Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter

AKA: Shea Butter
A semi-solid, buttery fat extracted from the seeds of the Shea tree that is a wonderful occlusive and emollient ingredient mainly comprised of fatty acids. Shea butter contains a large amount of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
Also-Known-As:
Shea Butter
All functions
Origin
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter

Overview

Butyrospermum parkii butter is one of the most widely used and recognized skincare ingredients.

It is a semi-solid, buttery fat extracted from the seeds of the Shea tree, Latin name Vitellaria paradoxa (formerly Butyrospermum parkii). The word Butyrospermum literally means ‘butter seed’. It grows in the savannahs of Central Africa, where it is cultivated not only for cosmetic purposes but also as a food source.

Shea butter may vary in composition depending on the location it was cultivated from, but it is usually comprised mainly of oleic and stearic acid. Oleic acid is unsaturated and adds to the liquidity of the shea butter. Stearic acid, on the other hand, is fully saturated. Shea butter with a higher stearic acid content is thus firmer and less likely to melt.

Apart from these fatty acids, shea butter also contains a large percentage of anti-inflammatory unsaponifiables, vitamin E, sterols, triterpenes, and polyphenolic compounds, which have an antioxidant effect.

Shea butter is used at various degrees of quality, from raw to refined. Raw shea butter has a nutty aroma and is ivory in color.

There are many ways in which shea butter can be utilized in skincare products. It can be used directly on the skin in its unchanged form, or it can be used as a base oil with other ingredients also mixed in.

It has wonderful moisturizing (occlusive) properties and is an emollient. This makes it very suitable for dry and eczematous skin.

Science

1
Lin, T.-K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(1), 70.
2
Honfo, F. G. et al. (2013). Nutritional Composition of Shea Products and Chemical Properties of Shea Butter: A Review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 54(5), 673–686.