What the hell is shea butter, really?
Now that I am pregnant, these are the types of questions that keep me up at night.
I have never been one to moisturize my body – I don’t use hand lotion or foot creme. I don’t see the point. Perhaps living in the super humid sunshine state most of my life has spared me from dry skin and an extra 2 minutes of beauty prep. Maybe it’s genetic. Who knows (or cares)?
My husband is always hinting that I should use lotion on my legs after I shave. He is absolutely correct. But, I just can’t maintain that level of maintenance. He should really just be happy I shaved my legs in the first place. OKAY.
Nonetheless, I am 30 something and pregnant now. So, moisturizing has started to interest me a little more as I search for ways to avoid the inevitable aging process. Wrinkles can wait!! I want to grow old with grace AND BEAUTY.
Wrinkles aside, the real motivation for my moisture mission is that my growing baby bump started to itch. I am taking this as a sign that my skin is stretching and is now susceptible to stretch marks. Since I am not interested in stretch marks, I decided it was time to find a lathering potion to halt the unwanted stripes from forming. (If it happens, I will be okay – I am truly not that vain.)
In an effort to stay pure and natural, I wanted a product free from toxic chemicals and fragrances. After all, your skin is your largest organ – it needs protecting.
This is what I ended up with:
[$42 at Sephora]
So, WTH is it??
According to the Shea Butter Guide:
It’s a powerful moisturizer and “is a slightly yellowish or ivory colored and nutty, smoky scented natural fat extracted from the seed of the African shea tree.”
It may help treat the following:
- stretch marks <<< YES!
- dry skin and hair
- insect bites
- cracked skin
- itchy skin
- muscle fatigue and tension
- skin allergies and rashes
- scars and dark spots
- skin blemishes
- wrinkles <<< let’s stay young forever!
The FAO adds a little science to the mix, stating:
Shea butter has been used for centuries (perhaps millennia) as a skin treatment in Africa, particularly for newborn infants. Although the clinical data often referred to by the cosmetic companies that market shea butter are hard to locate, recent scientific studies support its alleged therapeutic value in treatment of certain skin disorders. The bioactive substances in shea butter reside in the unsaponifiable fraction – the oil-soluble constituents that would not react with alkali to form soap – which is a by-product of the CBE/CBI production process. They include anti-oxidants such as tocopherols (vitamin E) and catechins (also found in green tea). Alander and Andersson (2002) and Alander (2004) identified other specific compounds such as triterpene alcohols, known to reduce inflammation; cinnamic acid esters, which have limited capacity to absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation; and lupeol, which prevents the effects of skin aging by inhibiting enzymes that degrade skin proteins. Shea butter also protects skin by stimulating production of structural proteins by specialized skin cells.