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Shea butter

Written by Kim Eonni


Posted on January 07 2021

Full of antioxidants

From ancient civilization, Shea Butter has been used for skin care routine due to its richness in vitamins, fatty acids, and easy-to-spread consistency. Vitamins and fatty acids are just two things, but you will be amazed to know that Shea Butter is full of nutrients. Shea Butter is a cream-colored or ivory-colored fat that is mainly obtained from the Shea tree's kernels named Vitellaria paradoxa (1). Shea Butter is becoming increasingly popular in the cosmetics industry thanks to its high proportion of phenols, terpenes and sterols. The smoothing and soothing effects on the skin are beyond amazing (2).

Shea Butter NussKernels of the Shea tree (Viterllaria paradoxa)

Why is Shea Butter Good for the Skin?


The components of Shea Butter are tocopherol sterols, triterpenes and phenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (3). Shea Butter has been shown to be very effective for treating inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis (4, 5). It blocks inducible nitric oxidize synthetase and cyclooxygenase enzyme, two pathways responsible for causing inflammation (4). The use of Shea Butter also decreases the sensitivity to irritating materials that cause skin allergies (6-8).


Shea Butter is an excellent moisturizer for all skin types. It makes the skin supple and silky soft. Shea Butter can also be applied carefree on oily skin. Thanks to its non-comedogenic properties, it does not clog the pores and does not put additional strain on the skin. Due to its buttery and semi-solid consistency, Shea Butter has the ability to melt on the skin at body temperature, to attract moisture and then to be quickly absorbed by the skin.

Shea Butter

A photoprotective agent

Shea Butter absorbs direct sunlight and has been shown to treat sunburn, erythema (inflamed redness), and prevent skin cancer (6). The main constituent in Shea Butter, called triterpene alcohol, contains cinnamate esters and can absorb UV rays (wavelengths between 250 nm and 300 nm). Its rapid absorption of ultraviolet rate is so effective that Shea Butter is also used in many sunscreen and sun blockers. Sun protection should not be neglected even in winter. Especially for those who suffer from dry skin. Because sun damage causes the skin to be less able to store moisture.


The anti-inflammatory activity and protection from ultraviolet radiation have been found useful for smoothing and rejuvenating skin (11). The secret to youthful skin is the collagen protein. Collagen gives the skin elasticity, firmness, strength, smoothness and suppleness (12, 13). The amount of collagen in the skin decreases with age. The skin loses its features to look youthful and no longer looks plump. Collagen is degraded by an enzyme called metalloprotease. The components in Shea Butter called lupeol, triterpenes, and alpha-amyrin can inactivate the enzymes and boost collagen production (14, 15). 

Additional benefits

Shea Butter has healing properties and its anti-inflammatory components make it extremely helpful against acne (1). It is also popular for diminishing stretch marks, as it makes the skin soft and supple (16).

Sheet masks with Shea Butter

Shea Butter Innisfree My Real Squeeze Mask Shea Butter


Here is the whole article summarized as a fact sheet.
Shea Butter
  1. Lin T-K, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017; 19 (1): 70.
  2. Maranz S, Kpikpi W, Wiesman Z, De Saint Sauveur A, Chapagain B. Nutritional values and indigenous preferences for shea fruits (Vitellaria paradoxa CF Gaertn. F.) in African agroforestry parklands. Economic Botany. 2004; 58 (4): 588-600.
  3. Maranz S, Wiesman Z. Influence of climate on the tocopherol content of shea butter. J Agric Food Chem. 2004; 52 (10): 2934-7.
  4. Verma N, Chakrabarti R, Das RH, Gautam HK. Anti-inflammatory effects of shea butter through inhibition of iNOS, COX-2, and cytokines via the Nf-κB pathway in LPS-activated J774 macrophage cells. J Complement Integr Med. 2012; 9: Article 4.
  5. Sheperd M. Winter Itch. Sheperd Integrative Dermatology Notebook. 2012.
  6. Malachi O. Effects of Topical and Dietary Use of Shea Butter on Animals. At J Life Sci. 2014; 2: 303-7.
  7. Loden M, Andersson AC. Effect of topically applied lipids on surfactant-irritated skin. British Journal of Dermatology. 1996; 134 (2): 215-20.
  8. Otuki MF, Vieira-Lima F, Malheiros A, Yunes RA, Calixto JB. Topical anti-inflammatory effects of the ether extract from Protium kleinii and α-amyrin pentacyclic triterpenes. European journal of pharmacology. 2005; 507 (1-3): 253-9.
  9. Took HS. Quality characteristics of West African shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa) and approaches to extend shelf-life: Rutgers University-Graduate School-New Brunswick; 2011.
  10. Israel, MO. Effects of topical and dietary use of shea butter on animals. At J Life Sci. 2014; 2 (5): 303-7.
  11. Tran T. Parfumes. Cosmétiques and Arômes. 1986; 58 (5): 65-6.
  12. Sato K. The presence of food-derived collagen peptides in human body-structure and biological activity. Food Funct. 2017; 8 (12): 4325-30.
  13. Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz ML, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermacol. 2019; 18 (1): 9-16.
  14. Esuoso KO, Lutz H, Bayer E, Kutubuddin M. Unsaponifiable lipid constituents of some underutilized tropical seed oils. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2000; 48 (2): 231-4.
  15. Alander J. Shea butter-a multifunctional ingredient for food and cosmetics. Lipid technology. 2004; 16 (9): 202-5.
  16. Goreja W. Shea butter: the nourishing properties of Africa's best-kept natural beauty secret: TNC International Inc; 2004.



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