Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Butter Me Up! The Anti-Aging Benefits of Shea Butter

Aug 30, 2017 02:00PM ● By Becca Newell
By Becca Newell

As summer transitions into fall, our skin often undergoes its own transformation—from soft and dewy to dry and flaky. Welcome relief from the latter with shea butter. While its moisturizing efficiencies are enough to convince anyone to pick up this humble hydrator, shea butter has a few other perks that’ll have you, in a nutshell, hooked.

What Is Shea Butter?

Shea butter is a fat derived from the fruit of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) found in West Africa. The fat is extracted from the fruit’s pit, after it’s been dried, ground, and roasted or boiled into a paste. This process is accomplished by hand and the finished product is typically labeled as “raw.” Another extraction method is cold-pressing, which involves a mechanical machine, like an expeller press, that places pressure on the nut and, essentially, squeezes out the oils and nutrients. No chemicals or synthetics are used and the shea butter is said to be as nutritious as it is in its raw form.


The American Shea Butter Institute recommends the use of products formulated with unrefined shea butter. The refined variety—apparent by its all-white, consistent texture—undergoes a heating process that seemingly removes almost all of the therapeutic and healing properties found in raw shea butter, according to the bio-tech institute.

Relief for Dry Skin

Renowned for its skin-softening capabilities, shea butter is, unsurprisingly, used as an active ingredient in many skincare products, soothing and hydrating parched skin—from head to toe! Shea butter also offers relief from severely dehydrated, itchy skin. Last year, a pilot study concluded that a moisturizer formulated with shea butter oil, applied three times a day for two weeks, helped to reduce the signs and symptoms of eczema. There are even beauty items, like lipsticks and eyeshadows, formulated with the moisturizing agent to produce a colorful pigment with hydrating properties.



Shea butter’s longevity in the skincare industry (apparently Cleopatra was a fan!) is indicative of its efficacy. Historical accounts of shea butter’s cosmetic use date back as far as Ancient Egypt—the Ptolemaic period—when, supposedly, Cleopatra traveled with large jars of the ointment so she could maintain her skincare regimen on-the-go.

Beyond Soft Skin

Shea butter is packed with micronutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids that boost anti-inflammatory and healing capabilities. One animal study noted a decrease in induced-inflammation in mice following treatment with four compounds derived from the kernel fat of shea trees (otherwise known as shea butter). The same study also suggested those compounds have chemo-preventative properties. In terms of anti-aging, shea butter has a high content level of antioxidants, which can help to reduce the signs of extrinsic—or photo—aging, including skin roughness, wrinkling, sagging, and hyperpigmentation. One clinical study of 49 volunteers, who applied shea butter to the skin twice a day, reported that the topical solution prevented photo-aging.


Intrinsic aging is determined by genetics, whereas extrinsic aging refers to the signs of aging influenced by external and environmental factors, like smoking, poor nutrition, sun exposure, and air pollution.

Antioxidants are also recognized as a natural preservative, helping to extend shea butter’s shelf life (approximately two years). The vitamin E found in shea butter, along with stearic and oleic acids, aids in softening the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, along with helping skin retain its moisture, promoting a plump and smooth complexion. The American Journal of Life Sciences published an animal study indicating shea butter’s ability to boost collagen production. According to the American Shea Butter Institute, daily application of shea butter on areas of concern should generate improvements within four to six weeks.


What about Cocoa Butter?
A fat extracted from a cocoa bean, cocoa butter is also widely used in alleviating dry skin. Similar to shea butter, cocoa butter is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are thought to lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, cocoa butter contains vitamin K, which is said to reduce bruising and under eye circles. While the two butters are relatively similar in terms of benefits, cocoa butter isn’t recommended for those with acne-prone skin, since it ranks high on the comedogenic scale, meaning it can clog pores.

Products We Love

Nourishing Cream for Renewal, Repair, and Radiance by Origins, $69,


Lemongrass Body Butter by Choiselle, $35,


Triple RX Hair Conditioner by Amika, $21, // Crème Mains Hand Cream by Karité Shea Butter, $36,


Be Legendary Cream Lipstick Minis by Smashbox, $22,


Stay up to date on the latest health, fashion & beauty, and fitness related trends by signing up for our weekly newsletters.