Is Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii) Safe For Baby – Yes, Shea butter’s rich concentration of fatty acid content and natural vitamins make it an ideal moisturizer for dry babies’ skin.

Shea butter comes from the West African Shea tree called Vitellaria paradoxa. The Latin name for the shea tree is Butyrospermum parkii which translates to Shea butter. The shea tree prominently grows in West African countries. The organic method of extraction for Shea butter includes crushing Shea tree nuts and harvesting the oils. Shea oil contains Vitamins E, A, and F – all of which promotes skin hydration, fast relief to wounds and irritation, and skin cell production.

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Is Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii) Safe For BabyWhat Is Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii)?

The Shea tree bears fruit which contains a nut. The fat from the seed of the nut is then extracted to make Shea butter. The lipid, a triglyceride (fat) that comes from oleic acid, is composed of omega-9 and stearic acid. Shea butter is prominent in skincare products primarily in cosmetics, soap, balms, and lotion. But it is also used in food production in African countries. It is yellow in appearance when harvested raw, but turns into ivory or off-white when processed as unrefined or refined Shea butter.

Raw Shea butter is very condensed and bulky when it is at room temperature. Research also proves that it is a highly coveted emollient because of its 60% fat content and ability to penetrate the skin effectively.

The American Shea Butter Institute states that the African Shea butter consists of cinnamic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, oleic acid or omega-9, triterpene alcohols, and allantoin [1]. Cinnamic acid is an anti-inflammatory substance that is close to the cinnamon you use in your household. The amount of content of the cinnamic acid in raw shea butter is dependent on its manufacturing. The more synthetic the Shea butter, the lesser volume of cinnamic acid is present [2]. Thus, consumers are urged to buy the raw version of this ingredient. Pure Shea butter is at its peak quality within 18 months of its extraction from the Shea tree’s nut [3]. When buying it at your local farmer’s market or organic store, always buy the Shea butter product with The American Shea Butter Institute Seal of Approval in its container.

Origins Of Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii)Origins Of Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii)

The literary origins of African Shea butter come from its tree’s name in the Bambara language of Mali called “s’i.” It is commonly called shíyiri or shísu which means Shea tree in Mali. That is where its English term originates. It has several local names including the Kpakahili in Dagbani, karité in the Wolof language of Senegal and French, kaɗe or kaɗanya in Hausa, and ori in other parts of West Africa.

An archaeological study shows that Shea butter was first produced in the medieval village of Saouga in the West African country of Burkina Faso back in the 14th century [4]. In recent times it has been grown prominently across 21 countries in the African continent, including Ethiopia, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, and the Republic of the Congo, to name a few.

In Africa, Shea trees (also known as karite trees) naturally flourish in Africa’s East and West regions and can grow up to 10 to 15 meters in height. The nuts are harvested, each producing two kernels. The two oily seeds are then crushed into powder and boiled in water. When the pure Shea butter ascends to the top of the boiling water, it then becomes solid and taken out.

Is Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii) Safe For BabyBenefits Of Shea Butter For Babies

Moisturizes babies’ dry skin

Shea butter’s rich concentration of fatty acid content and natural vitamins make it an ideal moisturizer for dry babies’ skin. It locks moisture in the skin, protects its natural oils, and keeps it hydrated. Its humectant and emollient properties also work to remedy chapped and dry skin. It gently penetrates babies’ skin while making it soft, smooth and nourished. It does not clog the skin. It’s safe for the scalp and hair and is sometimes used to treat cradle cap.

Relieves skin inflammation

Organic or raw Shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties. This ingredient alone may reduce skin inflammation, especially in cases of infant skin conditions such as dermatitis or rosacea [5].

According to a 2015 study, lupeol cinnamate, a compound found in African Shea butter, can reduce inflammation and help babies avoid skin mutations as well as baby acne [6]. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has also published a study that Shea tree oils are excellent sources of anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor compounds, as well as a great booster of collagen production [7]. It’s sometimes applied to minor insect bites.

Alleviates itch and skin peeling

When a baby’s skin is dry, it tends to peel and become itchy. Shea butter’s moisturizing properties provide relief to the itchy skin by providing it with the oils that it needs. It also gives comfort to irritation caused by the skin condition psoriasis [8].

Heals and soothes diaper rash

Unrefined Shea butter is hailed as one of the best natural moisturizers in the market because it does not contain unwanted additives that are harmful to baby’s skin. That is why it is an ideal remedy for diaper rash. Shea butter is best applied after bathing. Because of essential compounds such as palmitic, oleic and stearic acids in Shea butter, it can effectively heal eczema and smooth skin [9].

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How Does Shea Butter Work In Baby Skin Care ProductsHow Does Shea Butter Work In Baby Skin Care Products?

Pure Shea butter is valuable in baby skin care products because of its UV-B absorbing compounds, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties.

Raw Shea butter works for babies because it contains UV-B absorbing esters such as tocopherols and cinnamic acid. To add to this, it also has high contents of triterpenes, phytosterols, and hydrocarbons [10]. It also contains the following essential compounds:


Phenolic compounds are known to be antioxidant, and Shea butter includes 10 of these. Eight of the phenolic compounds found in it are catechins, which are disease-fighting antioxidants. But its antioxidant concentration is highly dependent on any environmental stress experienced by the Shea tree as well as how its nuts are harvested. Raw Shea butter has higher levels of catechins compared to Shea oils extracted with hexane [11].

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, also known as Tocopherol, has different versions – all of them can neutralize toxic oxidants in baby’s skin caused by external factors. In Shea butter alone, a considerable amount of vitamin E variations can be found. But their concentration relies on the climate where its mother tree grows and how the butter is extracted from the nut [12].

Fatty Acids

Five of the leading fatty acids can be found in African Shea butter. These fatty acids, oleic acid, arachidic acid, acid, linoleic acid, and stearic acid, are especially valued for hair products. Oleic acid or omega-9 and stearic acid account for 85-90% of the fatty acid content of the oils. The function of stearic acid is to provide a firm consistency while the oleic acid dictates that texture of the Shea butter.

Vitamins A and F

Vitamin A is widely known to promote the production of skin cells, further healing scars, wounds, and rashes. Vitamin F or linoleic acid, on the other hand, is an omega-6 fatty acid that boosts hair growth. These two vitamins are naturally found in Shea butter for hair and aid in treating dermatitis and eczema among babies. They also slow down skin aging and can make it healthier and more supple.

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Is Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii) Safe For Baby References:
[1]   American Shea Butter Institute; 21 Reasons to Use Shea Butter, 2013.
[2]   Body & Soul. California, U. o. (2005).  New Age Publishing.
[3]   American Shea Butter Institute; 21 Reasons to Use Shea Butter, 2013.
[4]   Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. Bittmann, F. (1992).  Springer.
[5]   US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive effects of triterpene cinnamates and acetates from shea fat, Akihisa T, Kojima N, Kikuchi T, Yasukawa K, Tokuda H, T Masters E, Manosroi A, Manosroi J, 2010.
[6]   AAK Academy; Shea butter extract for bioactive skincare, Ann-Charlotte Andersson, Jari Alander.
[7]   US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Anti-inflammatory effects of shea butter through inhibition of iNOS, COX-2, and cytokines via the Nf-κB pathway in LPS-activated J774 macrophage cells. N, V., R, C., RH, D., & HK., G, 2012.
[8]   US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Anti-inflammatory effects of shea butter through inhibition of iNOS, COX-2, and cytokines via the Nf-κB pathway in LPS-activated J774 macrophage cells. N, V., R, C., RH, D., & HK., G, 2012.
[9]   Essential Oils for Beauty, Wellness, and the Home; 100 Natural, Non-toxic Recipes for the Beginner and Beyond. Atkinson, A. (2015).  Skyhorse Publishing.
[10]   Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; Phenolic Constituents of Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) Kernels. Maranz, S., Wiesman, Z., Garti A.N., 2003.
[11]; PHYSICO-CHEMICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF SHEA BUTTER (Vitellaria). JBL, O., F, O., JG, A., PC, V., A, N., JBA, O., et al.
[12]   US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Influence of climate on the tocopherol content of shea butter. S., M., & Z., W.

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