African Shea Butter Skin Care Benefits and Beauty Recipes

African shea butter in a wooden bowl
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If you have dry skin, you probably know that shea butter is one of the top moisturizing ingredients to use.  That's one reason why shea (pronounced shee) butter is frequently used in skin and hair care products.

As an ingredient for skin care, especially in its natural and pure form, it has multiple benefits from reducing premature facial lines and wrinkles to soothing skin conditions like eczema.

Benefits of Using African Shea Butter

Shea butter comes from the shea nut tree or karite tree that grows in West and Central Africa.

Shea butter’s polyphenols (antioxidants) have anti-aging benefits and properties similar to green tea. Shea butter contains five essential fatty acids, (a major amount coming from stearic and oleic acids), phytosterols, vitamins E and D, allantoin (good for healing skin irritations), and vitamin A. This combination of ingredients helps neutralize free radical damage, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and fading age spots, as well as stimulating collagen production.

The texture, consistency, as well as skin care benefits depends on the stearic acid and oleic acid content, which can be different in each crop of nuts harvested. The variety found in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan (vitellaria nilotica) is more expensive because it’s harder to obtain due to civil unrest. It’s also higher in olein (the liquid part of shea butter), which makes it softer and more fragrant. There’s also better absorption into the skin because of lower content of saturated fatty acids.

Shea butter in the west (vitellaria paradoxa) is higher in vitamin A, which is better for wrinkles and stretch marks.

Shea butter’s healing skin care benefits are numerous. It helps fade acne and other scars, plus it heals sunburned, cracked, and peeling skin. It also soothes skin allergies like poison ivy and insect bites as well as skin conditions like contact dermatitis and psoriasis.

It is believed to reduce muscle aches and rheumatism by stimulating the elimination of toxins from muscles.

Pure shea butter can be hard and especially difficult to work with when using it on your hair. This tutorial will teach you how to make whipped shea, which will make it much easier to take out of the jar and use.

Shea Butter Beauty Recipes

For the recipes below, try to purchase raw organic shea butter.

Moisturizing Shea Butter Balm


  • 1/4 cup grated shea butter
  • 2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated beeswax or soy wax

Combine the ingredients in a microwave-safe glass container or measuring cup.  Microwave to gently heat up the shea butter and beeswax.  Pour into a 4 to 5-ounce glass jar and let cool.  Stir again.  Use on dry areas.  It's great for the knees, elbows, and can even be used to treat and prevent chapped lips.

Moisturizing Hand Cream


  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon almond oil
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa butter
  • 1 teaspoon shea butter

Heat ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl or container on low.  (About 2 - 3 seconds, until ingredients are melted, but not boiling).  Stir.  Massage into hands.  This is a great moisturizing hand treatment to use during the winter months.

Baby Bump Moisturizer


  • Oil from 3 vitamin E capsules
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa butter
  • 1 tablespoon shea butter

Pour vitamin E oil into a bowl and mix in the cocoa butter and shea butter.  Gently massage onto the stomach area daily to help prevent stretch marks.

Lip Balm


  • 3 teaspoons grated beeswax
  • 3 teaspoons castor oil
  • 6 - 10 drops peppermint essential oil (or essential oil of choice for fragrance)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional, for flavor)

Melt the ingredients in a microwave or double boiler.  Stir and remove from heat.   Add the honey and essential oil.  If you want to add a little color, shave off a little of your favorite lipstick into the mixture. Pour into lip balm tins, a small glass cosmetic jar or into lipstick tubes.  Let cool uncovered for about 20 minutes.