits of Shea Butter
1. Shea butter moisturizes skin and hair
If you have dry, dull skin, shea butter may become your new best friend. “Shea butter works as a skin-conditioning agent,” Dr. Axe says. “It helps retain moisture by forming a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, which reduces the loss of water and keeps your skin hydrated.”
Some experts say that shea butter is even better for your skin than coconut oil (yes, really). Joshua Ross, celebrity aesthetician of SkinLab, recommends opting for facial oils or other natural products made with seed-derived oil, such as shea butter. Oils from the flesh of a fruit, such as coconut oil, can be very occlusive (or clogging). “The skin is always going to respond better to seed oils because they mimic the oils naturally found in the skin,” he says.
Shea butter moisturizes hair, too. By conditioning the scalp, it can also reduce dandruff, and it can make hair stronger and help prevent future breakage.
2. Shea butter is good for sensitive skin
If you have sensitive skin, consider ditching the fancy lotions and potions—which may be making your skin even more irritated—and reach for shea butter instead. “When you have skin irritation, natural ingredients that are proven effective are always best, making shea butter a very reliable choice,” Ross says.
3. Shea butter is soothing
Thanks to the fact that it contains both vitamins E and A, shea butter is also beneficial in treating irritated skin, sensitive or not. Dr. Axe recommends using it to soothe windburn, dry patches, sunburn, abrasions, and even diaper rashes on babies (also due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties). You can also apply to scars to minimize their appearance.
4. Shea butter eases inflammation
If you struggle with chronic skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis, the fatty acids in shea butter will help ease inflammation. “Shea butter slows the production of inflammatory cells that contribute to irritation and skin conditions,” Dr. Axe says.
5. Shea butter makes you look younger
The vitamin A and E in shea butter can do more than soothe skin. They can also make you appear more youthful, and who doesn’t want that? “Shea butter also helps promote cell regeneration, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Batra says.