Shea butter is known for its intensively nourishing properties. Here, an aesthetician explains how to use it.
Hinted in its name, shea butter is one of the most nourishing skincare ingredients out there.
But making it is no mean feat – as beauty editor Lucy Partington discovered when she visited Ghana to see how The Body Shop makes its shea butter products. In fact, she discovered that making just 25kg of shea butter can take one person up to three days. It’s hard work, but its multipurpose properties make the effort worth it.
The ingredient has been utilised in West Africa for centuries, thanks to its long list of benefits, covering everything from skincare and hair to cooking and healing.
When it comes to skincare specifically, there’s a certain way you should use it (hint: there’s one area you should actually avoid). So, we’ve enlisted the help of Dija Ayodele, aesthetician, CEO of Westroom Aesthetics and founder of Black Skin Directory, to break down everything you need to know about the wonder ingredient.
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What is shea butter?
“Shea butter is a solid fat substance from the nuts of shea trees from west Africa. It’s very popular as a body moisturiser amongst the west African community.”
What are the skincare benefits of shea butter?
“It’s deeply moisturising and soothing. People use it for a whole host of other benefits, too – it prevents stretch marks and treats cuts, bruises and wounds. It’s also used as a treatment for skin inflammation. like eczema. It naturally has essential fatty acids which are also key for healthy skin.”
Should you use shea butter on your face?
“This isn’t something I would recommend. It’s too heavy and occlusive an ingredient to use solely on your face. There are so many fantastic choices of moisturisers available that have a whole host of enhanced skincare benefits and include ingredients like peptides and ceramides, which also play an important role in skin health.”
How should you use shea butter?
“Shea butter is fine as a body moisturiser, especially after a shower to lock in moisture and deeply hydrate the skin. I wouldn’t advice it on the face for any skin type in its raw form. For dry skin types, if it is included in a moisturiser to provide oil content for example, then that’s fine. “
What skin types should avoid using it?
Best shea butter skincare products, picked by the Stylist team
Kiya Whipped Shea Butter
Shea butter is typically hard and needs to be melted down, however Kiya imports raw, unrefined shea butter directly from Ghana and then whips it for a softer consistency. Alongside the original version, there are four other whips: coconut, citrus, lavender and peppermint. The hardest bit is choosing one.
Kiya Whipped Shea Butter, £7.99 each
Okiki Skincare Mint Foot Balm
This foot balm’s ingredients list is a dream come true for anybody with dry, cracked heels. It contains shea butter, tea tree, moringa, almond oil, which work together to hydrate, soften and treat dry feet. Also, the peppermint and spearmint scent make for the perfect morning pick-me-up before you strap on your sandals.
Liha Gold Shea Butter
Liha sources Nigerian shea butter from co-founder Abi’s dad’s town. The waxy texture is slightly more moisturising than the brand’s original shea butter and has a number of benefits, from hydrating dry areas to being used as a soothing nappy balm.
Neal's Yard Remedies Shea Nut & Rosehip Organic Lip Formula
Thanks to its moisturising properties, shea butter makes for the perfect addition to lip balms. This Neal’s Yard option also contains rosehip oil for extra nourishment.
The Body Shop 100% Natural Shea Butter
This solid block contains just one ingredient: 100% natural shea butter. Offered in its purest form, The Body Shop’s shea butter is handcrafted by Ghanaian women in Ghana. Take inspiration from their generations-old beauty routines and use it on your skin, hair and lips.
L'Occitane Shea Nail & Cuticle Nourishing Oil
Dry, peeling cuticles can be painful but a quick swipe of this oil can help to keep them supple and hydrated. Formulated with 30% shea oil, this nail and cuticle oil will also help to keep nails stronger and less brittle.
Dwira Hemp Superfood Shea Butter
This pure African shea butter (which is also 100% ethically sourced) is infused with hemp and African superfoods moringa and baobab to deliver intensive moisturising properties. It also contains antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E and K, meaning it can be used on scars and very dry patches.
Main image: Brands/designed by Matt Phare