You've probably heard of lip balms, body lotions and hand creams containing shea butter. But did you know that this delicious nut butter is also in numerous hair products? In fact, it's a classic ingredient for moisturizing dry locks and soothing a flaky scalp.
Our Styling Gel and the All-in-One treatment have this great ingredient, which is why we want to give you some more info on it.
Shea butter for hair: a gift from Mother Nature.Shea butter, also called karite butter, is traditionally used in sub-Saharan Africa as a natural ingredient for medicinal and culinary purposes. As a beauty ingredient, specifically for hair care, shea butter has superior moisturizing properties compared to other types of vegetable butter.
Since the shea butter industry provides many employment opportunities for women in Africa, the butter is also referred to as "women's gold." Since unrefined shea butter has a yellow-gold hue, this is an appropriate name.
Shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea butter (also known as shea tree). This tree is native to the Sudano-Sahelian belt in Africa and is further classified into two subspecies:
- Vitellaria paradoxa, which grows mainly in West Africa.
- Vitellaria nilotica, which occurs in East Africa.
- Pulp, which is rich in vitamin C
- Kernels, which are rich in fats
- Butter, which is extracted from the fats in the kernels.
In commercial establishments, production of refined shea butter for hair is mechanized with screw presses. This improves extraction speed for product consistency and quality. Shea butter made this way usually has an ivory-white color with no fragrance.
According to science, shea butter is packed with hair nourishing substances ranging from fatty acids to vitamins:
- Palmitic acid
- Stearic acid
- Oleic acid
- Linoleic acid
- Arachidonic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
With a legion of antioxidants, it's no wonder so many people have used shea butter as part of their hair care routine.
Fun fact: Shea butter is commercially known as Butyrospermum parkii, although the correct botanical name is Vitellaria paradoxa.
5 benefits of shea butter for hair
1. A natural moisturizer for dry hair
Due to its high content of fatty acids and vitamin E, shea butter is a strong emollient that acts as a natural moisturizer for your hair and scalp. Research shows that shea butter has "good water-binding properties" to help your locks attract water into their fibers. In other words, you can count on shea butter to maintain and improve your hair's hydration.
Moreover, shea butter easily sinks into the hair shaft without leaving a greasy film behind. What it does leave behind is a thin hydrating layer on the hair cuticles that acts as a sealer. This helps your hair strands retain moisture, a boon for high-porosity hair that tends to lose extreme moisture. And we all know what hydrated curls mean - hair that feels oh-so-soft, without frizz.
2. A defense mechanism against hair damage
One of the main causes of hair damage is increased hair cuticles. The increased number of pores on the cuticle means your locks lose moisture faster than they can hold it. Worse, fiber-damaging chemicals can now easily penetrate the hair shafts. So your first priority is to fill the cracks in your hair cuticles so you can nip hair damage in the bud.
As explained earlier, shea butter for hair does an excellent job of coating your hair cuticles with a moisturizing layer. This protective layer has two important functions as a defense mechanism against hair damage:
- It reduces friction to minimize split ends and hair breakage caused by mechanical forces such as brushing.
- It enhances shine to improve the appearance of dead hair.
3. A balm against scalp irritation.
Shea butter has long been used in skin care products against dry skin. So it is no surprise that shea butter is used in hair care to address dry scalp problems.
Because shea butter naturally contains triterpenes (plant-derived compounds with strong antioxidant activity), the nut butter is a soothing balm against common scalp irritations such as flaking, dryness and itching.
4. Protects against heat
Repeated heat styling is a one-way ticket to frayed, burnt and frizzy hair. High heat breaks down the chemical bonds in the strands, weakening the hair fiber and allowing moisture to escape from the core. But if you can't get rid of your hair dryer, you'll be glad to hear that you can use shea butter as a heat protector.
5. Protection from UV radiation.
Shea butter is believed to have a low but sufficient SPF to protect your hair from the damage of ultraviolet rays from the sun. This is certainly beneficial for processed or colored hair.
For whom is Shea butter suitable?
Because of shea butter's thick, buttery texture and ultra-moisturizing properties, it is best suited for:
- Dry hair
- Damaged hair
- Natural hair types, such as curly hair and frizzy hair
- Coarse hair
On the other hand, shea butter can easily weigh down fine hair. It can also be too rich for an oily scalp. If you do want to try shea butter, start with small amounts on the ends of your hair. That way you can gauge how your curls respond to it without risking oily, flat hair.