With an easy DIY conditioner, hair mask, and heat protectant to shield your locks against damage.
If you’ve ever used shea butter for skin care, you’re probably familiar with its luxe, silky texture and just as heavenly scent. It’s commonly used in lotions and conditioners to help moisturize and soften the texture of your hair or skin. But this natural nut butter isn’t just for show. Today we’re delving into the unique benefits that shea butter has for hair, and ways you can easily start using it in your daily hair care routine.
What’s shea butter?
Shea butter is derived from the seeds of the shea tree that’s native to Africa. The seeds are large and rich with oil. Among nut butters, shea butter stands above the crowd due to its higher amount of nutrients that promote healing. In fact, in Africa it’s traditionally used to help heal wounds and other skin infections. It’s even sometimes part of the local diet.
Shea butter is now widely used as an emollient in personal care products, which means it helps to soothe and soften skin or hair. It also naturally contains nutrients that are essential for healthy hair.
Benefits of shea butter for hair
Moisturizes with fatty acids
Up to 60% of shea butter is made up of oleic acid, also known as omega-9 fatty acid. It’s what gives shea butter its rich consistency, and ability to lock moisture deep into hair and skin. As an emollient, it coats hair cuticles to prevent water evaporation, and also to soften hair texture. Shea butter is ideal to use on dry scalps, or hair dried out from damage.
Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory properties make it ideal for calming down an inflamed scalp that can come with a range of bothersome conditions. For example, seborrheic eczema and psoriasis are both inflammatory conditions that cause itchy patches, and can lead to hair loss with excessive scratching.
Because it contains a high amount of fats that are already found in our skin and hair, shea butter absorbs easily when applied! This is particularly great news if you have a greasy scalp or hair, but still want a deeply penetrating restorative treatment for your locks.
Shea butter contains a high amount of oleic acid that helps promote wound-healing, as well as vitamins A and E that help to repair hair that’s damaged from chemical treatments or dried out from exposure to the sun.
Imagine if we needed to apply sunscreen to our hair…well actually maybe we should, because UV rays can damage our hair cuticles! This can lead to brittle strands, split ends, and frizzy hair. While shea butter doesn’t provide as much protection as a ready-to-use sunblock, it does have an SPF of 6 that offers some natural protection. Make sure to still wear a hat and stick to the shade as much as possible!
How is shea butter processed?
Shea butter can be obtained from the seeds in 3 main ways, and each form may be more or less effective to use on your hair.
Raw shea butter
Also known as pure shea butter, or unrefined shea butter, and is extracted from shea nuts with the traditional method. Women in Africa harvest the nuts from the trees, then shell the shea nuts by hand. The nuts are boiled in pots to help release the oil. Finally, the women ground the nuts by hand to release the shea butter inside. What results is an ivory-colored butter with a strong nutty smell. This form of shea butter is able to retain the most amount of nutrients.
Cold pressed shea butter
In this process, the nuts are crushed by an expeller press without any heat in a factory. The pressure releases the butter from the nuts, which then easily separates from the rest of the nut. This form of shea butter still contains a high amount of nutrients.
Refined shea butter
The butter is extracted in a factory with high heat, and processed with synthetic chemical solvents. The solvents remove some of the nutrients, and results in a white-colored butter without any smell.
To reap the maximum benefits, be sure to pick raw unrefined shea butter.
How to use shea butter for hair
Shea butter is an ideal conditioner to use after washing your hair, and for replenishing your hair cuticles to preserve moisture. According to this recipe from Hello Glow, you can make your own deep hair conditioner by melting together 1 tablespoon of shea butter with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, then adding a teaspoon of argan oil. Mix it all together, and add a few drops of essential oils that promote hair growth, such as lavender and cedarwood oil. Massage the mixture into your scalp and hair, and rinse after a few minutes.
Prefer a ready-to-use conditioner instead? Try the Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner from Shea Moisture. It’s a deeply repairing conditioner with a base of nutrient-rich plant oils and butters. Raw shea butter and olive oil help nourish hair follicles, while aloe and kelp extract hydrate. It also contains antioxidant-rich carrot seed oil to protect hair against future damage.
Because of how rich and restorative shea butter is, it’s the perfect ingredient for a more intensive hair treatment such as a hair mask. By using it in a hair mask, you allow it more time to deeply penetrate your hair cuticles and follicles to repair and nourish. Follow our hair mask recipe to help repair damaged hair follicles by combining 3 tablespoons each of olive oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter. Massage the mask into your roots to hair ends, and wrap your hair with a towel or put on a shower mask. Rinse after 20 minutes.
You can also deep condition and control your frizz with Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. It’s especially beneficial if you’re transitioning from chemically treated hair to natural hair, since it also contains reparative rosehip oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil. Apply it generously from root to ends, and leave on for up to 30 minutes.
Fond of your regular blowouts? Just make sure to use a natural heat protectant first to prevent your hair from being damaged by the high heat. Shea butter is a natural alternative to silicone ingredients that are used in conventional heat protectants, but doesn’t come with the risk of drying out your hair. Shea butter coats hair to form a protective layer, preventing heat from penetrating and damaging hair. Simply mix together 4 tablespoons of shea butter with 2 tablespoons of avocado oil, and apply just enough to coat your hair.
Want a styling product that also protects your hair from heat at the same time? Shea Moisture also offers a wonderfully convenient styling spray that defends hair against heat styling tools, while providing hold. The certified organic shea butter and black castor oil are the hero ingredients that prevent against damage and breakage.
Remember, shea butter works best when used with natural hair products that are gentle yet nourishing. Look for products containing natural ingredients, and avoid harsh synthetic detergents and preservatives that can throw your scalp off balance. And while you’re at it, why not try using shea butter for your skin too?
No need to play the waiting game with damaged hair. Help nourish it back to health with these hardworking natural ingredients: