The great caravan made its way through the desert, kicking up puffs of ocher sand. The camels advanced with their precious load directed to Alexandria in Egypt, the city with its two ports, the library that contained all the knowledge of the time and of past centuries and its lighthouse, more than 130 meters high and capable to tower over every other building in the city. The jars rattled when they bumped into each other but the journey had to go on. When the caravan finally reached its destination, the palace staff hurried like a line of many industrious little ants to bring its precious cargo to the safety of the rooms of the queen, Cleopatra. The vases contained a real treasure… of beauty. In fact, they were full of shea butter that the sovereign used to use regularly in her daily routine. What we have reported is not the fruit of the imagination but is based on historical documents of the time that testify to large orders of shea butter, which left directly from Cleopatra's palace, and large caravans loaded with this precious butter with Alexandria as their final destination. And we too will take inspiration from this beauty secret of the charming queen. Today we're going to look at how to use shea butter as a cosmetic, but first, let's see what the science says about it!
Shea butter as a cosmetic, what science says
Shea butter is extracted from the nut of the fruit of the Vitellaria paradoxa tree, or Butyrospermum parkii. Shea butter contains, for about 90%, fatty acids such as stearic, oleic and, to a lesser extent, palmitic, linoleic and arachidic acids.
Then, shea butter provides vitamin E and phytosterols (Malachi et al, American Journal of Life Sciences, 2014). This butter is solid at room temperature but melts quickly on contact with the skin. It is precisely this consistency that makes it an excellent emollient and moisturizer. Indeed, shea butter proves to be more effective than any other mineral oil, which is often included in creams, in counteracting the loss of water from the tissues and skin dehydration (Malachi et al, American Journal of Life Sciences, 2014). Shea butter is easily absorbed and is useful for repairing irritated, dry skin and dermatitis, also reducing itching (Nisbet et al, Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol, 2018). Not only that, shea butter is anti-aging and regenerates skin stressed by UV rays. Studies have shown that the application of shea butter is able to decrease various signs of aging, to stimulate the synthesis of elastin and collagen and to reduce wrinkles (Malachi et al, American Journal of Life Sciences, 2014).
Shea butter, applications
As we have seen, shea butter is a real pampering for the skin, especially in the period after the holidays when it has been exposed to atmospheric agents, it appears dehydrated and stressed. But shea butter can also be used in case of irritations, itching, eczema and dermatitis. On a damp face, perhaps after spraying a floral water, such as rose water, you can apply a little shea butter in the evening, massage until absorbed. You can also spread shea butter on the body, preferably after a shower, when damp skin can effectively absorb the product. Shea butter can also be applied without problems to the skin of the elbows, heels and hands, always in the evening before going to sleep, as a moisturizing and regenerating treatment.
Shea butter, warnings
Shea butter is generally considered safe. It must be said that shea butter is listed as a product to watch out for in case of a nut allergy. However, limited to its topical use, no cases of reactions in people with this allergy have been reported. This is because shea butter contains a minimal amount of proteins capable of triggering allergies (Weiberger et al, J Asthma Allergy, 2018). In any case, it is certainly a good choice to test on a small area of skin the first time you use it.