Shea Butter For Dry Skin: How & Why It Will Help Your Skin

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Let’s look together at the healing benefits of shea butter for dry skin. It’s been proven that the butter has wonderful properties that can really benefit dry, inflamed skin. I’ve also looked for skincare that can help you if you’d like to give this wonderful ingredient a try.

Let’s get started.

Dry Skin: Here Comes Shea Butter!

Shea butter is WONDERFUL for dry, cracked, chapped, weather-burnt and aging skin. It will give you the moisture you’ve been lacking as it is an incredible emollient PACKED with healing benefits. The best thing is that it is a natural ingredient that has been made using processes that don’t involve a laboratory. Check this video to see how African communities make shea butter from the nut.

So, that’s already a big, big bonus. A natural ingredient made by using natural processes by communities that have traditionally been benefiting from going as back as the 14th century.

Shea butter is a must on most of my skincare. It adds texture (viscosity), consistency (stability) and fat (hardness) to my cosmetics. I use it at 33% on my lip balm and balms in general, at 3% on my body lotion, at around 2 or 3% for face creams, hair conditioner, etc). If my skin is feeling dry I’ll warm it up in the palm of my hand and mix it with my existing skincare and apply. If my lips are really sore or dry or cracked I’ll apply directly over my lips, making it a lip balm on its own. Knuckles in the winter… her comes shea butter. Elbows, dry soles, any dry patches… here comes, safely, shea butter to the rescue.

I adore the butter. I’ve written about it extensively on my website and I’ll probably keep writing about it in the future. Why? This ingredient has everything you would ever want if you suffer from skin that’s on the dryer side (including eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis).

The benefits of moisturizers containing shea butter have been studied in atopic dermatitis/eczema populations. The clinical efficacy and acceptability of a shea butter-containing moisturizer was investigated in pediatric patients with atopic dermatitis over 4 weeks and reported general acceptability as “very good” or “good” in 74% of the 34 patients recruited. This group demonstrated a significant reduction in mean pruritus score and a significant mean improvement in Children’s Dermatology Life Quality index. In another study, an over-the-counter shea butter-containing moisturizer was shown to significantly improve the signs and symptoms of mild-to-moderate body eczema in adults after 2 weeks.


If you’re worried about nut allergies Anaphylaxis Campaign recommends you buy refined shea butter and you should be fine. 

Scientific investigations have found that refined shea nut butter does not pose any known or likely allergy risk to consumers, including those with peanut or tree nut allergies. 

Anaphylaxis Campaign

So far, so good. The butter will nourish, protect and regenerate your skin (see benefits below in bulleted points). Has it got a downside? Well, on its own it can feel too greasy on your skin (butters in general are thicker than lotions and creams as they don’t contain any water themselves). It will melt on contact with your body heat and you can instantly benefit from the softness and smoothness it provides. Any dry or rough patches will instantly feel the relief the butter offers.

To Use On Its Own OR In A Product?

If you’re wondering how to incorporate this ingredient into your skincare routine I think I have you covered.

The truth is that I don’t really see this answered on the Internet. Meaning that in general I haven’t seen posts helping out in terms on when to use the butter on its own or as part of a cosmetic’s formula).

Ok, so let’s be clear: there are 2 ways in which you can integrate shea butter into your skincare.

1) By using JUST the raw material (shea butter) and either apply it on its own on your desired area (face, parts of the body, hair, etc) and/or mixing it with your existing skincare


2) By purchasing skincare that contain high amounts of shea butter (meaning the butter has been incorporated into a formula that uses it in high amounts). 

Below I’ll give you my recommendations (there’s still something I think you should be aware of, like the quality of the butter, the refinement process (if so) and where it originates from as well as the nature of the cosmetics that integrate it, I’ll be looking at natural and/or organic skincare products.

Lastly, you might want it JUST for your face, JUST for your body or for both your face and body. I’ll be recommending products for all instances, so, as you can see, lots to look at.

But before we go into it let’s to look at the benefits it offers your skin.

Shea Butter Healing Benefits for Dry, Very Dry, Damaged or Irritated Skin

This butter is the fat extracted from the tree nut known as shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). This butter has healing properties and can help with different skin conditions (see bulleted points below). 

Rich and luxurious, it has a comedogenic rating of 0 which means it won’t clog your pores making it suitable for acne/acne prone skin, although it does add a protective layer acting as a skin barrier (understanding comedogenic rating). 

This butter goes into my lip balms as well as most of my skin care, including my hair conditioner. It can act as an antioxidant due to its Vitamin E content (I’m not aware of it having any Vitamin C in it) and it is said to help reduce the appearance of scars. 

Let’s look at what it can do for your skin:

  • It contains allantoin which helps to protect the skin, acting as an occlusive
  • The allantoin can also help to heal wounds
  • It can regenerate cells because of the above mentioned allantoin as well as the fatty acids in its composition
  • Reduce red patches due to the cinnamic acid esters
  • It can act as an AMAZING moisturizer because of the fatty acids and polyphenols
  • It helps soften your skin because of the tocopherols and tocotrienols as well as its content of oleic acid
  • The catechins in the polyphenos makes gives it anti-bacterial properties
  • It can help irritated skin because of its content in cinnamic acid esters
  • High amount of Vitamin E (Vitamin E is great as an antioxidant for the skin). It also nourishes and protects your skin.
  • 40 to 55% oleic acid, well absorbed and great for skin regeneration as well as having anti-inflammatory properties (For acids in shea butter check out this link.)
  • 30 to 45% stearic acid helps with water retention (acting as an occlusive), can repair the skin and also adds flexibility to it
  • Ads flexibility to the skin and can also act as sunscreen (with a natural SPF of 3)

Shea butter is frequently used in the cosmetic industry due to its high percentage of the unsaponifiable fraction (e.g., triterpenes, tocopherol, phenols, and sterols), which possesses potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In the study of lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophage cells, shea butter exhibited anti-inflammatory effects through inhibition of iNOS, COX-2, and cytokines via the NF-κB pathway [112]. Additional research on AD has shown that the cream containing shea butter extract had the same efficacy as ceramide-precursor product.


Adding the butter to your skin care routine can help at times when you feel your skin can benefit from this wonderful ingredient. 

How to Use Shea Butter

You can use it on your face, body, face and body and even your hair.

It will provide all the benefits to your skin and hair. If you’ve decided to give the ingredient on its own a try, here’s what I recommend:

1. Organic / Raw (JUST the Butter, No Water, Just for Emollience)

1.1 Organic Raw & Unrefined Shea Butter

This is perfect if you’re looking only for the ingredient on its own. You can use it as a standalone cosmetic (just rub it into the palms of your hands and apply wherever you need it, face and/or body). Or you can take a very small amount and mix it with your skincare at home (face creams, body lotion, etc) to give add extra richness to your products.

You should feel the difference on your skin STRAIGHT AWAY. Over time, the butter will also perform its miracles because of the innumerable benefits it posses. 

1.2 Organic Refined Shea Butter (for People with Allergies)

If you’re allergic to nuts or are prone to have allergic reactions try refined shea butter instead. Please always perform a patch test first!

To do an allergy patch test, simply apply a small amount of the product to a small area of your face that’s easily covered—such as the underside of your jaw, a corner of your forehead, behind your ear or the side of your neck. There should be no other products on the skin so that you can properly test this product. Wait around 48 hours to see if you have a reaction. Nudie Glow

2. Products Heavy in Shea Butter (Products with Water in them, Good for Hydrating the Skin)

Even though L’Occitane is not exactly inexpensive they’ve taken shea butter to the next level by using it in high amounts in some of their skincare lines. L’Occitane has quite a history when it comes to shea butter (check it here) and I know their love of shea butter as an ingredient is quite inspirational.

You can look for other more inexpensive products but I think L’Occitane is a brand that has made such an effort in making this ingredient popular that we somehow owe them some of the shea butter benefits we’re reaping from products in general. Just my opinion. I have bought their products in the past.

**L’Occitane are a natural skincare company but they do use Phenoxyethanol in their formulas as a preservative (do check the link out). Many ‘natural brands’ use this preservative. I’ve also used it for a long time in my skincare, I now have moved to Cosgard (Geogard 221). 

2.1 For Your Face:

My recommendation:

2.2 For Your Body:

Here’s what I recommend:

2.3 For Your Hands:

Here’s my recommendation:

2.4 Shea Butter Collections by L’Occitane

Check out their shea butter collections here.

A Truly Wondrous Ingredient 

I’ve only covered the benefits when it comes to dry or rough skin but shea butter can help with so many more issues. It truly is a wondrous ingredient. The effects of shea can be, in fact, looked at here. It can help with stretch marks because the components in shea offer healing benefits. Oleic acids offer emollient properties and the butter can even help with collagen production (anti-aging properties) although I haven’t found the sicence to back this up so please take this into account.

It shouldn’t give you a breakout if you have acne-prone skin (breakout from clogged pores) because of its comedogenic rating of 0. Add oils to your butter (castor oil, almond oil, avocado oil, etc) to give it a more fluid consistency and enjoy the benefits these oils have to offer. Take it to the next level by adding an essential oil (frankincense essential oil is wonderful for fine lines and wrinkles, for example) to your mix. Another essential oil that you can mix with it is lavender, to add extra anti-inflammatory effects.

As you can see, shea tree nuts are truly a gift that nature has given us. Let’s enjoy it! 

What About Other Butters…? 

Butters are great balms in general. They can be used as a lip balm without having to worry about other ingredients as they do such a great job on their own.

But shea butter is not the only butter that can help with skin that is dry but it is one that has become very popular in skincare in the last 30 years or so. It has innumerable benefits and its comedogenic rating of 0 is such an incredible plus!

Last Words

Make sure when you purchase your shea butter that you’re helping out the women communities in Africa. I personally prefer unrefined shea butter (I don’t suffer from nut allergies). Unrefined shea butter has many of its anti inflammatory properties (and other properties) still intact. One drawback is that unrefined shea butter can have a strong odour which can be unpleasant to some people.

Taking all this into account and considering that shea butter is like heaven on dry skin you can’t really go wrong with it. 

Leave me your comments below.

Further Reading

Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils

Skin acceptability of a cosmetic moisturizer formulation in female subjects with sensitive skin

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