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Clean beauty is all the rage right now. From coconut oil to manuka honey, people are looking for natural alternatives to their hair and skincare routines. Here, we make the case for shea butter, which happens to be one of the most common ingredients in tons of beauty products already. The more you know.

What is shea butter?

Shea butter is a fat that’s extracted from the nut of the shea (karite) tree. The seed can be found in east and west Africa. The butter itself is made by taking the oily kernels and grinding them into powder before boiling in water. Once cooled, it hardens and turns into a solid. Shea butter is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins, which makes it great for hydration and soothing skin.

Whether you’re looking to improve dry skin or take off your makeup after a long day, here are all the shea butter uses you should know (and a few products to buy and try for yourself).

21 shea butter uses:

RELATED: 39 Uses for Vaseline (for Beauty and Beyond)

shea butter uses preventing stretch marks
Science Photo Library/Ian Hooton/Getty Images

1. Improve dry skin

The mix of vitamins and fatty acids work to moisturize and nourish skin. If you suffer from dry skin (cracked heels, dry cuticles and such), the butter works to soften, smooth and protect your skin barrier.

2. Treat skin conditions

Shea butter’s vitamin A and other anti-inflammatory properties help reduce swelling and heal skin conditions like burns, scars, eczema and dermatitis. You’ll get quick relief from any flare-ups when you rub raw shea butter directly onto the problem spot.

3. Smooth wrinkles and fine lines

It’s full of antioxidant properties that help the skin’s natural collagen production (thanks to the triterpenes component). If you stay consistent with the application, your skin will likely begin to soften and strengthen in the areas where wrinkles or fine lines are prominent.

4. Reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scarring

The butter stops scar tissue from reproducing and encourages cell growth to take its place. The vitamin A and E found in shea butter can help with skin elasticity and help smooth the skin’s surface. Applying a thin layer daily can help your skin heal and minimize the appearance of these marks.

5. Relieve sun exposure

After a day in the sun, rub on some shea butter to nourish and replenish overexposed skin. The butter actually has a natural SPF of about 4 to 6. It can’t replace your beloved sunscreen, but it can provide some relief and added protection on the go.

6. Protect a sore nose

If you’re dealing with a cold, the flu or the turmoils of allergy season, a dab of shea butter around your nostrils can bring moisture back to your skin. It can also help with nasal congestion if used in the interior of the nose and may be more useful than nasal drops, according to a study done by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

shea butter uses moisturizer
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7. Moisturize naturally

The fatty acids and vitamins in shea butter help to nourish the skin without drying it out. It doesn’t clog pores and it works on all skin types—yes, including oily. The linoleic acid and oleic acid balance each other to absorb into your skin without leaving a greasy residue.

8. Make a homemade deodorant

Ditch your aluminum-ridden store-bought deodorant and try a natural one instead. Just mix 2 tablespoons shea butter with 3 tablespoons coconut oil before melting it down over a pot of boiling water. Once melted, remove it from the heat and mix in 3 tablespoons baking soda, 2 tablespoons organic cornstarch and a few drops of essential oils for scent. Let it cool, then apply it straight to your pits.

9. Remove eye makeup

Don't have makeup remover around? Gently massage some shea butter onto your lids before wiping away the makeup with a cotton pad.

10. Hydrate your under eyes area

The combo of vitamins A, E and F will help combat puffiness. You can even use it to make your own cream: Combine 2 tablespoons shea butter, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 teaspoon beeswax and a couple drops of essential oils, melt it down over a pot of boiling water, then pour it into a mason jar for storage. After the ingredients have blended and cooled, dab tiny amounts under your eyes to improve the skin’s appearance.

11. Create a diy lip balm

Looking for a dupe of some of your fave lip balms? Just combine equal parts of beeswax, coconut oil and shea butter in a bowl set over a pot of boiling water, stirring until it melts. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for scent and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours to harden before using.

12. Soothe an itchy scalp

Shea butter can provide nourishment to any dry or irritated skin on your head. It works to moisturize, improve shine and reduce itching, all while treating dandruff. (Note: If the shea butter is too thick, try melting it with low heat and mixing in other oils before applying it to your hair.)

shea butter uses dying hair
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13. Relieve diaper rash

Mix ¼ cup shea butter, ½ cup coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of calendula and chamomile flowers for a natural diaper cream to relieve rashes. All the ingredients have antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. (Shea butter can also be used for yeast infections and postpartum stretch marks.)

14. Alleviate insect bites

Whether you’re dealing with insect bites, frostbite, sunburn or allergies, this do-it-all ingredient can heal and moisturize the areas and calm irritation.

15. Make shaving easier

Ran out of shaving cream? Lather up with shea butter before taking the razor to your legs for your smoothest shave yet. It’ll also help with post-shave bumps and irritation.

16. Calm muscle soreness

If you’re suffering from muscle fatigue, aches and tension, shea butter can reduce inflammation and stiffness. It can also help people with arthritis when massaged onto the affected spots.

17. Ease athlete’s foot

Shea butter has been known to fight skin infections caused by fungi like ringworm. While it doesn’t necessarily kill the infection, it can help ease irritation and prevent new fungi spores from coming through.

shea butter uses cooking
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18. Treat acne

OK, so it’s not going to magically erase your acne overnight, but it can help prevent new blemishes from forming. The fatty acids help clear the skin of excess oil and restore the missing moisture (without drying your skin out). But if you’re acne-prone, you should check with your dermatologist first.

19. Make a diy face mask

After washing, try using shea butter in a homemade mask before moving on to the rest of your skin routine. Mix up 1 teaspoon raw honey, 1 teaspoon shea butter and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Apply a thin layer over your face, leave the mask on for 10 to 12 minutes, then rinse with warm water.

20. Prevent hair breakage

Shea butter can be applied directly to your strands for a strengthening, moisturizing effect that works on all hair types. Let it sit in your hair for three to five minutes before rinsing and going about your styling.

21. Cook with it

Raw shea butter can be used in healthy cooking as a great alternative to coconut oil, butter or even olive oil. You can even incorporate unrefined shea butter into your food to benefit your hair, skin and nails (thanks to its fatty acid and vitamins components.) Shea butter gives stir fry dishes more flavor, chocolate goods creamier and even smoothies a boost of antioxidants.

And what kind of shea butter works best?

From store-brought blends to raw shea butter, there are many variations of the ingredient. To find high-quality options, pay attention to the color, which should be off-white or ivory. Be sure to purchase raw and unrefined butter to get the most out of its natural benefits. Shea butter is graded from A to F, with grade A or labeled “fair trade” being the purest form of the ingredient.

Ready to try it? Here are a few options to consider:

1. Better Shea Butter Unrefined African Shea Butter

If you’re ready to make your own body butter, moisturizer or lip balm, invest in this one pound brick of unrefined shea butter. It can be applied to your skin directly or mixed with other products.

$16 at Amazon

2. Sky Organics Organic Shea Butter

With more than 1,600 five-star reviews on Amazon, this organic shea butter product helps soften and smooth skin. It’s 100 percent raw and unrefined, and it can be used on the face and body to bring back moisture.

$15 at Amazon

3. Shea Moisture 100% Raw Shea Butter

This raw shea butter moisturizer helps to replenish hair and skin. The clean product also works to hydrate, protect and comfort irritation. It works on all hair and skin types.

Buy It ($11)

4. Palmer’s Shea Formula Raw Shea Butter Lotion

In this product, shea butter is mixed with marula, oatmeal and grapeseed oil to help moisturize and nourish the body and face. The combination helps to soften and smooth skin without feeling greasy or oily. And you can’t go wrong with the great scent.

$4 at Amazon

OK, anything else I should know?

Don’t forget to store your shea butter away from light or heat. The butter can last 12 to 24 months at room temperature. Once the shea butter ages, it begins to lose its natural benefits.

If you’re still unsure about using shea butter because of any skin conditions or nut allergies (though no studies prove it causes a reaction), as always, consult your physician or dermatologist before trying it.

RELATED: Here Are 5 Benefits of Using Honey on Your Face

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