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Shea butter benefits for silky soft skin

Have you ever wondered what shea butter actually is, and where it comes from? Read our guide to find out more about this versatile, natural ingredient.

Shea butter benefits for silky soft skin

Whether you’re a shea butter super fan, or you’re thinking about trying the moisturising marvel cream for the first time, you’re in the right place to uncover the top shea butter benefits for skin. Read to find out how to make shea butter and its extensive list of properties and uses.

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is made from nuts that grow on the sun-loving shea trees of sub-Saharan Africa. The butter is used in all kinds of cosmetics – from lip care to anti-inflammatories – renowned for its soothing qualities. It can even be used to soothe dry skin, dandruff, eczema and scarring caused by acne. Shea butter is also widely understood to be safe for use by those who suffer from nut allergies.


Contrary to the images you’ll have seen of whipped butter atop a halved brown nut, the shea nut doesn’t contain a ready-to-use buttery substance. Shea butter does come from the shea nut, but the product is a crushed and treated version of the nut itself, not its innards. The process goes a little bit like this:

When harvested from the shea tree, the inner kernel is surrounded by a husk and a fleshy outer layer. The pulpy outer layer is discarded and not used in the process

1) The nuts are boiled for sterilisation and then dried under the hot African sun
2) Once dry, the kernel inside is extracted – the main ingredient for shea butter
3) The inner nuts are then washed and dried in the sun again
4) They’re then ground, crushed and roasted over a fire to extract the oils
5) Once roasted, they’re kneaded into a thick paste with cool water
6) More cool water is added to the paste, eventually causing the oils and solids to separate
7) Oil can then be skimmed off the top
8) The final product is then boiled, revealing any impurities, and then left to cool


Shea butter contains a number of different vitamins, fatty acids and lipids, which all contribute to happy and healthy skin. Here’s a rundown of the top sources, and what they all do. 

Linoleic acid helps strengthen the skin's barrier so it can retain moisture better while keeping out irritants. Our body can’t produce linoleic acid, so we need to get it either topically or through diet
Stearic acid is an amino acid which helps oil and water combine in order to help remove dirt excess sebum from the skin and hair
Palmitic acid is a fatty acid generally used as an emollient or moisturiser, it has the ability to soften skin and boost water retention in skin cells

Oleic acid is a fantastic cure for ageing or dry skin, because it can penetrate skin and replenish lost moisture while preventing further moisture loss, without clogging pores that can lead to breakouts
Cetyl esters are the waxy part of shea butter, which help lock moisture in the skin 
Vitamin A contributes to even skin complexion, fighting infections, boosting skin cell turnover, protecting against UV damage and slowing signs of ageing

woman sitting on a chair
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, able to combat the signs of ageing by reducing the UV damage 
Vitamin F strengthens the skin barrier, converting to ceramide when applied to the skin, which is a key ingredient for keeping the top barrier of skin healthy and moisturised.


Shea butter contains a lot of vitamins, oils and acids, all of which are extracted from the shea nuts during the process above. And because it has these qualities, it makes it great for lots of different skin conditions.

Keeping your skin hydrated:

Shea butter is an emollient, which means it has the ability to soothe the skin – perfect if you’re looking for a moisturiser to soften dry, damaged or cracked skin.

Keeping your skin youthful:

With its anti-ageing and antioxidant properties, shea butter is renowned for encouraging the production of collagen, responsible for keeping skin plump and youthful.

Keeping your skin smooth:

Shea butter is also an anti-inflammatory, which means it can soothe swollen areas of skin and can be used to treat eczema.


Keeping your skin healthy:

Shea butter benefits include being able to boost skin cell turnover, which means it’s great as an aid to skin regeneration and repair of damaged cells. The fatty acids contained in shea butter contain further protective properties that can defend wounds from environmental stressors that can disrupt the healing process.


A lot of people wonder if shea butter is comedogenic, that being, whether or not it causes spots or blackheads. In short, the thick creamy consistency by itself can block your pores, particularly if your skin often flares up, or you experience bouts of acne. But when a small amount is combined with other ingredients, it’s not as heavy on the skin. 

Discover the NIVEA Anti-Wrinkle +Firming Day Cream 45+, enriched with apricot kernel oil, shea butter and SPF15, is designed to improve the firmness of the skin and minimise lines and wrinkles, while keeping your skin protected from the sun rays.

woman applying Nivea body cream


Unrefined, or ‘raw’ shea butter is the result of the traditional African techniques we went through above. It’s jam-packed with all the natural goodness and antioxidants that people have been taking advantage of for centuries and has an ivory or yellowy colour to it. Raw shea butter will also feature an earthy smell, serving as a reminder of its chemical-free and natural production.

On the other hand, refined shea butter has been treated with high levels of heat, which can end up destroying some of the nutrients, like vitamin A and vitamin E. Sometimes chemicals are added back in, to compensate for the losses, as well as certain perfumes as the natural smell is often lost, although most refined shea butter is unscented. Refined butter is still good for moisturising the skin, however it doesn’t offer the same healing or anti-inflammatory properties as the real deal.

Fancy giving your skin a treat? The NIVEA Irresistibly Smooth Body Lotion offers fast-absorbing, 5-in-1 care which lasts up to 48 hours. Made with unrefined shea butter and NIVEA's Deep Moisture Serum, it’s suitable for all skin types, promising a soothing and refreshing moisturising feeling.

woman using shea butter