Here is a close look at Shea butter, how to use it and some of the scientific studies of its outstanding natural benefits to moisturise and repair the skin and boost collagen.

Where does shea butter come from?

Shea butter is produced from the seeds or ‘almonds’ of the shea fruit that grows on the shea tree native to The Sahel in Sub-Saharan Africa. The fruits are collected, the flesh removed and extracted nut dried and crushed to get the almond. Shea almonds are ground to a paste which is boiled to separate the Shea fat which is cleaned and kneaded to create slabs of raw Shea butter.

What are the uses of Shea butter?

Shea butter has been identified in around 1950 cosmetic care products but mostly in small quantities and refined into its fractional parts. It is also used extensively in confectionery and chocolates to replace cocoa butter.

Why is unrefined Shea butter so outstanding for skin care?

The different properties of raw Shea butter work together to create a skin superfood for all skin types which does not clog pores.

Moisturising Fraction

Shea butter has a sapronifiable fraction, generally around 90%, meaning that this part can be converted to soap by treatment with alkali. In this fraction also called the moisturising fraction, humectant ingredients attract and retain moisture, occlusive ingredients create a barrier to prevent water loss and emollients smooth skin by filling in the cracks between cells.

Healing Fraction

Grade A1 Shea butter also has an unsaponifiable or healing fraction, generally about 7-12%. This is way more than any other seed oil with the next being avocado oil at around 3%, In this fraction the antioxidant vitamen E works together with vitamens A and F and other bioactive substances which are associated with boosting collagen production and speeding cell regeneration.

What is the evidence of Shea butter skin care properties?

Shea butter skin care stories are centuries old including of use by Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba. There are many recent scientific studies that support the outstanding natural properties of Shea butter. For example:

  • Experts from the National Centre for Biotechnology Information show the role of Shea fats as anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor sources and recommend their use in cosmetics2.
  • Many peer reviewed scientific papers highlight that Shea butter acts as an emollient, skin moisturiser and sun screen, that topical use of Shea butter has demonstrated anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and that the potentially collagen boosting properties of Shea butter can be attributed to the unsaponifiable component3.
How do I use raw Shea Butter for skin care?

Used in its raw form for skin and hair care, Shea butter has a hard texture in colder temperatures and melts at body temperature. It can therefore take time to get used to its texture and application. We recommend:

  • Massaging a small knob of pure Shea butter between your hands to soften it before applying it on your skin or placing a small glass or ceramic container of Shea butter in shallow water bath or on a warm surface for five minutes.
  • Applying Shea butter after bathing or showering and sitting on a towel for five minutes before dressing to allow for deep absorption.

Raw shea butter is particularly beneficial in winter for extra protection at the corners of the lips and under the eyes and for hands, elbows, knees and feet to also call on its inflammatory, anti-fungal properties. Massaged into particular body areas it can smooth and soften the traces of stretch marks and cellulite on the skin. Applied to the scalp for 20-30 minutes before shampooing to remove the excess fat it treats dry scalps and dandruff. Raw shea butter is also used between the skin and babies nappy to prevent or treat irritation and redness and to soften the skin leaving a happy baby.

Shea butter should be consumed within 18 months to keep all its properties which are lost over time.

Attention at the beach and other exposed sunny places, while Shea butter contains UV protection (~SPF 3-6) it does not replace SPF 30-60 or to cover or shade the skin.

Why do I choose Cleo Shea Boutique skin care?
All products have 90%-100% Grade A, raw, organic, vegan Shea butter with lighter, easy to absorb alternative blends

Unlike most Shea skin care products, Cleo skin and hair care consist over 90% Shea butter. Cleo offers pure, unscented Shea butter in our products ‘Moi’ and ‘Coco-Moi’. Our leading skin care experts also blend cold-pressed Boabab, Moringa and Coco base oils to produce an exclusive face lotion and a rich cream or mousse. Cleo Voile Royal Face Lotion is light and easily absorbed also in colder temperatures and is perfect to replace a traditional day cream and for deep hydration and smoothing under make-up. Cleo cream or mousse is equality suitable for intensive body and hand moisturising and as a deep hydrating and repair night-time face mask.

Leading the way to replace separate perfumes with rare and unique scents

Cleo Shea Boutique replaces traditional perfumes with our subtly and uniquely scented Shea products. Our creams, butters and lotions are all available with a choice of scents which include the rare fragrance of Bulgarian Rose (in Coco Rose), the citrus fresh and alluring orange blossom (in Fleur de Tanger), the sweet and mysterious Sandalwood and the intoxicating precious amber (in Dahab Gold). Embracing a culture change from perfumes to scented Shea, Voile Royal can also be used as an exclusive ‘perfumed lotion’ applied to the neck and wrists throughout the day.

The first deforestation free, zero carbon Shea

Cleo’s pure, organic Shea butter is the first and only Grade A1 Shea butter produced using clean energy. As traditional Shea butter production uses wood fuel to boil the grains and separate the Shea fat. Cleo Shea is the first and only pure, unrefined alternative which is free from wood smoke contamination and deforestation. Being unrefined Cleo Shea butter retains its maximum natural fat content for moisturising and smoothing and nutrient content for healing. Our raw Shea butter ‘Moi’ is the base of all Cleo luxury cosmetics.

Equitable distribution of supply chain profits

Cleo upgrades Fairtrade to True Value, ensuring that over 50% of Cleo profits outside Africa are reinvested in Africa as income for the Shea Women’s Groups, for building clean energy Ecovillages across West and Central Africa and for replanting natural parklands.


1 The United States Agency for International Development, Gassel Consulting, and many other companies have suggested a classification system for Shea butter separating it into five
grades: A (raw or unrefined, extracted using water), B (refined), C (highly refined and extracted with solvents such as hexane), D (lowest uncontaminated grade), E (with contaminants).

2 Akihisa et al , 2010 Anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive effects of triterpene cinnamates and acetates from shea fat. J Oleo Sci. Accessed 31 August 2020

3 Over 50 peer reviewed scientific references collectively describing the composition of Shea butter and demonstrating the benefits of Shea butter as a sun screen and an emollient and skin moisturiser, for anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and identifying the triteroenes and other bioactive substances in the unsaponifiable fraction of Shea butter which are associated with boosting collagen production See References 1-56.


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