Allergic Reactions Triggered by Using Shea Butter for Your Skin and Hair

Shea butter is a fatty substance obtained from the nut of the African shea tree. It’s used in many hair, skin and cosmetic products and has many benefits. It soothes and moisturizes the skin and reduces inflammation, but it’s not safe for everyone. Some people are allergic to shea butter and must steer clear of it to avoid having a reaction.

Latex allergy

The shea tree is related to the rubber plant and may contain natural latex. Anyone with a latex allergy is at risk for developing an allergic reaction when using shea butter on their hair or skin. This is known as a cross-reaction. Adults and children who have a latex allergy may develop skin reactions to shea butter or a more serious reaction like anaphylaxis.

Nut allergy

Shea is a tree nut, and the fat extracted from the nut contains a very small amount of shea protein — the component that can provoke an allergic reaction. While a tree nut allergy to shea butter is rare, it is possible.

Some people may be sensitive to even the tiniest amount of protein from certain tree nuts. If you have a tree nut allergy, you’re at risk for having a reaction to shea butter, although the risk is very small.

Contact dermatitis

People with contact dermatitis develop a red, itchy rash upon contact with certain substances. Triggers vary greatly from person to person, and it’s possible for the immune system to overreact to normally harmless substances like shea butter. Cosmetics, fragrances, soaps and plants can trigger contact dermatitis.

If you have contact dermatitis and find that certain plants seem to trigger your symptoms, it’s possible for you to have a reaction to shea butter because it’s a plant derivative.

Reactions to ingredients in shea butter products

If you suspect that you’re experiencing an allergic reaction after using shea butter, you may have a sensitivity to an ingredient in the shea butter. Many shea butter products contain additives.

Fragrances like lavender are increasingly common. Children and adults with an allergy to lavender may have developed a reaction when using a shea butter product that contains lavender.

Allergy symptoms

If you’re having a reaction to shea butter you may experience:

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including trouble breathing, and swelling of the lips, eyes and face.

Allergy testing

Visiting a specialist is the only way to get to the bottom of your symptoms and know for sure whether you’re having an allergic reaction to shea butter. Dr. Ulrike Ziegner specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies so that you get relief from your symptoms.

Skin testing allows Dr. Ziegner to check for a reaction to a suspected substance. It involves pricking your skin with the suspected allergen and waiting to see whether you have a reaction. A positive reaction to a substance is indicated by a raised, red wheel on the skin. The absence of a reaction doesn’t completely rule out an allergy.

Other diagnostic tools include skin patch testing which allows to test for ingredients and personal products, such as individual cosmetics, that might cause contact dermatitis, a delayed hypersensitivity reaction, as often seen with shea butter allergy.

Dr. Ziegner uses skin testing, along with other information, to identify and diagnose allergic conditions. A blood test may be used to assist in the diagnosis.

When to seek professional help

It’s wise to seek the assistance of a specialist whenever you have symptoms of an allergy or suspect that you’re allergic to a substance. Keeping a journal to document your symptoms can provide Dr. Ziegner with valuable insight into the potential cause of your symptoms.

It helps to record your symptoms, the severity, when they occur and what you were doing before the reaction. It also helps to record whether something you do eases your symptoms. Dr. Ziegner can use this information to aid in making the proper diagnosis.

Allergies are common and treatable. If you’re allergic to shea butter, avoiding shea butter in all its forms, along with any derivatives, is the primary approach to getting symptom relief and avoiding triggering a reaction.

To learn more about diagnosing and managing a shea butter allergy, schedule a visit with Dr. Ziegner by calling our Redondo Beach, California, office or requesting an appointment online.

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