The unsung hero of the skincare industry, shea butter is a powerhouse ingredient that deserves a place in your skincare regimen. With multiple skin benefits – from soothing irritation to tackling dryness – it’s a great all-rounder that comes highly recommended by expert dermatologists.
It’s no secret that hydrated skin equals healthy skin, which is why so many of our go-to products contain humectants (to attract moisture) and emollients (to lock moisture in) like hyaluronic acid, squalane and glycerin. One brilliant emollient is shea butter. Perhaps not as exciting as other ‘trending’ ingredients, shea butter is still a skin saviour that delivers on results.
Suitable for all skin types, especially dry, we ask the experts to break down what shea butter is, exactly – and how to incorporate this skincare essential into your daily routine.
What is shea butter?
“Shea butter is a natural fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree,” says Dr Thivi Maruthappu, Consultant Dermatologist and Nutritionist. Rich in vitamins A, E and F, as well as fatty acids and antioxidants, “it has excellent moisturising and healing properties.” Hence why you can find it in so many face and body moisturisers.
What are the benefits of shea butter for skin?
“Shea butter is an occlusive ingredient which helps retain moisture by preventing trans epidermal water loss (the loss of moisture from the upper layers of the skin),” explains Dr Sam Bunting, Dermatologist and Founder of her eponymous skincare line. By preventing moisture from escaping, shea butter ensures skin stays hydrated.
Gives products a buttery texture
“It also bestows a beautiful buttery texture to a formulation,” says Bunting. Just look to the best luxury face creams, like Augustinus Bader’s Rich Cream and Sisley’s Velvet Nourishing Cream, and you’ll find shea butter listed as one of the top ingredients.
Soothes dry skin
“It’s full of antioxidants and fatty acids, which helps soothe a damaged skin barrier and actively helps rebuild it,” says Bunting. As dry skin is one of the most common signs of a damaged barrier, shea butter is especially beneficial for this skin type. “It will soften dry, chapped skin,” confirms Maruthappu.
How to use shea butter
“You can use it neat (100% shea butter) or as an ingredient in skincare products,” says Maruthappu. The experts agree that the latter is the best option as pure shea butter is extremely rich and difficult to rub in.
“It’s best as part of a smartly formulated hydration step,” assures Bunting. “Occlusive ingredients work brilliantly in conjunction with humectants like hyaluronic acid and ceramide-boosting ingredients like niacinamide. This is the winning combination in our best-selling Flawless Moisturiser.”
Can shea butter clog pores?
If you’re worried about shea butter clogging pores – rest assure that this ingredient is non-comedogenic. “There is a lot of anxiety around ingredients which clog pores but in my experience of using shea for more than a decade in practice, I find it incredibly well-tolerated in all skin types including acne-prone skin,” says Bunting.
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Who can use shea butter?
Shea butter is beneficial for all skin types. “It’s amazing for anyone with sensitive skin who is prone to breakouts, especially when starting out using retinoids,” says Bunting. As retinoids can cause irritation, a moisturiser rich in shea butter is the perfect follow-on product in your skincare routine.
Are there any side effects?
Shea butter is generally well-tolerated by all skin types. But as with all skincare ingredients, there’s always a possibility of irritation or redness. If this occurs, stop using shea butter immediately and consult a skin expert for advice.
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