Sign in

A Better Butter

Mary Bemis January 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

I recently had a shea butter treatment at Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, then another in Sedona, Arizona, at the newly opened Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa. I realized that a trend was emerging when I experienced yet another one at Sego Lily Mind Body Spa, a new day spa in Midvale, Utah. This year, shea butter body treatments have experienced a surge in popularity at new and existing spas.

Melts on your body

Shea butter, extracted from the kernels of the fruit of the Central African Mangifolia tree, is known as an excellent emollient with great healing properties. High in triglycerides and fatty acids, shea butter’s soft, rich texture melts easily into the skin. Traditionally, natural shea butter has been used as a balm for minor burns, sun allergies, muscle aches and more. It also helps to protect the skin from environmental damage and is highly valued as a beauty aid for hair and skin, thanks to its softening and moisturizing qualities. Given all that, it is no surprise that spa directors are incorporating this dynamic ingredient into their menus and that shea butter is used increasingly by massage therapists, due to how easily it is absorbed into the skin.

“Frankly, shea butter is a nice ingredient,” says Howard Murad, MD, CEO and founder of Murad, Inc. and associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California Los Angeles. “I don’t see it as a new technology, but it’s a very good moisturizer and it feels good.” Murad included shea butter in the company’s Resurgence Age Balancing Night Cream, targeted toward menopausal women. “This particular category of women likes the feel of a heavier product,” he notes.

Dip into healing

Mark Burlaza, spa director at the Ocean Spa & Fitness Center at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California, utilizes shea butter in a number of ways. “At Ocean Spa & Fitness Center, we use shea butter due to its soothing, moisturizing, protecting and healing effects on the body, and because it helps cell regeneration and capillary circulation. It is beneficial for healing small wounds, as well as skin cracks and crevices, making it a great foot moisturizer that complements our spa pedicures,” he says. “Shea butter also is very well tolerated by the skin because it doesn’t trigger allergic reactions, and that’s why you can find it in our mask for sensitive skin. Finally, its protective role against ultraviolet (UV) rays makes it a good element in sun products.”

At the Raindance Spa at The Lodge at Sonoma in Sonoma, California, spa director Patty Field is replacing the Moor Mud Wrap with the Lavender Luxury Wrap, a shea butter-based treatment (see On the Menu). “The Moor Mud Wrap is not as popular anymore,” she says. “Shea butter is a luxurious, supermoisturizing cream that hydrates and conditions the skin, while lavender is a calming essential oil that is excellent for its aromatherapy benefits.”

At New York’s Ajune Medical Day Spa, spa director Margaret Lora believes that shea butter treatments are becoming more in demand because of the ingredient’s universal healing properties. “It’s wonderful for pregnant women, as the shea butter helps to prevent stretch marks,” she says. Ajune’s shea butter body treatment also is requested frequently by pregnant clients because it doesn’t involve heat. These women typically visit the spa for a prenatal massage, followed by this body treatment.

Hydrating benefits

Meanwhile, in drier climates, such as Arizona, shea butter treatments are in high demand. “The No. 1 complaint of travelers to Arizona is the dryness of their skin,” says Toni Nurnberg, spa director at The Spa at Sedona Rouge. “Shea butter is by far the most nourishing lotion. When our clients leave, they can’t believe the difference in their skin, which is soft, supple and hydrated. It is a great treatment for anyone in a desert climate or who suffers from dry, irritated skin.”

Deborah Waldvogel, director of spa operations at Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment, also in Sedona, says, “Our reason for adding shea butter is because most of our clients, regardless of what part of the world they are from, find that their skin is quite dehydrated after a few days of sunshine and outdoor activities, such as hiking and mountain biking. Shea butter is an incredibly rich moisturizer that revitalizes the skin and renourishes the hands and feet.”

And, speaking of other body parts, shea butter often is used in manicures, pedicures and even scalp treatments. “Shea butter has great nourishing properties and penetrates into the core of the hair,” says Dan Pierotti, vice president of spa development and operations for Noble House Hotels and Resorts. “It restores and smoothes the damaged shaft. Regular application will leave your hair silky, healthy and shiny.” The African Shea Butter Hair Treatment is an add-on that Pierotti developed for each of the Spa Terre properties at Noble House Resorts.

Shea it with butter

Incorporating shea butter treatments offers clients a unique, natural ingredient that contains deep-healing properties. Use it in body treatments or after a massage as an added value. Clients not only will see results in their skin, but will feel great as well.



On the Menu: Shea Butter

A selection of soothing shea butter treatments to make your clients say “Ahh!”

The Lavender Luxury Wrap

Location: Raindance Spa at The Lodge at Sonoma, Sonoma, CA

Time & Cost: 100 minutes, $195

This brand-new treatment begins with a dry brush exfoliation, followed by a lavender-shea butter application. The client then is wrapped in warm blankets and receives a light scalp massage. A full-body massage completes the service.

Shea Body Butter Indulgence

Location: Sundara Inn & Spa, Wisconsin Dells, WI

Time & Cost: 90 minutes, $210

This new treatment begins with an application of the spa’s signature essential oil blend—a soothing combination of sandalwood and jasmine—followed by a sprinkling of bath salts for an exfoliating massage. Next, an application of Sundara’s signature shea butter product is applied, and the client is wrapped. During this time, she receives a facial and a scalp massage. Once unwrapped, the remaining shea butter is worked into the skin during a full-body massage.

High Mountain Body Butter Drench

Location: Sego Lily Mind Body Spa, Midvale, UT

Time & Cost: 50 or 80 minutes, $60 or $80

First, the client lies on a heated blanket and receives a full-body massage using a local product called Body Butter Key West, followed by a 15-minute heated wrap. She simultaneously is given a scalp, neck and shoulder massage. Spa director Dana Carlson says, “This is my favorite treatment. Not only do you get a good massage, but you get a little pampering, too. I just love the product—it smells good and keeps your skin soft for days.”

Shea Butter Body Emulsion

Location: Ajune Medical Day Spa, New York

Time & Cost: 60 minutes, $150

This Sothys body treatment is one of the spa’s most popular menu items. The three-step service begins with an oatmeal body exfoliation, after which the client showers off. An application of a hydrating gel that is massaged into the body follows, ending with a pure shea butter massage.

Shea Butter Cocoon

Location: The Spa at Sedona Rouge, Sedona, AZ

Time & Cost: 60 or 90 minutes, $100 or $150

First, the client is exfoliated using the spa’s signature White Sugar Scrub, followed by an application of Shea Butter Blend to counter the effects of sun exposure and dryness. Then, the client is wrapped in a warm blanket, and the therapist performs a relaxing face and neck massage with the facility’s signature Desert Facial massage oil.

Thash (Native Sun Wrap)

Location: Aji Spa at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, Chandler, AZ

Time & Cost: 25 or 50 minutes, $65 or $115

This indulgent menu item begins with the application of the spa’s melted Sun Blend Shea Butter and Sun Blend Body Oil. The body then is enveloped in an aromatic steam capsule in which steam therapy enables the body to absorb antioxidants and vitamins A, D and E. According to spa director Justin Sturgis, the entire experience helps to improve circulation and neutralize free radicals, and has an overall therapeutic effect on the body.

African Shea Butter Hair Treatment

Location: Spa Terre at The Viking, Newport, RI

Time & Cost: 10 minutes, add-on to any service, $40

Beneficial for the health of the hair, due to the nourishing power of shea butter, this treatment enhances any service. It is best used prior to shampooing and is left in the hair for three hours or longer.

The Blue Lagoon

Location: As “U” Wish Nail Spa, Hoboken, NJ

Time & Cost: 60 minutes, $45

First, the feet are immersed in an ocean blue relaxing lavender foot bath infused with peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils. Next, a peppermint, shea butter and sugar cream scrub is applied, followed by an expert nail shaping, smoothing and buffing. An application of lacquer concludes the pedicure.

Jojoba Butter Hydrating Wrap

Location: Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment, Sedona, AZ

Time & Cost: 60 minutes, $130

This treatment offers deep all-over natural conditioning, and provides the skin with moisture and protection against the effects of stress, pollution and aging. The session begins with a gentle sea salt exfoliation to prepare the skin to receive the rich butter cream containing jojoba and shea butter, which is massaged gently into the skin. The client then is wrapped in warm blankets to allow deep product penetration. During this time, she receives a neck and face massage.

“Shea butter is beneficial for healing small wounds, as well as skin cracks and crevices, making it a great foot moisturizer that complements our spa pedicures.”

Next image >