Shea Butter & Acne

The face is the area everyone puts the most effort into keeping healthy and good looking. We cleanse and wash it often, we put moisturizers to keep it soft and silky, all in an attempt to achieve the proverbial “glow”.

And it hardly comes as a surprise – no one enjoys having dry, irritated skin, which we all know can lead to acne and other conditions. But for most people, acne is something they have to deal with, and luckily, in today’s age, there is an abundance of information on how to prevent and deal with them.

For many people, DIY treatments are the first go-to when they have problems with acne. And one of the most frequently used products is shea butter. Many are unsure whether to use or not use shea butter. If you have these doubts, we suggest you hold off on making that decision until you’ve read this article.

Now let’s dive into it.

What’s The Big Deal?

Shea Butter & Acne

Admit it, you have looked up home and DIY remedies for your acne. But then again, who hasn’t? And you must have run into hundreds of articles and reviews on shea butter. People claiming that shea butter is the best product they have used, and they’ve used it in all imaginable forms – in the form of a lotion, body butter, soap and lip balm. Although scientific studies are not conclusive, there are certain advantages to using shea butter.


Sometimes referred to as a skin ’superfood’, shea butter is known to be naturally rich in many phenolic compounds, and vitamins like A, E, and F. It also has a high amount of fatty acids, all adding up to what seems to be a very good natural cosmetic product. Among these are also palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic, all part of the good nutritional value of shea. As it has a pretty low melting point – usually body temperature is enough, it’s perfect when it comes to skin absorption.

Effects And Benefits

Shea Butter & Acne

Before listing all the potential benefits, we must point out that there are different types of shea butter. Most are divided into classes, depending on the content and quality. They usually range from class A to F, with A considered to be the best and most unrefined, and F being with the lowest quality. With different qualities comes a different level of efficiency.

  • Moisturizing – Shea butter is a great moisturizer. The high amount of fatty acids mentioned above make it a more than a decent option if you have dry skin. It keeps the skin hydrated and moist, protecting it from the usual cracks that accompany dryness. Nourishing the skin without clogging the pores, it can do wonders for your skin, and help prevent acne.
  • Anti-inflammatory –  A study on shea butter has shown that thanks to some ingredients like cinnamic acid and vitamin K, shea butter has some anti-inflammatory properties. Some generalized inflammations like other skin conditions and acne symptoms can be alleviated using it. A compound called lupeol cinnamate has been found to be very effective in reducing inflammation and preventing skin mutations. Great in lowering irritation produced by acne-causing bacteria.
  • Anti-aging and skin smoothing – shea butter is effective in the battle against oxidative stress (the effect of environmental toxins on your skin). Raising collagen production in the skin helps improve softness and smoothness. Also, many people claim that long term usage has reversed their aging if you’re after anecdotal advice. Regular use increases circulation in the face, improving skin cell regeneration, reducing wrinkles and strengthening the skin.
  • Provide protection from UV rays – the vitamins A and E give it a small SPF(Sun Protection Factor). They help protect the skin from the free radicals which can be induced from sunlight. But the SPF factor is not enough to provide sufficient sun protection, so it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for sunscreen.
  • Lip balm – our lips have sensitive skin, and require moisture more than other parts of our skin. Shea butter can help heal chapped and dried lips and help them retain moisture in cold and windy days.

Shea butter has been known to be great for hair care too, but since we are talking about its benefits for your face and acne prevention and treatment, we won’t waste time on them – look them up though!

Classes and Types of Shea Butter

Shea Butter & Acne

We already mentioned that there are different types of shea butter, and they’re divided into classes, as sometimes the butter is processed to remove any smells or color. Class A is known to be the “purest” of them all. The least treated, and the one most rich in all the constituents otherwise lost in the refining process. All the lower quality ones (B, C, D, E, and F) have been processed to a certain degree, to maintain the texture, improve applicability and prolong the expiration date of the butter, which is all well – but they have fewer benefits for the skin.

Some of the A class ones come as ‘raw’ and ‘unrefined’, meaning they are closer to the natural state. These are usually without additives or fragrances.

Which Type of Shea Butter Should You Use For Acne

Going for the purest and least refined one would be instinctive, but not necessarily good. Research has shown that using the rawest version of shea butter can be too rich and too strong for facial skin. As such, it can make your skin too oily and irritate it, clog your pores and cause acne, rather than prevent them. Instead, go for the refined ones, but make sure that they are fragrance-free. These can provide the perfect amount of nutrition and protection. Alternatively, you can use products such as moisturizers and cleansers that are rich in shea butter, so you can have the best of both worlds. Mixing modern products with well-known natural remedies can do wonders.

How to Use Shea Butter

Shea Butter & Acne

A wide spectrum of possible uses is available. Masks, soaps, moisturizers, lotions, creams just to name a few. Picking the right one for you might take some time, but if you already have a defined cleansing routine, you can easily implement it without changing any of your current steps. For example, if you’re using over-the-counter cleansers and moisturizers, go for a mask. If not, replace one of them. Or use it as a night cream. The options are almost infinite. Here is the recipe for our favorite shea butter mask:

Shea Butter Night Mask

This one is great for all people who suffer from acne and have dry skin. It’s simple to make, but it packs quite a powerful punch.

  1. First, make sure your face is all clean.
  2. In a cup or bowl, add half a tablespoon of shea butter, half tablespoon normal or raw honey, and 2-3 drops of geranium essential oil or grapeseed oil.
  3. Mix all the ingredients until you get a creamy mixture.
  4. Apply on your face and leave it on for 20 – 30 minutes.
  5. Wash it off with warm water.

Potential Side Effects

Well if it was all perfect, then it would be too good to be true. And we all know to stay away from products coming from companies that say have no side-effects whatsoever. Still, shea butter has a low risk of causing any unwanted effects. Although the kernels of the shea trees are part of the nut category, research has shown that shea kernels or any of its derivatives do not cause allergic reactions or irritation in people with nut allergies.

We also mentioned that some of the unrefined and raw forms of shea butter can cause an acne outbreak because of their richness.

If you ingest or use it as a topical treatment, these are the possible side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Itchy rashes
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain

If you happen to experience any of them, stop using shea butter and consult with a physician. There have been no registered cases of allergic reactions, but it’s always better to be 100% sure. In order to see if you will have any reaction to it, try performing a patch test. Apply a small amount to a certain area every day for a few days, and see how that works for you.


Shea Butter & Acne

So there you have it! We hope that we cleared up some things and we answered questions you might have had. There isn’t tons of research when it comes to shea butter for acne, but there is no doubt it can help with certain conditions. But to stay true to science, we recommend using it as part of a regime, rather than as the only product for your face. The occasional mask and cleansing might help you reap the benefits – if your skin is not naturally oily that is. If it is, don’t use it, your skin needs something to put the sebaceous glands under control, not add fuel to the already burning fire on your face.