Shea butter is nutrient-rich cosmetic butter that contains significant amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. The multiple benefits of shea butter for hair and its ability to address key hair issues make it a popular ingredient in both hair care products and DIY treatments.
Read on to see why you need shea butter in your life, how to whip it, and what other ingredients to add in for ultimate TLC for your locks.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is extracted from the nuts of the Shea tree or Karite tree (a.k.a Tree of Life), which are native to West Africa. Most of the world’s shea butter still comes from this region and the butter is therefore sometimes referred to as African shea butter.
Although it first gained popularity in the western world as an ingredient for natural hair products, shea butter has quickly become a popular ingredient for all segments of the beauty industry. It is now used in products for hair regardless of hair texture and is also extensively found in skincare products.
Shea butter is semi-soft in warm temperatures and firm in cooler climates. It readily melts upon contact with the skin, is vegan and safe. Shea butter doesn’t contain chemical irritants that dry out the skin and won’t clog pores. Its fatty acid content strengthens the skin’s natural barrier and in so doing protects hair and scalp from the sun and other environmental damage. This amazing butter also doesn’t make hair oily but rather sinks into the scalp without leaving any greasy residue behind.
Benefits of Shea Butter for Hair
Shea butter is intensely nourishing and moisturizing to the hair and scalp. Its benefits for hair also include stimulating hair growth, taming frizz and sealing in moisture. This is why it is often used to restore heat damaged hair and keep curly and coily hair healthy.
Here are the main shea butter benefits for hair that makes it worth giving a try:
Shea butter contains a high concentration of fatty acids, which is the key to its ability to moisturize hair. This means shea butter will moisturize the hair to keep it supple and soothe and the scalp – to reduce or prevent scalp itching caused by dryness. Reducing dryness also reduces breakage. Fatty acids also help to increase shine and control frizz, especially in natural hair.
Shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce redness and scalp irritation. It can be used on the scalp without clogging the pores, which means shea butter won’t impede hair growth by blocking the hair follicles. It is safe to use on all types of hair, including chemically treated (i.e. colored, relaxed, etc.) hair.
Vitamins A and E are antioxidants and together are responsible for shea butter’s antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are important anti-aging ingredients that fight free radicals. They also protect hair and scalp from sun damage.
One way of treating dandruff is to restore moisture to a dry and irritated scalp. When used in combination with other moisturizers, shea butter helps decrease flaking from dandruff and reduce the risk of flare-ups. It can also help with scalp conditions such as eczema and psoriasis that often lead to hair loss. Helping to treat these conditions and keep the scalp healthy, shea butter is able to combat the hair loss problem.
How to Use Shea Butter in Hair
Shea butter is available in various forms including raw or unrefined, refined or organic. It may be whipped either in its pure form or in combination with other natural butters and oils to produce a product with a lighter, fluffier texture.
Whatever form your shea butter takes, it is typical to apply shea butter as a hair mask or as part of a wash day routine to seal in the moisture. However, it can also be used as a pre poo treatment or as a natural styler to smooth your locks and lay the edges.
Shea Butter Recipes for Natural Hair
Using shea butter in DIY recipes is a great way to harness the healing benefits for hair, especially since it can be used in different kinds of DIY hair care products.
Below are some great recipes that use shea butter. The recipes are simple and involve readily available ingredients that most women with natural hair have on hand. One of the great things about DIY recipes is that they are flexible and easy to customize so you can always substitute whatever you have or whatever your hair happens to like.
#1: Whipped Shea Butter for Hair and Skin
Whipped shea butter is a fantastic moisturizer and shine booster. All ingredients in this recipe except the butter are optional.
- 1 cup (8 ounces) shea butter
- 3 ounces carrier oil(s) of choice (optional)
- 1 teaspoon drops Vitamin E (optional)
- essential oils (optional)
- Place butter in a heat-safe container. Place the container in a pot of water and heat it slowly, stirring occasionally. Alternately, you could microwave the shea butter in 30-second intervals until melted.
- Add oils and mix well.
- Allow to cool to room temperature. Once at room temperature, place the mixture into the fridge to re-harden.
- Remove from the fridge when the mix has hardened but is still soft enough to easily manipulate
- Whip the mixture to desired fluffiness with a hand mixer, stand mixer or egg beater.
#2: Curl Cream
This DIY curl cream is great for defining curl, adding moisture, and increasing softness and shine. The recipe uses equal parts of all the ingredients so feel free to adjust it to suit the length, density and texture of your hair.
- 4 oz shea butter
- 4 oz aloe vera gel
- 4 oz coconut oil
- Soften your coconut oil and shea butter. You want them to be easily mixed together but not melted or liquid. Depending on the temperature, you may need to apply heat via the double boiler method or use a microwave for 15-30 seconds.
- Add aloe vera gel and mix thoroughly until mixture is homogeneous.
- Whip to your desired texture using a whisk, hand mixer or stand mixer.
- Package and store in the refrigerator when not in use.
#3: Mix with Shea Butter for Hair Growth
The fatty acids it contains and the anti-inflammatory properties of shea butter help to heal scalp conditions. A healthy scalp is a foundation for the healthy hair follicles needed to support growth allowing hair to grow longer and fuller.
- 1/2 cup shea butter
- 2 tbsp of coconut oil
- 6 tsp of castor oil
- 12 drops of essential oil oils of choice (optional)
- Melt your shea butter and coconut oil in the microwave using 30-second intervals. You could also use the double boiler method.
- Once melted, add your liquid ingredients and mix well.
- Allow mixture to cool and solidify before use. You may also choose to whip your finished product if a fluffy texture is desired.
- Package and store your growth mix for use.
#4: Shea Butter Pomade
Pomades are great for taming frizz and keeping hair in place. This DIY is particularly great for use as edge control and may be used by everyone regardless of hair texture.
- 1 oz beeswax
- 1.5 oz shea butter
- 2 oz jojoba oil
- 10 drops essential oil (optional)
- Melt beeswax over low heat using a double boiler.
- When the beeswax is melted, add in shea butter.
- When melted, add jojoba oil to the mixture and stir.
- Pour the mixture into a container and, once it has cooled slightly, add essential oil.
#5: Shea Butter Hair Mask
The combination of avocado and shea butter makes an excellent DIY hair mask for restoring damaged hair. It is also great for dry hair that just needs an extra boost of moisture.
- 1 overripe avocado
- ¼ cup of raw shea butter
- 1 tbsp of sweet almond oil (optional)
- Blend avocado until smooth and free of lumps it for about 2 to 4 minutes into a smooth puree.
- Add shea butter and blend until fully incorporated.
- Mix in any liquid oils until the mixture is uniform.
What Shea Butter to Use?
Raw shea butter will allow your hair to experience all that the butter has to offer and it will give you the best results. However, you are free to use refined shea butter if that’s what you have.
Refined shea butter is still moisturizing but the process of refining involves the use of high heat and or chemicals. This reduces the vitamin content as well as removes the natural color and odor of unrefined shea butter. Mind that the vitamins shea butter contains play an important part in its ability to heal.
Hair Products with Shea Butter
Shea butter is used extensively as an ingredient in a variety of products for natural hair and you will find it in products ranging from shampoos to stylers. More than that, its many benefits make it the foundation for many product lines.
SheaMoisture products prominently feature shea butter from West Africa and is popular among women with curly or natural hair types.
Skin and hair health can be vastly improved by using products that contain shea butter or pure, unrefined shea butter itself. Shea butter will nourish, heal and protect hair, scalp, and skin, and belongs in everyone’s beauty regimen. Its versatility means that you’ll always find a reason or a way to use it which makes it a great investment.
Whether you use shea butter for hair care, skin care, or both, you are sure to see an improvement soon after you start using it consistently.
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