Shea Butter and Skin

Wrinkles, dry skin, skin disorders…… Shea butter can be indicated in every instance. It has been touted as having great healing properties, great moisturising properties and great anti-aging properties. How much of this is true and how much is hype? Let’s start with some basic facts:

What is Shea Butter?

Shea butter is the oil extracted from the fruit seeds of the Karite tree. The tree is found growing on the open savannahs of central and Western Africa where its fruit seed oil has been used as an emollient for centuries on the African continent. It is also steeped in historical significance. Even as far back as Cleopatra’s time, there is mention of clay jars carrying valuable Shea Butter. Its greatest historical and cultural claim to fame though has been its use to protect and moisturise the skin in the face of a harsh, hot and windy environment.

The benefits: Fact or fiction?

Many companies make wild claims about the effects of Shea butter. The question is:  are these substantiated or used to promote their products? Anecdotally I have observed and received many testimonials pointing to remarkable effects of products containing predominantly unrefined Shea butter:  Relief and cosmetic improvement for major skin disorders such as psoriasis have been common, as well as symptomatic relief of itching, eczema and dry skin. But my own bias towards Shea butter could easily be interpreted as my own sales pitch for products containing Shea Butter!

Let’s look at the facts. A comprehensive book on the properties of Shea butter has been written by W.G Goreja, where much of the available clinical data concerning Shea Butter has been gathered and reviewed to summarise some of its clinical benefits. In it he summarises work done by a French PhD student, who conducted two studies using Shea Butter. The first was performed on thirty volunteers aged between 29 and 82 years where shea butter was used as a skin aging treatment. The second study was performed on 49 volunteers to assess the affects on dry delicate skin.  It was applied as a daily massage for 4 to 8 months. Significant results  were reported in the following aspects:

·         Dull-grayish skin became smoother and clearer

·         Regeneration of thin skin resulting in a healthier texture

·         A reduction of wrinkles of photo-aging skin, and improvement of skin suppleness.

Other studies with significant results  include the demonstration of excellent moisturising properties of Shea butter , assessed by measuring skin conductimetry;  anti-inflammatory affects which have been substantiated in a study of severe nasal congestion; and the demonstration of its properties as an excipient, or vehicle able to release active ingredients. In fact, Shea butter has been shown to have such profoundly beneficial properties, it is questioned whether it may be considered as an active ingredient in its own right. 

Also Shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids. These not only intervene in the inflammatory pathways to provide anti-inflammatory action, but also nourish dry skin with the lipids and natural oils that it may lack.

It is therefore safe to say Shea Butter is indeed Africa’s best kept beauty secret. Not only does it have significant cosmetic and moisturising benefits (photo-aging, wrinkles, stretch marks, dry skin), but it has a strong anti-inflammatory action also which means it is effectively used for a variety of skin disorders to alleviate symptoms that result from inflammation (I’m thinking eczema, psoriasis and other forms of dermatitis).

reNu Organic Skincare balms all contain a large percentage of Shea butter, the dominant ingredient in every case. We use organic grade unrefined Shea Butter. The results have been remarkable for wrinkles, scarring, blemishes, psoriasis, eczema and dry skin conditions.