These days something pops up in the media about skin care on a pretty regular basis. Use this product, stay away from this ingredient. The messages are plenty and often contradictory. One newsworthy item in recent months is shea butter. There are articles all over the web touting its health benefits. Let’s explore shea butter a bit and shed some light on the hype.
Shea butter comes from the nut of the karite shea tree typically found in Africa. Shea butter itself is the “pulp” that you find when the nut is opened up and the butter is loaded with essential fatty acids, along with vitamins A and E.
Shea butter is known for its moisturizing properties. It hydrates the skin well because it locks in the moisture, and it has characteristics similar to natural moisturizing factor (NMF), which is naturally found in our skin. Many creams and lotions contain ingredients trying to mimic NMF. Shea butter has been found to be a natural ingredient that best mirrors NMF.
In addition to its stellar moisturizing properties, shea butter also has anti-inflammatory characteristics. There have been medical studies showing shea butter to be helpful in calming individuals with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis, better known as eczema.
Another beneficial characteristic of shea butter is that it offers some protection against the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Shea butter helps to physically block these harmful rays from the skin. And while absorbing the UV rays, it also provides some antioxidant effects because of its vitamin E.
Since shea butter is from a nut, and because of the large number of tree nut allergies in our population, there are growing concerns of shea butter being available in a wide variety of skincare products. In 2011, a study by Chawla et al published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that the nut protein that causes allergies is not found in significant amounts in shea butter. It also showed that the shea nut protein does not appear to trigger the same immunological, or allergic, response like other tree nuts. The study concluded that using shea butter could be used for nut allergic children. However, even with this evidence, the FDA still recommends that tree nut allergic children avoid shea butter.
So in a nut shell (pun intended), shea butter is truly as great as its hype. From its natural moisturizing properties, its anti-inflammatory characteristics, its UV protection and antioxidants, shea butter is a quality, safe ingredient for skincare products. Baby Pibu™ has included shea butter in a few of its products. Baby Pibu’s Baby Butter contains shea butter for all of its moisturizing benefits. The shea butter contributes to the silky smooth feel that the Baby Butter provides. Baby Pibu’s Sunscreen also contains shea butter as it moisturizes and provides UV protection. So if you see more praises for shea butter on the web, believe them.