Shea butter is technically a tree nut product. But unlike most tree nut products, it’s very low in the proteins that can trigger allergies.
In fact, there’s no medical literature documenting an allergy to topical shea butter.
Shea butter doesn’t contain chemical irritants known to dry out skin, and it doesn’t clog pores. It’s appropriate for nearly any skin type.
Shea butter is typically used for its moisturizing effects. These benefits are tied to shea’s fatty acid content, including linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids.
When you apply shea topically, these oils are rapidly absorbed into your skin. They act as a “refatting” agent, restoring lipids and rapidly creating moisture.
This restores the barrier between your skin and the outside environment, holding moisture in and reducing your risk of dryness.
Shea butter contains high levels of linoleic acid and oleic acid. These two acids balance each other out. That means shea butter is easy for your skin to fully absorb and won’t make your skin look oily after application.
The plant esters of shea butter have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
When applied to the skin, shea triggers cytokines and other inflammatory cells to slow their production.
This may help minimize irritation caused by environmental factors, such as dry weather, as well as inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema.
Shea butter has significant levels of vitamins A and E, which means it promotes strong antioxidant activity.
Antioxidants are important anti-aging agents. They protect your skin cells from free radicals that can lead to premature aging and dull-looking skin.
A 2012 study suggests that oral doses of shea bark extract can lead to decreased antimicrobial activity in animals.
Although more research is needed, this could indicate possible antibacterial benefits in humans.
Because of this, some speculate that topical application may decrease the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin.
Shea tree products have been established as powerful ingredients to fight skin infections caused by fungi.
While shea butter may not be able to treat every kind of fungal infection, we know that it kills spores of the fungi that causes ringworm and athlete’s foot.
Shea butter is rich in different kinds of fatty acids. This unique composition helps clear your skin of excess oil (sebum).
At the same time, shea butter restores moisture to your skin and locks it in to your epidermis, so your skin doesn’t dry out or feel “stripped” of oil.
The result is a restoration of the natural balance of oils in your skin — which may help stop acne before it starts.
Shea butter contains triterpenes. These naturally occurring chemical compounds are thought to deactivate collagen fiber destruction.
This may minimize the appearance of fine lines and result in plumper skin.
Shea’s moisturizing and antioxidant properties work together to help your skin generate healthy new cells.
Your body is constantly making new skin cells and getting rid of dead skin cells. You actually get rid of anywhere between 30,000 to 40,000 old skin cells each day.
Dead skin cells sit on the top. New skin cells form at the bottom of the upper layer of skin (epidermis).
With the right moisture balance on the surface of your skin, you’ll have fewer dead skin cells in the way of fresh cell regeneration in the epidermis.
It’s thought that shea butter stops keloid fibroblasts — scar tissue — from reproducing, while encouraging healthy cell growth to take their place.
This may help your skin heal, minimizing the appearance of stretch marks and scarring.
By boosting collagen production and promoting new cell generation, shea butter may help reduce what researchers call photoaging — the wrinkles and fine lines that environmental stress and aging can create on skin.
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