Our search for that one cream or lotion that can put an end to all our skin problems at times may just seem eternal. Many a time our dressing shelves are inundated with products and for once we wonder if we have mixed up or messed up with the lotions and creams.
Moreover, as creams get more and more expensive with every single step at the supermarket reverting to good old gram flour may seem to be the only option left. Or it “may no more be,” assures MaryfaithVutale, fondly known by many as the shea queen as she makes and sells shea butter, specially harvested from a village adopted by her in Ghana.
For thousands of years, African women have traditionally extracted shea butter from the nuts of shea trees (Vitellariaparadoxa) that grow across Africa’s sub-Saharan Savannah-Sahel.
Owing to its unique healing properties the shea tree is often referred to as the “tree of life”
that bears the fruits with nuts inside, which contain shea butter. The nuts are crushed and boiled to extract a light-colored fat – shea butter.
Call it a beauty arsenal or a one-stop-shop for all our skin needs, the fruit contains vitamins A, E and F and four times as much vitamin C as oranges, making it a skin ‘superfood’. From curing diaper rashes to reducing wrinkles on the face, all that a family needs are a tub of shea butter.
Packed with rich nutrients most essential for the skin it can cure eczema, heal scars, burns, stretch marks, and even keep our skin look young. In addition to moisturizing fraction, regular use of this natural butter can treat many skin problems.
Shea oil is known to have an active ingredient called unsaponifiables. This means when you add them to water, they don’t get lathery and protect the skin from products that do get, like detergent. Hence it helps heal eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, burns, rashes, and wounds.
Scientists have also discovered that the oil contains stigmasterol, that helps relieve muscle aches, arthritis, rheumatism and contributes to cell growth and regeneration, leading to younger-looking skin.
The presence of cinnamic acid in it makes it an anti-inflammatory agent, making it an excellent massage balm, body scrub, and skin moisturizer.
Having known the wonders of this miracle shea fruit, from the days of Cleopatra it is widely known for its medicinal, nutritional and cosmetic properties.
_ Treatment of insect bites, small skin wounds, and athlete’s foot.
_ Used as a face and body moisturizer, essential oils of your choice can be added.
_ Wards off stretch marks during pregnancy.
_ Helps clear dark spots.
_ Reduces irritation caused by psoriasis.
_ Works as an under-the-eye wrinkle remover and eye-bag reducer.
_ Helps prevent skin irritation for babies and an excellent natural baby-care product.
_ Used as a lip balm; treats chapped lips.
_ Firms up aging skin and helps clear wrinkles. It improves skin elasticity and may help with cellulite.
_ Helps replenish skin after sun exposure.
_ Can be applied on scars to help in the production of collagen – a protein (glue) that holds the body together.
_ Can be applied as a sunscreen as it has UV-protective benefits.
Shea in the food industry
Very few know that shea butter like cocoa butter is a healthy edible fat and used in the confectionery industry. It is also used in bakery ingredients, for ice- creams and in margarine mostly as a functional and healthy ingredient. In Nigeria, it is even used to treat sinuses.
A daily routine for a radiant skin
As we all are born with different skin types, a daily regimen to take care of our outer selves is a must in addition to a balanced diet. Moisturising the skin has to be part of one’s daily routine. Mirrors don’t defy us, hence every time we pose it the question, it’s better to be prepared with a good cleanser and a moisturizer if we intend to get a positively favorable answer.
Maryfaith insists that even those with oily skin have to moisturize themselves. Only in that way can they keep the sebum balanced.
“When one uses the African black soap as a cleanser followed by applying shea butter, one can be best assured to have a fresher and younger-looking visage,” says Maryfaith.
A 500ml tub of shea butter has a shelf-life of three years and does last for a longer time than many of the expensive creams available in a market and what works best is the fact that just a little goes a long way.
Maryfaith who has extensively worked with shea butter for the last five years rates shea butter as one of the best for skin mainly because of its healing properties.
Shea for hair
Shea is also good for the hair and scalp. It protects the scalp from sores and rashes and prevents dandruff. It also helps weak hair from fading, breaking or thinning out. It can be used alone or mixed with essential oils of your choice.
_ Helps increase the volume of your hair.
_ Helps make the hair softer.
_ Makes the hair shiny and silky.
_ Helps prevent dandruff.
_ Helps detangle the hair.
How to choose the best shea butter in the market
The color of shea butter depends on the seed and the time of harvest. The way the nuts are harvested – either plucked or picked from the ground – and the way they are roasted plays a major role in determining the quality of shea butter.
_ Make sure it is organic and unrefined.
_ Has to have a mild nutty smell.
_ Colour should be white to ivory.
_ Instant soothing.
The market is flooded with shea butter from different regions of Africa, leaving the consumer often confused.
“Shea butter is a tropical product and does best with nutrients from the Sahel Savanna zone. That is what makes shea coming from northern Ghana the best. Needless to say, all shea butter from other regions are special in their own way,” says Maryfaith.
So what are you waiting for? Buy shea the anti-aging balm or should one say the elixir for now.