Did you know that shea butter for hair has been used for centuries, including by well-known beauties like Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba?
Shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea tree, or Butyrospermum parkii. The outer shell is removed and the nuts are crushed and roasted into a butter that’s rich in fatty acids. Today, shea butters are extracted using cold-pressed methods. They are smooth in texture and will soften in your hands, making it easy to spread on your scalp and locks.
It has an impressive nutrition profile, with fatty acids and vitamins that boost the overall health of your hair. So if you haven’t tried it already, consider the benefits of shea butter for hair hydration, improved texture and repair.
Benefits for Hair
Shea butter contains oleic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid and linoleic acid. It’s also rich in vitamin E and vitamin A. These fatty acids and vitamins lend to the many benefits of using shea butter for hair.
The top benefits for hair include the following:
1. Works As A Hydrator
Shea butter works as a hair and scalp conditioner that can help to heal in moisture and alleviate dandruff. Simply apply a small amount from your roots to ends, let it sit for 20–30 minutes, and then wash your hair as usual. This will add moisture to the area and lock it in with a protective barrier.
Research shows that shea butter is effective for general skin care and scaly, dry skin, which is due to its moisturizing, soothing and nourishing compounds.
2. Softens Locks
Shea butter contains vitamins A and E, which has nourishing, healing and moisturizing properties. Plus, the fatty acids, including oleic acid and linoleic acid, will help to soften your hair while adding shine.
3. Serves As A Barrier
Products containing oleic acid are often used on the skin for wound healing and damage repair, but what about using it on your hair? Research suggests that the oleic acid in shea butter serves as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, while providing a layer of protective fatty acids that product your hair and scalp from damage.
There’s also research showing that linoleic acid, another fatty acid in shea butter, improves hydration and serves as a barrier on the skin and hair follicles.
4. Eases Irritation
Research suggests that the fats in shea butter have anti-inflammatory effects and can be used to relieve irritation. Applying it to an irritated scalp may help to ease redness, itchiness, flaking and any other issues related to inflammation in the area.
The vitamin A in shea butter helps to protect skin cells on the scalp and is known for its ability to promote wound healing and skin regrowth. It’s often used to reduce dryness, infections and irritation.
5. Promotes Hair Growth
The vitamin E you get when using shea butter for hair also promotes growth by boosting circulation to the scalp and reducing environmental damage due to its antioxidant properties. Research indicates that vitamin E helps to protect against free-radical damage that impacts hair health.
Recommendations for Hair Types
Shea butter for hair works on all hair types and textures, but it should be used differently for the best results. People with thinner hair may find that using it regularly can weigh down their locks or create a greasy look. For thin air, very small amounts at the tips is best or using the butter for an occasional hair mask or conditioner.
Shea butter is best for people with thick, coarse, naturally curly or frizzy hair, and it’s excellent for dry or damaged hair, too. It can be used 1–2 times weekly as a conditioning treatment, or as needed. If it very high in fatty acids, so can cause greasiness if used in excess.
How to Use
You can purchase hair products that are made with shea butter or buy it separately. The amount of product you should use will vary depending on your hair health and texture, but here are some recommendations to get you started:
Shea Butter Hair Mask
Use shea butter for your weekly moisturizing hair mask. Before going into the shower, warm a dollop (start with a quarter size and increase if needed) of shea butter in your hands until it begins to melt. Then work it into your scalp and hairs, from roots to ends. Let it sit for 20–30 minutes and or put on a shower cap and let the mask sit overnight. Then wash your hair as usual.
To smooth your hair and tame frizz without the use of products with synthetic or irritating ingredients, try a small amount of shea butter. Rub it into your fingers and gently apply to areas that need shaping or taming. You can also use it for a sleek ponytail or bun.
Shea Butter Pre-Poo
Pre-pooing or pre-shampooing with shea butter is a great way to boost hydration, softness and shine. To pre-poo, massage shea butter into your hair one section at a time, covering all of it with a good coating. Then brush your hair with a wide tooth comb and let the butter sit for about 30 minutes. After that, wash your hair as usual with a gentle cleanser. You can do this as needed, but try for about once a week if your hair is feeling dry or damaged.
Want to make your own shea butter for hair recipe? Here’s a simple process to follow:
- Combine about 3 ounces of unrefined shea butter and one ounce of oil (coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil or almond oil) in a large bowl.
- Put the bowl over a sauce pan of shallow boiling water to use the double boiler method.
- Let the shea butter melt (which will only take a few minutes) and remove the mixture from heat.
- Mix the oils together and put it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- Use a hand mixer to whip the mixture until it has a light, fluffy texture. This may take up to 10 minutes.
- Add the butter into a clean glass jar and cover. Use as needed.
You can use this whipped shea butter on your hair anytime. By whipping it, you’re making it easier to spread into your hair and adding additional healthy fats.
Shea butter for hair is considered safe. People who are allergic to tree nuts may be sensitive to products made from the shea tree, so it’s always safest to do a patch test on a small area of skin to rule out any sensitivities. If you experience itching, redness, dryness or irritation after using it, discontinue use immediately.
- Shea butter comes from the shea tree and is used for its moisturizing and nourishing properties.
- It naturally contains fatty acids including oleic acid and linoleic acid, along with vitamins A and E.
- Is shea butter good for hair? Yes, because it promotes better texture, improves hydration, smooths out frizzy hair, and restores damaged locks.
- Use it as a hair mask weekly or as a natural styling agent.