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Shea butter to combat the signs of aging.

Shea butter is a plant-based ingredient originating from West Africa, historically used as a cooking butter. Its use has expanded to skincare, particularly for its benefits against skin aging, which are detailed in this article.

Published July 11, 2023, updated on January 31, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 7 min read

The effects of aging on the skin.

The progression of age inevitably brings with it skin aging. Signs of aging begin to appear from the thirties and are particularly visible on the hands and face.

  • This is accompanied by structural and functional changes in the components of the extracellular matrix, such as collagen and elastin, with a decrease in their natural production. The skin then loses its elasticity and firmness, which promotes the appearance of wrinkles.

  • Changes in the amino acid composition of aging skin can reduce levels of natural moisturizing factor (NMF), thereby diminishing its ability to bind to water. Dehydrated skin becomes more fragile and promotes the appearance of signs of skin aging.

  • The rate of skin cell renewal slows down, resulting in a deteriorated skin appearance. Depending on the skin's characteristics, it can thin, thicken, or dry out. Wrinkles form around the eyes, lips, and forehead. Its defenses against external aggressions also decrease, and the skin may show pigmented spots.

The effects of shea butter against skin aging.

The shea butter, a thick and yellowish butter produced from the nuts of the shea tree, is rich in fatty acids, tocopherols, triterpenic alcohols, cinnamic acid esters, and retinol. A well-known versatile skincare product in many African countries, it can also be applied to the skin to prevent and slow down the skin aging process thanks to the numerous properties attributed to it.

  • Nourishing

    The skin requires regular nourishment to slow down the aging process. Shea butter contains a majority of fatty acids: stearic, linoleic, palmitic, and arachidonic. Oleic acid is a lipid that is part of the composition of sebum. It stimulates the production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. Its application strengthens the skin's protective barrier, which is itself composed of fatty acids, and ensures the balance of the hydrolipidic film.

    Vitamin F refers to the combination of two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Thanks to its high fatty acid content, Vitamin F nourishes the epidermis and preserves the skin's barrier function.

    Shea butter will provide the necessary nutrients to the skin and form a film covering the epidermis.

  • Regenerating

    To maintain its health and firmness, the skin regularly renews itself. This process of cellular renewal slows down over time and the appearance of mature skin can quickly deteriorate.

    Typically, a vegetable oil contains less than 1% of unsaponifiables, primarily phytosterols and tocopherols. The content of unsaponifiables in shea butter is at least 4% and can go up to 10% (phytosterols, tocopherols, triterpenes...). A study has shown that triterpenes have a positive regulatory activity on collagen production. They help inhibit matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3), which is responsible for the degradation of type III skin collagen. Further studies are necessary to better understand the mechanisms of action of these triterpenes.

    Furthermore, the triterpenes in shea butter contribute to cellular renewal by increasing the thickness of the epidermis. These results show that triterpenes play a role in the resistance and protection of the skin barrier.

    Vitamin A, found in shea butter, stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, which help the skin maintain its elasticity. It smooths wrinkles and fine lines and prevents skin sagging.

    A clinical study was conducted on 49 volunteers who applied pure shea butter twice a day. For 75% of the volunteers, a reduction in wrinkles and an improvement in skin flexibility was observed.

    Thanks to its richness in vitamins and its content of unsaponifiables, shea butter will help the skin regain its suppleness and elasticity, the hallmarks of youthful skin.

  • Antioxidant

    The sun is a primary factor in skin aging. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation breaks down elastin and collagen fibers. These non-functional tissues accumulate in the dermis, leading to the appearance of wrinkles. Vitamin E, or tocopherol, found in shea butter, protects against external aggressions such as UV radiation and chemical pollution. Vitamin E is capable of donating an electron to a free radical without becoming unstable. The free radical is stabilized, less reactive, and the oxidation cascade of molecules is halted. This is beneficial in preventing oxidative stress, which is at the root of skin aging.

    Shea butter is rich in cinnamic acid esters, phenolic substances that strongly absorb UV rays between 250 and 300 nm. An experiment has shown that shea butter, in synergy with a photoprotective care product, can increase the absorbance of UVB rays. UVB rays can produce free radicals that are responsible for skin aging.

    Shea butter possesses antioxidant properties that combat free radicals and environmental factors responsible for premature skin aging.

Incorporating shea butter into a routine to combat aging.

Pure shea butter can be used directly or as an ingredient in skincare products. In both cases, it can be incorporated into a morning, evening, or both morning and evening skincare routine.

In its pure form, shea butter is solid and hard. To apply it, one must take a small amount and rub the butter between the hands until it becomes oily. Once in oil form, it will be easy to apply to the skin of the face and hands.

Before applying shea butter to the skin, it should have been previously cleaned in advance. Applying it in the morning will hydrate the skin and maintain its hydration throughout the day. In an evening routine, shea butter will stimulate the renewal of skin cells.

We recommend the use of our hyaluronic acid and shea butter nourishing face cream. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant capable of binding to over 1000 times its weight in water. It helps to maintain hydration in the corneal layer of the epidermis. Combined with shea butter, this treatment has ideal moisturizing properties for dry, normal, and combination skin. This treatment should be applied in circular motions to promote the penetration of the product on clean, dry skin.


  • PEKER K. & al. Medicinal and nutritional benefits from the shea tree. Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare (2017).

  • BABY A.R. &al. Butyrospermum parkii butter increased the photostability and in vivo SPF of a molded sunscreen system. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (2020)


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