Shea Butter

Shea butter is an oil rich fat that is derived from the karite tree (shea tree), which is native to Africa.  African history documents mention the use of Shea butter used for skin and hair during Cleopatra’s reign, and even the Queen of Sheba is said to have used it.  The karite tree, also known as “The Tree of Life”, is considered sacred by many tribes in Africa and is still extensively used there to protect the skin and hair from harsh sun and dry winds.  The nuts from the fruit of the karite tree are crushed, boiled and then a light colored fat is gently manipulated into Shea butter.  Neil Naturopathic uses only unrefined shea butter, which is its purest, most natural and least processed form.  As it is extracted manually it is able to retain its vitamins, minerals and other natural beneficial properties. Shea butter contains five principal fatty acids: palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic acids. In addition to these fatty acids, Shea butter contains high amounts of Vitamin E, F, & D, phytosterols, provitamin A, allantoin, UV-B absorbing triterpene esters such as cinnamic acid, and hydrocarbons such as karitene.  Shea butter also contains 10 phenolic compounds known for their powerful antioxidant properties.  All of these nutrients essentially make Shea butter a superfood for the hair and scalp.  Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer, humectant and emollient, locking in moisture from the roots to the tips and keeping the hair and scalp hydrated for long periods of time. Shea butter is easily absorbable, without clogging pores nourishing the scalp making it softer; more supple, able to heal dry, flaky red, rough patches.  It is easily absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin enhancing the cell repair function by increasing microcirculation.  According to the Weil Foundation Medicine Library book Integrative Dermatology, Shea butter’s deep moisturizing, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties make it an efficacious treatment choice for eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and other severe scalp conditions. The moisturizers in Shea butter are the same ones produced by the sebaceous glands in the scalp.  Since Shea mimics these effects, it helps control excess oil and provide the natural moisturizers the hair and scalp need.  Shea butter has a low SPF that is sufficient to protect the hair from sun damage due to exposure to harsh weather, sun and ultraviolet radiation.  Shea butter absorbs into the hair, and once absorbed, it coats the hair shaft from the inside out making it especially protected even from heat tools or any other damaging material passed along the hair. This makes it especially beneficial for processed and color treated hair.  It also protects the hair against saltwater and chlorine when applied before swimming.  The combination of nutrients in Shea butter makes your hair follicles stronger and reduces hair fall and hair loss. This strength also reduces breakage and mends split ends. Shea butter also has proven to improve collagen production, the youthful scaffolding protein in the scalp, maintaining the scalp’s elasticity, suppleness and reducing aging. For those people shaving their heads, Shea butter can moisturize and reduce razor bumps and irritation and if applied prior to shaving proves easier, faster, and leaves no irritated spots behind.