Ancient Healing and Skin Protection Properties
Known for its amazing properties in protecting and healing damaged skin shea butter adds its super power of anti-inflammatory action to Honestly’s Nappy Balm. We know that’s one area that you don’t want to take any chances on and shea butter is up for the job!
Used in Africa since the dawn of time (ok definitely as far back as Cleopatra) shea butter is harvested from shea nuts of the Karite tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). You can usually identify shea butter in product ingredient lists by its INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) of Butyrospermum parkii.
Sacred in African culture the Karite tree can live up to 200 years and different ethnic groups have their own traditional uses for shea nuts and their butter. Uses range from arthritis, wound care, eczema to muscle soreness and sinus infections. So pretty much a cure-all then!
A hayfever remedy…
Interestingly, shea butter has been claimed to aid with hay fever allergies. By rubbing a small amount on the inside of the nostrils, it is said to reduce the symptoms. This is more likely be due to its’ anti-inflammatory properties rather than being able to prevent pollen activating an immune reaction. For those who rely heavily on Zyrtec every spring/summer it would definitely be worth investigating more thoroughly!
Butter up: cracked, roasted and pounded
The butter itself is processed from the nut by physical means; the nuts are cracked, roasted and pounded. The pomade is then dropped in boiling water until the butter rises to the top and is scooped off. This is unrefined shea butter, which has a strong nutty smell and a creamy yellow colour.
Shea butter can be further refined using physical methods such as filtration to deodorise it, leaving the butter an off-white colour. This is the type of shea butter we use in our Nappy Balm. It adds the medicinal properties of shea without affecting the aroma from the Tender Treatment Essential Oil blend.
Ultra-refined shea butter is processed with solvents such as hexane and has absolutely no scent and is pure white in colour. Often with chemical extraction techniques there can be residue left over in the finished product. We avoid using these refined types of raw materials where possible.
Healing, Protective and Anti-inflammatory
So now we know where butter comes from, how it is produced, yet we still don’t know why shea butter is as moisturising, healing and protective as it is. What does it contain that give it such good anti-inflammatory activity? Chemically it is much like Cocoa Butter, but with a few important exceptions.
Made up of tocopherol and tocotrienol. These are anti-oxidants, which mean that they deactivate free radicals. Free radicals are chemically loose cannons, they are unstable, can damage cells and DNA. Baby’s skin is bombarded with free radicals from the atmosphere resulting in disruption of the skin layers. Anti-oxidants basically take the sting out of them so that bub’s skin is defended. Hooray!
As the major fatty acid in Olives (hence Oleic), it also makes up ~40% of shea butter. An easily absorbed Omega 9 unsaturated fatty acid oleic acid will provide moisturising properties, just like baby’s own natural moisturising factor (NMF) which also contains fatty acids. Keeping baby’s own skin barrier in tact is so important in preventing nappy rash.
At Honestly we strongly believe that what we put on our baby’s skin is just as important as what we put in our baby’s bodies.
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One of the most common saturated fats found in nature, stearic acid acts to provide a good protective barrier on the skin, filling in holes in the epidermis. Allowing skin to repair itself and replenish its water content without loss. Cocoa butter and shea butter have the highest content (40%) of stearic acid, even compared to animal fat. This is ideal for keeping baby’s protective barrier in place, especially for the long haul overnight or when nappy rash rears its ugly head!
As a saturated fat (7% in shea), much like stearic acid, palmitic acid would also assist in giving shea butter a higher melting temperature (29-34°C), allowing it to be soft but still hold its’ shape at room temperature (unless of course you live in FNQ…).
This an essential fatty acid (Omega 6 fatty acid) that our bodies cannot produce. It makes up ~5% of shea butter. Omega 6 fatty acids play important roles in cellular signalling, inflammatory response (immune response), mood regulation and behaviour. Linoleic acid has an additionally specific role in maintaining the water permeability barrier of our skin. So not only can baby’s skin be kept in tip top shape but it can improve their mood and behaviour…who knew? Maybe that’s why Honestly babies sleep so well 🙂
These are the plant version of sterols, e.g. vegetarian cholesterols. They have essential roles within the plant yet can have some mighty useful actions for humans too (think of cholesterol lowering margarine). In our skin they are helpful in retaining moisture and creating an occlusive barrier to allow skin to regenerate.
These are triterpenes compounds which are part of a group of unsaponifables in shea, basically these components won’t make soap like other fatty parts of shea. What’s so magical about cinnamic esters is that they have been found to be highly anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory!
That would explain why shea is so effective at reducing redness and irritation, perfect for sore little bottoms. On a side note this may also explain why shea is a common ingredient in sun creams and lotions, helping to reduce irritation brought on by sun exposure. Whilst in an aftercare product that is definitely helpful, in a sun cream perhaps not. Surely we want to know when we are suffering from too much exposure and should get out the sun, right? Anyway another soap box for another day…
Shea has an incredible ability to heal, soothe and regenerate damaged skin making it perfect for calming and relieving painful nappy rash.
A secret ingredient in shea butter, allantoin brings some big guns of activity to nourish skin. It’s got it all. Super anti-inflammatory activity to reduce irritation, wound healing and stimulates the growth of healthy tissue. Allantoin repairs damaged skin barriers, restoring skin moisture and protects against UV induced cell damage. It has a unique ability to rebalance the levels of keratin in the skin, removing dry tough skin cells that can appear flaky and affect the barrier functionality of the skin.
It is this activity that gives shea butter its skin softening abilities and making it such an amazing ingredient to add to our Nappy Balm.
So if you find nappy rashes a problem for your baby, especially those surprising teething rashes (Yes -producing teeth brings about changes on the other end too eek!) using products that contain shea butter will help you remedy that rash ASAP!