Shea it Best

We all know that hydration is crucial and that drinking plenty of water optimizes the functions of the body. What some people forget is that the body needs not only to be hydrated from the inside but also from the outside. With the summer sun sapping moisture from your clients' skin, 'tis the perfect season to introduce ultra-moisturizing shea butter treatments into your spa.

Shea butter comes from karite trees, which are only found in the wild in the savannah regions of West and Central Africa.
Shea butter comes from karite trees, which are only found in the wild in the savannah regions of West and Central Africa.

Only found throughout the tropics of Africa in close to 19 countries, shea butter derives from the nuts of the shea, also known as karite, trees. It takes about 15 to 30 years for these trees to bear high-quality fruit that is later crushed and boiled to obtain a yellowish-colored fatty extract. According to the American Shea Butter Institute, this product, which is rich in vitamins A, E, and F, is a superior moisturizer that contains remarkable healing properties for a variety of skin ailments, including eczema, psoriasis, and acne. It is also used to fortify and protect cell membranes, fade scars, minimize the appearance of stretch marks and wrinkles, improve hyperpigmentation, offer natural protection from harmful ultraviolet rays, and even relieve sinus problems. "Shea butter is known as one of the most effective skin healers and moisturizers ever created," says skincare guru Sonya Dakar. "Originally used by African healers thousands of years ago, shea butter remains one of nature's most potent skin rejuvenators and hydrators."

The Spa at Bushmans Kloof (Western Cape, South Africa) offers Africology Shea Aromatherapeutics ($69, 60 minutes), featuring shea butter from Ghana, giving guests a truly indigenous experience.
The Spa at Bushmans Kloof (Western Cape, South Africa) offers Africology Shea Aromatherapeutics ($69, 60 minutes), featuring shea butter from Ghana, giving guests a truly indigenous experience.

This deeply nourishing product also has a low melting point, and it penetrates quickly when it comes in contact with the skin without leaving behind any greasy residue. Shea butter's ease of use and myriad benefits have made it extremely popular and a darling on spa menus. According to Cornelia Zicu, chief creative officer of Red Door Spa Holdings, many of the services on Red Door Spa menus are performed using products that contain shea butter. "Using the right technique with the right product helps us to deliver unique experiences and maximum results to our guests," she says. "We use shea butter because we really believe people can benefit not only from the massage techniques but also from the product." The most requested service at Red Door Spas around the globe is the Signature Stress Melter Ritual ($235, 1 hour 50 minutes), which employs a shea-butter-infused massage cream that leaves guests with velvety skin, helps relax the muscles, and calms any minor skin conditions. "Guests who experience this service always leave looking like a new person," says Zicu.



Aiming to cultivate the entrepreneurship of African artisan farmers with rich resources, the organization Rooted in Africa recently worked with The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg (VA) to incorporate Molo Africa products into the spa. This aromatherapy line features naturally based massage butters that are rich in raw, premium-grade African shea butter and are used in treatments such as the Shea Butter Massage ($120, 60 minutes; $180, 90 minutes). "Shea butter is thicker than massage oil, and it feels great to relax a bit longer and let it really soak in after a service," says spa director Kate Mearns. "Our clients' skin truly feels like butter when they are finished."

They Shea It Works
They Shea It Works

While shea butter is effective on the body, it can also help people put their best faces forward and be a saving grace for those with troubled skin. "It's a natural anti-inflammatory agent," says Szilvia Hickman, senior vice president at Szép élet, distributor of Ilike Organic Skin Care. "It decreases any acne flare-ups while naturally hydrating the skin, hence normalizing the sebum production to avoid future outbreaks." Leaving the skin matte all day long, Ilike's Sulphuric Whipped Moisturizer is a very light cream that reduces sebaceous gland activity and actively reduces the production and inflammation caused by acne spots. "Clients who receive treatments that feature this product experience an immediate pore-tightening effect with reduced inflammation and redness, and when they use this product on a daily basis, they feel mattified throughout the entire day," says Hickman.

Like Butter
Like Butter

All of the facials at the Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic (Beverly Hills, CA) conclude with an application of shea-butter-rich Visualift Eye Cream, which was developed to raise the eye area and help erase crow's feet. "Because the eye area does not have many oil glands, the skin around the eyes easily dehydrates without the ability to reproduce oil," says Dakar. "The use of shea butter in Visualift provides a rich and healing source of hydration to penetrate the neglected eye area, keeping it supple and helping it retain moisture." Dakar's Hydrasoft Cream also features shea butter and is used to conclude treatments to help skin of all types heal and regain moisture levels and leave a silky finish. "These products do not leave skin feeling greasy or heavy, rather healthy and glowing," says Dakar.

In addition to treating the delicate eye area, puckers can also be perfected with shea butter. Facelogic (Broomfield, CO) features éminence Organic Skin Care's citrusy Lip Trio Treatment as an add-on to its facials ($15). This three-step treatment refines and exfoliates the lip area with fruit enzymes; hydrates and nourishes with an extra-rich shea butter- and avocado-oil-based mask; and plumps and protects lips with a non-petroleum balm. "Clients are always thrilled to receive this as a stand-alone or add-on treatment to an éminence facial," says éminence's director of marketing and public relations Stephanie Baresh. "It delivers natural peptides that give a collagen-boosting plumping action to fill in fine lines and makes lips voluptuous, youthful, and kissably soft."

Not only does shea butter nourish the skin but it is also used to treat troubled tresses. The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne (FL) offers the Shea Butter Treatment ($50, 25 minutes) for lovelier locks. Warm shea butter is applied to the shaft of the hair to heal, protect, and penetrate every strand to make hair shinier, softer, and stronger. According to spa director Trudy Miller, the treatment is perfect for people with dry, damaged, or over-processed 'dos, as it promotes restructuring of the hair shaft. "It's great for our location, and it is beneficial to guests who have been exposed to the sun and ocean, which are elements that are damaging and drying to the hair," she says. "Clients love the treatment, as they see and feel the differences immediately." Whether used around the eyes, lips, back, body, or hair, this vitamin-packed solution to dry, chapped skin is making people believe that butter is better. —Cristina De Oliveira

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