Skip to main content

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

  1. blog
  2. > Ingredients

Ingredient spotlight: Shea butter for skin

Shea butter is a powerful natural moisturizer.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
silky cosmetic cream
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

The internet is totally rife with natural self-care solutions, such as jojoba oil, aloe, and shea butter for skin. For dry skin sufferers, shea butter is an especially widespread recommendation. But does it really work?

Shea butter is a natural hydrator known for its incredible moisturizing properties. It’s used both on its own and in a wide range of face, body, and hair products—and it has an impressive list of potential benefits. We asked our experts to weigh in on the potential benefits of shea butter for skin. Here’s what they had to say.

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is a plant lipid extracted from the nuts of African shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa). It’s a creamy fat with an off-white color, typically solid at room temperature. Like coconut oil, it becomes soft and spreadable when warmed.

Shea butter contains triglycerides, including oleic, linoleic, palmitic, and stearic fatty acids.¹ It’s also full of antioxidants, phytosterols, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Shea butter is an ideal ingredient for dry skin due to its moisturizing abilities, antioxidants, and potential anti-inflammatory properties.² It’s historically been used in indigenous cultures throughout Sub-Saharan Africa for many dermatologic conditions.³

Potential benefits of shea butter for skin

The potential benefits of shea butter are impressive, to say the least—that’s why you’ll find it in some Curology products, like our rich moisturizer, lip balm, and sunscreen. Here are a few reasons to consider using it: 

  • It’s deeply hydrating and calming: Shea butter penetrates deeply into the skin’s layers, effectively combating dryness and calming irritation. It’s an emollient, which helps trap moisture in the skin, making shea butter products a good option for dry skin.⁴

  • It has antioxidant properties: A study shows that shea butter exhibited antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that benefit the skin.⁵

  • It’s nourishing: Shea butter’s fatty acids and vitamins make it an effective emollient that softens and hydrates your skin.

  • It may relieve eczema symptoms: According to recent research, a moisturizer containing shea butter oil (among other ingredients) may help relieve symptoms of mild-to-moderate eczema—skin hydration increased while itchiness decreased.⁶

  • It may relieve itchiness: Shea butter may help reduce the itchiness associated with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. In patients with atopic dermatitis, shea butter has proven as effective as a ceramide-precursor treatment.⁷ 

  • It may soften scar tissue: One study revealed that oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce actively proliferating keloid scars.⁸

Who can use shea butter?

Shea butter is an excellent option for most people seeking a moisturizer. Unless it causes an adverse reaction, it can be used daily to provide soothing benefits to all skin types. That said, it’s wise to seek guidance from a licensed dermatology provider whenever deciding to try new ingredients and products on your skin.

Open Curology box with products inside

Pros and cons of using shea butter

If you’re wondering how to use shea butter on your face and body, it’s important to know raw shea butter (aka unrefined shea butter) is solid at room temperature. It’s easier to apply when combined with other ingredients, making it a popular addition to lotions, body balms, lip balms, and other skincare and hair products. Here are some pros of using shea butter on your face: 

  • It may help calm redness and irritation: Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may make it a calming ingredient. 

  • It may help your skin retain moisture: Shea butter may help seal in the moisture your skin craves. 

  • Non-comedogenic: Shea butter is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores. This makes it a good choice for acne-prone skin. 

Regarding the cons of shea butter for skincare, based on what we know about it thus far, there aren’t many! Like any topical ingredient, shea butter may cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation. If you are concerned about potential adverse effects, our experts recommend testing shea butter products on a small patch of skin to see if a reaction occurs. 

Potential benefits of shea butter for hair 

In addition to all the good stuff it can do for your skin, shea butter may be beneficial for your hair, too. It’s used in some in-shower and leave-in conditioners, hair masks, and hydrating shampoos. The vitamins in shea butter may add shine to your hair, and its moisturizing properties may help mend damaged and split ends. It’s great for softening, and its anti-inflammatory properties may ease scalp irritation and redness. 

FAQs

Does shea butter lighten skin?

As noted above, shea butter may help reduce the appearance of keloid scars. According to a 2014 study, it may also contain properties that lighten skin.⁹

Can I apply shea butter on my face?

Shea butter can be used for both your face and body! It’s intensely moisturizing, nourishing, and unlikely to cause or contribute to acne.

What happens if you apply shea butter every day?

Applying shea butter to your skin daily will likely become hydrated, soft, and supple. Again, it’s non-comedogenic, so it shouldn’t clog pores, which makes it a good candidate for daily application. 

How long does it take shea butter to clear skin? 

Research conducted in 2016 shows that shea butter oil may have antibacterial properties,¹⁰ which could help improve acne. But more studies are needed to determine how this ingredient impacts breakouts.

Curology knows skincare

curology family products

When it comes to your skin, here at Curology, we’re all about using ingredients that are proven effective. Founded in 2014 by board-certified dermatologists, we’re a full-service skincare company offering prescription-strength products to help treat acne, signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea

Our experts help take the guesswork out of your skincare routine by providing a custom treatment plan and personalized prescription formula to help you meet your skincare goals. 

Signing up is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap some selfies to help us get to know your skin better. If Curology is suitable for you, we’ll pair you with one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers, who can not only prescribe you effective, clinically backed ingredients but also guide you through your skincare journey.*

FAQs

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is a plant lipid extracted from the nuts of African shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa). It’s a creamy fat with an off-white color, typically solid at room temperature. Like coconut oil, it becomes soft and spreadable when warmed.

Are there any potential benefits of shea butter for skin?

The potential benefits of shea butter are impressive, to say the least—that’s why you’ll find it in some Curology products, like our rich moisturizer, lip balm, and sunscreen. Here are a few reasons to consider using it: 

  • It’s deeply hydrating and calming

  • It has antioxidant properties

  • It’s nourishing

  • It may relieve eczema symptoms

  • It may relieve itchiness

  • It may soften scar tissue

Who can use shea butter?

Shea butter is an excellent option for most people seeking a moisturizer. Unless it causes an adverse reaction, it can be used daily to provide soothing benefits to all skin types. That said, it’s wise to seek guidance from a licensed dermatology provider whenever deciding to try new ingredients and products on your skin. 

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Jones, V, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine treatments for common skin diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2020 December 26).

  2. Lin, T.K., et al. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (2017).

  3. Ugwu-Dike, P., Nambudiri, V.E. A review of ethnomedicinal uses of shea butter for dermatoses in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dermatol Ther. (2022).

  4. Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin. American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.).

  5. Lin, T.K., et al. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Ibid.

  6. Draelos, Z.D. A pilot study investigating the efficacy of botanical anti-inflammatory agents in an OTC eczema therapy. J Cosmet Dermatol. (2016).

  7. Jones, V., et al. Complementary and alternative medicine treatments for common skin diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis.JAAD International. (2021).

  8. Olaitan P.B., et al. Inhibitory activities of omega-3 Fatty acids and traditional african remedies on keloid fibroblasts. Wounds. (2011).

  9. Zhang, J., et al. Triterpene glycosides and other polar constituents of shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) kernels and their bioactivities. Phytochemistry. (2014).

  10. Ameh, A.O., et al. Synthesis and characterization of antiseptic soap from neem oil and shea butter oil. African Journal of Biotechnology. (2013).

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

Related Articles

How to take off your eye makeup the easy wayWhat is pomade acne? How to treat breakouts around your hairlineIs vitamin C good for acne? What you need to knowWhich moisturizer is best for you?How to choose the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin

Popular Articles

Ask Curology: Is my cold breaking me out?Slugging: The dermatologist-approved skincare hack going viral on TikTokTretinoin vs retinol: What’s the difference?How to create a self-care routine that actually sticksYour 2023 skincare horoscope
Try prescription skincare
30-day trial. Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get routine essentials
A display of Curology Custom Formula bottles on a white shelf.

Good skin days ahead

Join the 1M+ patients who’ve tackled everything from acne, to fine lines, to hair thinning with prescription-powered treatments, personalized by a Licensed Dermatology Provider.
Ingredients proven to tackle
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Fine lines
  • Dark spots
  • Hair thinning
$29.95/month
*Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get StartedShop ProductsWhy CurologyHow It WorksOur StoryCommunity
SupportBlogReviewsCareersContact Us
Follow @curology
Terms of ServicePrivacy Notice
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
All Rights Reserved © 2024 Curology