Nature has given us many gifts for our hair care, maintenance, and treatment; Shea butter is one of such gifts.
The use of Shea butter for hair in Africa dates as far back as the 1300s and has recently gained prominence in other parts of the world.
Known for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, Shea butter provides many benefits for the hair and skin.
This article will discuss a number of these benefits for the hair, its effects on hair growth, and how to make Shea butter for hair care.
Let’s start by widening our knowledge on this common yet effective natural hair pomade.
Shea Butter for Hair: What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is derived as fats from Shea nuts, a product of the tree Vitellaria Paradoxa found in West Africa.
This tree is fondly called the tree of life (Karite tree) due to its numerous healing properties.
So how exactly does ‘butter’ come from the tree?
The nuts harvested are washed and made to go through an extraction process during which Shea butter is derived as a byproduct.
Shea butter contains vitamins A and E, catechins, minerals, as well as fatty acids. These components make it an excellent source of the following benefits for hair.
Shea Butter Benefits for Hair
1. Moisturizes Hair
As mentioned earlier, Shea butter contains vitamin A, vitamin E, and fatty acids.
Well, that makes it an effective moisturizer for the hair.
Even nappy, coarse hair can be easily softened with Shea butter.
The good thing is, Shea butter doesn’t just provide moisture to the hair.
It also seals in present moisture in the hair, promoting hair health and preventing potential scalp and hair damage due to dryness.
And despite being a moisture sealant, it does not leave the hair unnecessarily greasy or heavy!
2. Prevents Sun Damage
Over-exposure to harmful rays emitted from the sun can cause the hair to become dry, brittle, and discolored.
Your hair can be protected from this with Shea butter; it is suggested to have an SPF (sun protection factor) enough to neutralize such harmful effects.
If your hair is relaxed, its higher risk of sun damage can be reduced by Shea butter.
3. Prevents Heat Damage
Time and again, it has been mentioned that frequent use of heat styling tools causes heat damage to the hair and that this is a reason to avoid them.
But before you decide to abstain from heat tools, consider this benefit of Shea butter for hair.
It can be easily absorbed into hair strands to serve as a protective barrier against heat damage.
Therefore, Shea butter can serve as an effective heat protectant.
4. Prevents Chlorine Damage
Your hair may get exposed to chlorine when you engage in activities such as swimming.
This can damage the hair as much as harmful rays from the sun can.
Again, Shea butter can serve as a protective barrier.
5. Reduces Risk of Hair Loss
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, Shea butter corrects unhealthy scalp conditions that could lead to hair loss.
It also improves your hair follicles’ strength – where your hair growth starts – making you less prone to hair loss.
6. Minimizes Scalp Irritation
Applying Shea butter on your scalp also helps to reduce irritation.
Because it is easily absorbed into the scalp without clogging the pores, it has a soothing effect, and its anti-inflammatory properties help it control conditions such as scalp redness, itching, or inflammation.
Natural, relaxed, color-treated, or damaged hair can all enjoy this benefit of Shea butter for hair.
7. Prevents Hair Breakage
Hair breakage sometimes results from excessive dryness of the hair.
Here is where Shea butter comes into the picture.
Its high fatty acid content enables it to penetrate the hair shaft as a hair oil easily.
Just as hair oils prevent the hair from breaking by preventing dryness, Shea butter also saves your hair from breaking.
8. Minimizes Frizz
Shea butter prevents your hair from frizzing easily, which can be very annoying.
The fatty acids contained in it add luster to the hair and make present frizzles less obvious.
Using Shea butter for hair is a great way to care for it, especially during harsh weather when the hair is more prone to frizz.
9. Controls Dry Scalp
Our hair loses its natural oils during specific processes, such as shampooing.
This can lead to scalp dryness and eventual flaking.
Shea butter helps to replace such lost oil due to its fatty acid content and prevent your scalp from becoming dry and flaky.
Its phytonutrients also enrich the scalp and create a healthy environment for hair growth.
10. Treat Split Ends
The moisturizing properties of Shea butter make it practical for controlling split ends.
Regular use of Shea butter on hair will even help prevent your ends from splitting in the first place.
11. Adds Shine
Shea butter significantly adds shine to the hair, making it look all attractive.
A little deviating but your human hair wigs or extensions are also given a new, shiny look by applying Shea butter.
Effects of Shea Butter for Hair Growth
Shea butter can have a good effect on your hair growth for the following reasons:
1. Anti-inflammatory Properties
This helps to prevent unfavorable scalp conditions that would otherwise retard your hair growth.
One of these is scalp inflammation, which damages the hair follicles and causes itching.
Shea butter’s ability to also cure inflammation is confirmed by research.
Shea butter contains essential nutrients for a healthy scalp and strong hair follicles- necessary factors for hair growth.
Bottom line: Shea butter provides a better environment for your hair to grow. And since it can strengthen hair follicles – where hair growth starts – it does help healthy hair growth.
Shea Butter Benefits for Dry Hair
If you have dry hair, then you can count on Shea butter as a natural mega-moisturizer.
Here are some specific ways in which Shea butter benefits dry hair:
1. Seals in Moisture
Hair dryness usually arises due to a lack of moisture.
Regularly applying a moisture sealant like Shea butter increases the softness of the hair.
2. Moisturizes Ends
Shea butter provides moisture down to your hair ends.
This prevents the hair from looking frizzy or the ends splitting, a widespread occurrence with dry hair.
3. Hydrates Hair
Its high fatty acid content helps to ensure that the hair is hydrated.
That way, your hair is prevented from further drying and stays healthy!
Dry, curly hair is more prone to knots and tangles.
When applied, Shea butter acts as a detangler to help ease the detangling process, reducing potential hair loss.
How to Use Shea Butter for Hair
Here’s how to use Shea butter for hair and enjoy its wonderful benefits.
For Scalp Benefits
Melt Shea butter either by thoroughly rubbing between your palms or placing it in a pot over boiling water.
Section your hair such that you can directly access the scalp.
Add tea tree oil to the melted Shea butter; this is optional, though.
Use your fingertips to apply on your scalp. Do this by rubbing in a circular motion.
To Moisturize Hair
After melting, mix with your hair conditioner. You may also use it alone.
Wash hair, and while it is still wet, apply and leave Shea butter in hair overnight or for a few hours.
Rinse out with water.
As a Sealant
After moisturizing hair, apply melted Shea butter thoroughly and leave-in.
To Prevent Heat Damage
Apply melted Shea butter on your hair before the use of any heat styling tool.
You may add a lightweight leave-in conditioner for better protection.
To Prevent Sun and Chlorine Damage
Melt Shea butter.
Apply to hair before exposing hair to sunlight or pool water.
Tip: Shea butter is way more comfortable to use when it is whipped. You can follow these steps to prepare your own whipped Shea butter for hair growth:
- Cut solidified Shea butter into small pieces.
- Melt by putting it in a bowl and placing it over boiling water. Remove the bowl of Shea butter as soon as it melts down.
- Add your favorite natural hair oils.
- Using a regular hand-held mixer, whip until it feels fluffy; it should take about 20 minutes. You can always pause while whipping.
- When it feels fluffy, your work is done. You can then scoop into a container and store it for use.
Extra Tips on Shea Butter for Hair
Shea butter is indeed beneficial for the hair.
But before you jump on the Shea butter bandwagon, here are some things you should know:
- Raw and unrefined Shea butter is the best Shea butter for hair. To enjoy all the benefits discussed above, look out for unrefined Shea butter when making a purchase. You can identify it by its unique, earthy smell and color. Unrefined Shea butter has either yellow or off-yellow color.
- The smell of Shea butter puts some people off. If the smell seriously affects you, opt for unrefined Shea butter. This type has been further processed, and so has little or none of that peculiar smell. It has a bleached, whitish look.
- Shea butter should be stored in a cool, dry environment. This prevents it from unnecessarily melting down or becoming too substantial. That way, you can enjoy it for a longer time.
- You should do a patch test before applying Shea butter to your scalp. Apply a small quantity of Shea butter on your elbow and see if there are no adverse reactions. If there is none after about an hour, then you are good to go!
- Unrefined Shea butter has a shelf life of about two years. You should avoid using it after that long as rancid Shea butter can negatively affect the hair.
- Although allergies to nuts are infrequent, you should avoid using Shea butter if you do have them.
- Shea butter is not advisable for thin or oily hair as it could make the hair flat or oiler.
- Some of the best oils to mix with Shea butter for hair are coconut oil, avocado oil, almond oil, olive oil, and grape seed oil.
The presence of moisture, absence of dryness, heat damage, or breakage all contribute to long, healthy hair.
These are the exact benefits you will get when you use Shea butter for your hair.
Keep in mind the reminders highlighted above, try out the DIY recipes described above, and enjoy the beautiful benefits of using Shea butter for hair!