Choosing a massage cream that works for you and the majority of your clients can sometimes be a process of trial and error. You may find one massage cream that is the perfect consistency, allowing you both glide and a certain amount of friction for deeper work. However, that cream may have a scent you dislike or contain synthetic ingredients you don’t wish to apply to your clients—or your own hands and forearms.

Figuring out exactly what a massage cream contains is a good way to decide whether it’s a product you’ll want to order again and again. Many massage therapists seek a massage cream that offers benefits beyond its consistency. A common ingredient in such creams may be shea butter, as this natural fat boasts the ability to thoroughly moisturize skin, among other benefits.

Shea butter, also known as shea nut butter, comes from the fruit of a shea tree, and it’s extracted via the crushing and boiling of shea nuts. These trees are found throughout Africa, from Senegal to Uganda. They do not even begin to produce fruit until they are 20 years old, and they reach full production at around 45 years. Thereafter, the shea tree can produce its nuts for up to 200 years.

According to the American Shea Butter Institute, the fatty extract from the seed of the shea tree contains a number of ingredients with biological activity that both moisturizes the skin and helps heal certain ailments.

The institute reports that shea butter comprises several natural anti-inflammatory agents, as well as a minor sunscreen agent. Those who routinely apply shea butter have reported relief from blemishes, itching, sunburns, small skin wounds, eczema, skin allergies and wrinkles. The fact that shea butter contains both vitamins A and E may account for its myriad reported benefits.

The properties of most seed oils can be divided into two fractions: the saponifiable fraction, which contains the most moisturizing benefits, and the nonsaponifiable fraction, which contains the most healing benefits.

“What sets shea butter apart from other seed oils is its exceptionally large healing fraction,” states the Web site of the American Shea Butter Institute. “The healing fraction contains important nutrients, vitamins and other valuable phytonutrients required for healing.”

Although other seed oils often offer excellent moisturizing benefits, the additional healing benefits found in shea butter may make this one ingredient a massage therapist may seek in his or her massage cream.

However, much like most elements of a massage cream, or for that matter nearly any consumer product, more extensive research may be required to find out whether the shea butter is organic; if it is grown and harvested in an environmentally responsible way; if synthetic ingredients are used to process it; and other such details.

Once you have done the groundwork to discover exactly what’s in your favorite massage cream, you should be free of any nagging concerns as you apply it to your clients and order it again and again.