Shea Butter & Latex Allergies

Apr 14, 09:56 AM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Like every industry, cosmetic companies go through trends, and the trendy ingredient of the past few years has been shea butter. The omnipresent shea butter can be found in  soaps, lotions, body butters, hair conditioner, foundation, eye shadow, you-name-it... they're all loaded with the stuff. Shea (Butyrospermum parkii) is a common alternative to lanolin or cocoa butter in many natural personal care products because it has deeply emollient qualities and blends well with other ingredients.

The problem is that no one seems to recognize shea butter as an allergen or sensitizing agent. Shea is sourced from the nut of a tree that is closely related to the rubber tree, which yields latex, a common allergen. If you have a latex allergy, you're likely to become allergic to shea. Ironically, shea butter is heralded as a cure for chapped skin, rashes, chapped lips, eczema and psoriasis, but will actually cause these conditions in one who has become cross-sensitized to it. Unfortunately, I know this all too well from personal experience.

It is important to note that latex sensitization (a similar condition to latex allergy) worsens with cumulative exposures to latex and chemically similar products. Individuals who become severely sensitized can progress beyond contact dermatitis, developing many food allergies and even suffering anaphylactic shock upon exposure.

If you have a known latex allergy or sensitization, check the labels on all your personal care products and avoid anything containing shea butter, often listed on the label as Butyrospermum parkii. Promptly toss these products. Your skin will thank you for it!

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