Shea Butter For The (Skincare) Win

I had chronically, tragically dry skin as a kid. It never mattered how much lotion I would slather on, by the time mid-day rolled around I looked like a chimney sweep. And, oh did the kids in school let me know it! I’m still on my way to healing from the trauma of looking like no one loved me enough to grease up my elbows, but today my woes when it comes to dry skin have been remedied thanks to shea butter!

Chances are you’ve heard of this stuff whether it be in connection to hair routines or moisture, as everyone seems to be enamored with the butter – and for good reason. Shea butter can be whipped and mixed with other oils to produce delectable concoctions which lock in moisture and rejuvenate the skin. I personally love to mix shea butter with warm coconut oil, and a few drops of one of my favorite essential oils and apply it all over before bed. In the morning, it’s like I have a new layer of ash-free skin. It seems like this miracle cream is too good to be true, but with a little investigation I’ve discovered it’s the real deal. Let’s dive in!

History

Shea butter hails from across the West African coast, along the Saraha and into Eastern Africa. The shea tree that the compound is derived from thrives within the dry climate. According to the Journal of Ethnobiologyshea butter has been created from the harvested nuts of the shea tree starting as far back as 100 B.C.E. During the excavation of a site in Burkina Faso in West Africa, a team of archaeologists discovered shells from the shea nut, and realized the practice of making the butter predates the previous belief that it began in 1100 C.E. That’s a long time to perfect the art of shea butter! The process is still carried out quite similarly to the past, and includes the aid of the entire household.

How is it made?

The process is very time-intensive and requires the involvement of the entire household, or a team. In this lovely video from Hamamat, you can watch the different stages of extracting, cooking, and forming shea butter from the nuts of the shea tree by the people who know it best. It’s quite interesting!

 

What does it do?

If you’re struggling with dry skin like I do, shea butter is a great alternative to traditional lotions or oils. It locks in moisture, softens rough patches, and I have experienced it clear up irritated spots. She butter can be applied to the skin of the body, your hair and face to fight dryness as well as the weakening of hair shafts. I do warn that it does not easily wash out of hair, so if you have dreadlocks like me it’s not a good option for the hair. In loose hair it works wonders. What’s great about the product is how long it can last. A little goes a long way, so you could potentially keep a jar of it for months to years without it spoiling.

 

There you have it! Have you tried shea butter? What oils or butters do you use to take care of your skin? Let me know in the comments!

The Three Essential Oils Keeping Me Sane Right Now

Smells hold a truly transformative power. On those days when everything seems stacked against me, like the world is operating solely to make me go bald, a good scent can ease me into a calmer state of mind. I have vivid memories of my childhood’s happiest moments and they are all accompanied by smells that help to transport me to the beauty of the time. The scents are usually food related, but that’s not the point. Through opening up my senses when I’m having a rough day I’m now much more likely to remember all the tools I’ve amassed in therapy. After a little aromatherapy my body will relax, life gets a little clearer and I feel ready to confront what’s making me scowl.

Now, I’m not one of those people who believes you can cure asthma with an essential oil, or forego a trip to the doctor. As the child of a medical professional I would be risking a serious butt-kicking if I thought that way. We developed modern medicine for a reason, and it has kept me alive more often than my insurance would like. What I’d like to share with you is one way I’ve aided my health.

**Note: Essential oils can be toxic. They should not be ingested or placed directly on the skin. Please only use a few drops of the oils in water for spraying or applying to the body.

Lavender Essential Oil

This one is the G.O.A.T for me. I think everyone should have a bottle of lavender oil or a lavender candle ready for just about any rough situation. When I’m ill and laid up in bed full of medicine, I put three to four drops of lavender essential oil into an oil diffuser. It calms me down enough to sleep through the aches of congestion or body pain. Lavender is my favorite go-to oil, because it pairs well with just about anything I want to mix it with, along with it’s benefits. I put a few drops in my rose water to moisturize my hair and face, I add it to shea butter to lighten the smell on my body, along with putting it into the diffuser after a bad day. I absolutely love how lavender oil makes me feel.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

I don’t necessarily love smell of tea tree oil, but I am here for the benefits. In truth, I’ve used the oil so much that the smell has become more pleasant to me over time. I was introduced to tea tree oil when I learned it helps with itchy scalp and dandruff. I hoped the oil would be a sort of cure-all for my scalp issues; it didn’t cure the itch or totally eradicate my dandruff, but my scalp issues are under better control, which definitely improves my mood. I put a few drops into my shampoo and let the oil cleanse off anything making me itch. My hair even feels softer than it has in forever, thanks to the one-two-punch of rose water and lavender oil after a shampoo with tea tree oil. Additionally, I’ve picked up the habit of adding a few drops of tea tree oil in my diffuser  to help in clearing up my summer sinuses – it’s a life saver.

Lemongrass Essential Oil

If lavender has the top spot, lemongrass is a very close second. When I catch a whiff of lemongrass floating through the house, I feel like I’m in a field made of sugar cookies – my personal version of the perfect afterlife. The only reason I haven’t replaced lavender with this oil as the greatest is because I’m still discovering how awesome it is. Before I had this current set of dreadlocks I used to buy a brand of shea butter to use in my curls that had lemongrass in it as well, and I adored the mix. When I got locks I stopped using the brand, because shea butter in locs is a recipe for disaster. Today, I’m using lemongrass in my shea butter body mixes, I put it into the diffuser when I want a jolt of energy as I work, and I’m learning the oil can ward off mosquitoes. Can you see why I dig it? I can’t wait to find other uses for the lovely scent.

 

There you have it folks! As I said at the top none of these oils are a substitute for medical attention or therapy, but they are a great option when you need a boost in the interim. I hope my little list has got you thinking about the smells you love in a different way, or awakened a desire to learn more about the world around you. What smells do you love right now and how do they help you? Stay strong out there!