Curious about using shea butter for your natural hair? In this article, I’ll take an in-depth look at shea butter, and how to use it, so you can make an informed decision about whether to use it for your natural or relaxed hair.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a moisturizing fat that comes from the African Shea tree in the east and west regions of Africa. Harvesters produce this natural conditioning butter from a nut that is chock-full of fatty acids and nutrients.
It contains a unique fatty acid structure made of oleic, stearic, linoleic, linolenic, and palmitic acids—all of which contribute to shea’s conditioning properties. You can use the fat for skin, hair, and if it’s raw and untampered, you can even eat it.
What is the Best Shea Butter for Natural Hair?
Now that you’re familiar with this mega-moisturizer, you might be asking, “What kind of shea butter for hair that is natural?” Or “What should I use for transitioning hair?” The best is to use raw and unrefined. How can you tell if it’s the right type?
Read below to find out.
Raw Unrefined Shea Butter
First, don’t get duped. Many companies are selling fake versions of shea butter.
You want the real deal for maximum benefit. Never buy a white, refined version of shea.
You’ll know because it is bleached white and contains no smell. Chemical processing methods alter the color, smell, and texture of oils and fats, thus changing the properties of the oil itself.
Look for one of two options:
- Off-yellow shea butter that is creamy to the touch is pure and minimally processed. This is an ideal choice because it is 100% shea, and has not been bleached or deodorized.
- Very yellow colored shea butter. This shea butter contains an additional ingredient, called Borututu tree root. This root has healing antioxidants and detoxifying properties, making it a potent
Both are excellent choices for natural hair and work well for damaged hair. There are many shea butter hair products on the market.
Look for reputable stores that sell shea butter, like Femi Holistic or Incredible by Nature. You can also go with a well-known brand like Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter or Cantu Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Repair Cream.
Shea Butter for Hair Growth
One of the best things about African shea butter is that it will help grow your hair. It does so by repairing the scalp and hair follicles.
Many women use shea butter for the skin. Lupeol, an ingredient in shea butter, helps slow the aging process.
It’s not only for your wrinkles and fine lines but the aging of your scalp. With a healthy scalp, your hair will grow faster.
A favorite shea product among natural hair queens is Eden Body Works Coconut Shea Edge Control Glaze. This healing butter will also take care of drying and flaking scalp conditions like dandruff and eczema.
Shea Butter Benefits for Hair
Shea is not just for scalps. When you smooth shea butter onto your hair, it coats each strand and provides a protective barrier.
This layer serves to lock in moisture and to shield from harsh elements like the sun, wind, and cold weather. Because it’s excellent for sealing hair, it is useful for hair straightening.
Apply a small amount to your hair before blow drying and flat ironing. Whether you’re using it for straight hair or curly, it will help seal your ends.
Even if you have a wig or a weave, this moisturizing product will add shine and make everything its added to glisten as when you first bought them. It’s perfect for hair extensions too and will help protect your purchase.
You might be wondering about shea butter for low porosity hair. Many natural queens have reported excellent results with this moisturizer because it penetrates the hair shaft and lubricates dry or brittle hair.
It also contains a special ingredient called cinnamic acid, which absorbs ultraviolet rays, shielding you from sun damage.
How to Prepare Shea Butter for Hair
Hands down, the best way to use this conditioning powerhouse is to whip it. Whipped shea butter is smooth, fluffy, and easier to use than trying to warm flakes and chunks from the jar.
Try this recipe for softer, shinier hair:
DIY Whipped Shea Butter for Hair Growth
How to Melt Shea Butter for Hair
There are two easy ways to melt shea butter. The first is by heating a bowl of water in the microwave and then placing the jar of shea butter on top.
The heat transfers and warms the shea butter in about 5 minutes. The second way is perfect if you only need a little.
Take a teaspoon of the butter between your palms and rub until liquefied.
How to Use Shea Butter for your Hair
Shea butter works beautifully for:
Leave-in conditioner. Rub a dime-sized amount in your palms and continue to rub until smooth then apply on sectioned hair. This is a fantastic hair softener to use for twisting up your locks.
Detangling. Shea butter is a great ingredient to include in your detangling process. It would be best used in the liquid form, so you will want to it up, and add it to your favorite moisturizing conditioner.
Overnight deep conditioner. Rub a dime to quarter-sized amount between your palms and apply on sectioned hair. Place a plastic cap over, and then a towel over for additional heat.
Leave hair mask on overnight, then wash in the morning. You can also use shea butter as a mask while you steam your hair.
This method will allow the moisture to penetrate the hair shaft and will help define a natural curl pattern without getting your hair completely wet. Rub a small amount into each parted section and then use a Q-Redew Hand-held Hair Steamer to steam.
Shea Butter VS Coconut Oil
You may be wondering about the differences between shea butter and coconut oil and which one to choose. Coconut oil has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, making it a good choice for protection against scalp infections and lice.
It also penetrates the hair shaft, providing optimal moisturization. It will add shine and make hair softer and more manageable.
It’s not for everyone though, as some users find it too greasy and report that it clogs pores. If it causes acne or irritation, try mixing the coconut with other ingredients, like the shea butter.
Shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties to counteract scalp irritation, making it an ideal mix-in. One of the biggest differences is that shea butter is used for stimulating hair growth and coconut oil is not.
Both are excellent choices for retaining growth, but shea butter is the clear winner when it comes to growing hair. While coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft, shea butter coats it.
This makes a perfect combination if you are using the LOC method. After showering, or applying water, use the coconut oil as the second step to penetrate the cuticles.
Then apply shea butter as the final step, to coat and seal the moisture.
What to Mix with Shea Butter for Natural Hair
Here are some unique mixtures that can either be whipped or melted and mixed:
For an extra growth kick, add a few drops of peppermint oil, rosemary oil, or lavender oil this will stimulate the scalp with a tingle sensation which will cause more blood flow to that area.
Mango Butter VS Shea Butter
Raw, unrefined shea butter does not really have any side effects, but some women report that their hair does not react well with shea butter. In that case, mango butter may be an interesting experiment on your hair journey.
It is lighter than shea, and has the same beneficial antioxidants and UV protection. One drawback is that mango butter is more expensive than shea.
But for a quality unrefined mango butter, try Sky Organics. Both mango and shea butter stimulate the scalp’s cells and help produce healthy hair.
Shea Butter VS Olive Oil
Olive oil is a much lighter weight than shea butter. It combats hair fall by blocking DHT, or Dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that causes hair loss.
Both will make hair shine, control frizz, and protect hair growth. However, if you live in a humid and hot climate or it’s summertime olive may be the way to go if you are looking for a lighter oil to use during the summer months.
Argan Oil VS Shea Butter
Both argan oil and shea butter work well for skin and hair. Argan oil has a good amount of vitamin A, C, and E, and is rich in antioxidants.
Argan will be perfect for you if you are looking for an alternative to shea’s heaviness. Overall, both oils hydrate your hair and stop breakage due to their high vitamin levels which nourish the hair.
Now you have a comprehensive look at this amazing hair softener, grower, and all-around fantastic product for healthy hair. Do you have a favorite way to use shea butter on your natural hair?