shea butter in a bowl

Hero Ingredient: Shea Butter

Active Ingredient: Shea Butter

Derived from: Nuts of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa)

Pronunciation: “SHEE buh-tuhr”

Type: Emollient and moisturizer

Other names: Karite Butter

The Science Behind Shea Butter and How it is Made

shea butter chemical structure

Shea butter is a natural fat extracted from the nuts of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It has been used for centuries in Africa for its moisturizing, healing, and protective properties. This plant oil is derived from the seeds of the shea tree, which consists of oily kernels extracted from within the seed. Following the removal of the kernel, it undergoes a process of grinding into a powder and subsequent boiling in water. The resulting butter solidifies upon rising to the water's surface. Renowned for its emollient properties, it is known to effectively soften and smooth dry skin. Additionally, its composition includes substances capable of reducing skin swelling, potentially offering relief for conditions like eczema associated with such inflammation. Like other natural fats and oils, it is primarily composed of triglycerides. Triglycerides are molecules consisting of three fatty acid chains attached to a glycerol backbone. The specific composition of fatty acids in this natural ingredient can vary, but it typically contains a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Unlike other skin care ingredients, it is not synthesized chemically in a laboratory setting but rather extracted from nuts through harvesting, cleaning, crushing, kneading, boiling until it is filtered to remove any remaining impurities.

The Power of Shea Butter in the Skin

Best for: Dry, mature skin

This effective ingredient stands out as a skincare powerhouse due to its rich composition of fatty acids, vitamins, and bioactive compounds. Renowned for its moisturizing abilities, it deeply hydrates and forms a protective barrier, sealing in moisture and nourishing dry, parched skin with its high levels of oleic and stearic acids. Its abundance in vitamins A, E, and F, coupled with antioxidants, rejuvenates skin cells, enhances elasticity, and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. With anti-inflammatory properties stemming from triterpenes and phenolic compounds, shea butter soothes irritation, reduces redness, and aids in healing.

Additionally, it fortifies the skin's natural barrier, shielding against environmental stressors while promoting moisture retention. Versatile and non-comedogenic, shea butter caters to all skin types, offering a gentle, nurturing solution for sensitive, acne-prone, and irritated skin. Its wide-ranging benefits make it a prized ingredient in skincare formulations, from moisturizers to balms, enriching routines with its healing, protective, and nourishing effects.

shea butter in a bowl

Concerns on Shea Butter


Although rare, some individuals may be allergic to shea butter, especially those with nut allergies. It's essential to perform a patch test before using shea butter extensively, particularly if you have a history of allergic reactions to nuts.


While shea butter is non-comedogenic for most people, meaning it doesn't clog pores, some individuals may find that it feels too heavy or occlusive on their skin, leading to breakouts or acne. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, it's advisable to use shea butter sparingly and monitor how your skin reacts.


While shea butter is gentle and soothing for many people, some individuals with sensitive skin may experience irritation or redness, especially if they are using products with added fragrances or other potentially irritating ingredients. Opting for unrefined or minimally processed shea butter may reduce the risk of sensitivity reactions.

Shelf life

Shea butter has a relatively long shelf life, but it can still go rancid over time, especially if not stored properly. Exposure to air, light, and heat can degrade the quality of shea butter and cause it to become rancid. To prolong its shelf life, store shea butter in a cool, dark place and use it within a reasonable timeframe.

Quality and purity

The quality and purity of shea butter can vary depending on factors such as the extraction process, origin, and processing methods. Some shea butter products may be adulterated or diluted with other ingredients, reducing their effectiveness. It's essential to choose high-quality, reputable brands and products to ensure you're getting pure, unadulterated shea butter.

Further Research on Shea Butter

The effects of applying plant oils to the skin can vary depending on their composition and the specific condition of the skin. Different extraction methods yield oils with varying compositions. When plant oils are applied topically, their components such as triglycerides, phospholipids, free fatty acids (FFAs), phenolic compounds, and antioxidants can work together in several ways: (i) maintaining the balance of the skin barrier; (ii) exhibiting antioxidant effects; (iii) reducing inflammation; (iv) directly and indirectly inhibiting microbial growth (including the enhancement of antimicrobial peptides); (v) supporting the healing of wounds; and (vi) potentially preventing cancer.

Pure Culture and Shea Butter

For generations, African societies have employed shea butter in diverse ways, encompassing skincare, haircare, culinary practices, and medicinal uses. Its renown has transcended continents owing to its multitude of advantageous attributes. Abundant in vitamins A and E, this proves highly enriching for the skin, offering intensive nourishment. Its moisturizing properties are adept at calming inflammation and delivering profound hydration.

Future research on shea butter holds promise for expanding our understanding of its diverse properties and potential applications. Investigating the specific compounds responsible for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory effects could pave the way for more targeted skincare formulations. Clinical studies are needed to validate its efficacy in treating various skin conditions, while formulation research could lead to innovations in stability and absorption. Safety assessments are essential to ensure its suitability for widespread use, especially in sensitive populations. Additionally, studies on sustainability and ethical sourcing are crucial to mitigate environmental and social impacts. Exploring shea butter's potential beyond skincare, such as in hair care and wound healing, could uncover new therapeutic uses. Finally, understanding consumer perceptions and preferences will inform product development and marketing strategies. By addressing these research areas, future studies can contribute to maximizing the benefits of shea butter while promoting sustainable and ethical practices throughout its production and utilization.

Try the benefits of Shea Butter combined with biotech ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 and hyaluronic acid for deeply moisturized supple skin through our Bulgarian Rose Glam Gold Satin Crème, only in Pure Culture.


Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(1), 70.

Mégnanou, R., & Niamké, S. (2015). Improving the optimized shea butter quality: a great potential of utilization for common consumers and industrials. SpringerPlus, 4(1).

Watson, K. (2019, March 8). What is shea butter? 22 reasons to add it to your routine. Healthline.