Shea butter, used as a moisturizer since ancient times, is produced from the nuts inside the fruit of the shea tree, found only in Africa. It can take one tree 15 to 30 years to develop mature enough fruit from which to harvest quality shea nuts. Fortunately, to experience its benefits you don't have to wait nearly as long, as your skin will feel moisturized the moment you apply it.
Shea butter is rich in vitamin A, which functions similarly to the natural fats found in the skin's upper layers. The vitamin not only helps alleviate dry skin, but can ease eczema, dermatitis, sunburn and insect bites. It also has high levels of skin-friendly vitamin F, which contains fatty acids that can aid normal cell growth and keep skin young looking.
When shopping for shea butter, it's important to look for a product that is no more than 18 months old, as the longer the moisturizer sits on the shelf, the less of a healing compound known as cinnamic acid (a cinnamon cousin) it will contain. It's also a good idea to look for varieties that are produced without the use of a dangerous chemical known as hexane in the extraction process. And be sure to seek out preparations that are 100 percent shea butter without any fillers.