A Better Butter

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.

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