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A Better Butter

By: Mary Bemis
Posted: June 25, 2008, from the 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.”