Conditioning Your Hair With African Shea Butter

Shea butter contains many natural minerals and vitamins. Its skin-friendly vitamin A and E both contribute to its moisturizing and smoothing properties. In fact, raw, unrefined shea butter has long been used as an ideal moisturizer for dry skin, and it has even been used to treat eczema and chapped lips. However, while shea butter has long been used to soften and hydrate skin, this versatile moisturizer is also an excellent natural product to use on your hair and scalp. Its natural soothing properties benefit the skin on your scalp, eliminating irritation and reducing the risk of dry, flaky skin. As a scalp conditioner and treatment, it can help reduce inflammation and itchiness — and leave your hair feeling soft and silky.

What Is Shea Butter

Shea butter is a rich vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature, but melts into a liquid when exposed to warmth. Unrefined shea butter is a creamy ivory color and is derived from the nut of the African karité tree. Fat is scraped from the inside of the shea tree nut and can be used in its raw form or processed into a silky-smooth butter.

Using Shea Butter as a Hair Conditioner

Shea butter benefits hair in a variety of ways, and its versatility makes it a powerful, natural ingredient to keep at hand. You can use shea butter directly on your hair to deliver fatty acids and vitamins to your hair and scalp, and you can use it to cut back on dryness, reduce split ends, and even eliminate breakage. So, if you are trying to grow your hair long, shea butter can help by reducing the amount of hair you lose to split ends and breakage. As a conditioner, you can use shea butter in numerous ways to improve the look and feel of your hair:

Everyday Conditioning

Using shea butter every time you wash your hair can help soften and strengthen your hair. If you are experiencing split ends, frizzy hair, or breakage, then switching out your regular conditioner for shea butter can help address these problems.

To use unrefined shea butter as an everyday conditioner, just warm it in your hands. Then run your hands through your hair (particularly on the damaged ends) and then rinse as usual. After you are finished rinsing, some shea butter will cling to your hair, which actually will protect it from damage and heat styling.

Deep Conditioning

While many commercial shampoos use a variety of chemicals designed to create a lather to clean your hair, many of these ingredients can be drying. For instance, sodium lauryl sulfate, a staple ingredient in many shampoo brands, is one of these foaming ingredients. While it helps shampoo turn into a lather, which is meant to aid in the cleansing process, it can also strip the natural oils from your hair.

Using shea butter as a weekly hair mask can help restore balance to the natural oils on your scalp, and can do so without making your hair look greasy or heavy. Making a deep conditioning mask part of your weekly routine can prevent your regular shampoo and styling products from damaging your hair.

To make, apply raw, unrefined shea butter to your hair and scalp, working from the roots to the ends. Then leave it in for at least 10 minutes. Afterwards, wash and rinse your hair as usual. Your hair will feel softer and more manageable when you are done. About once a week, apply shea butter as a soothing hair mask. It will benefit both your hair and your scalp.

Overnight Deep Conditioning

When you feel that your hair really needs help, an overnight conditioning session can do wonders for restoring your hair’s natural softness and preventing breakage. You’ll need an inexpensive plastic shower cap to cover your hair and to protect your bed linens when you condition overnight. The shower cap will also help retain heat, which allows the shea butter to penetrate your hair and scalp, bathing it with vitamins and fatty acids. If you want to be even more experimental, you can try adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your hair mask to help you relax. The lavender will even provide some additional anti-inflammatory properties to your scalp.

To use shea butter as an overnight treatment, liquefy about 1/4 cup of unrefined shea butter (you can melt it on the stove or even in the microwave). Apply the warm liquid shea butter to your hair, distributing it evenly all over your hair. Then, place the shower cap on top of your head. In the morning, wash and rinse your hair to enjoy softer, stronger hair.

Dry Scalp Treatment

Extreme temperatures, or heavy use of styling products, can leave you with a dry, flaky scalp. Applying shea butter directly to your scalp can take the sting out of sun- or windburn and eliminate the dry, uncomfortable feeling that comes with those winter or summer temperatures.

To use, simply massage shea butter into your scalp, paying special attention to dry areas or patches. Leave the application in place for at least a half-hour, and then wash your hair as usual. For best results, treat your dry scalp once every few days.

Mix With Another Favorite Conditioner

Have a hair conditioner you love – but want the benefits of African shea butter, too? You can combine the two to create a rich, conditioning cream for your hair. Since shea butter is a rich, highly saturated fat, it makes an ideal addition to any commercial conditioner. To make, simply liquefy the shea butter and mix it with your favorite brand of conditioner for a treatment you’ll love. Leave in for at least 10 minutes, then rinse and style as usual.

No matter how you use it, shea butter can bring long-lasting strength and shine to your hair. The exact amount you’ll want to use will depend on the condition of your hair and scalp and on the results you are looking for. Experiment with each different way of conditioning your hair with shea butter, but use at least once a week to gain all the benefits of this powerful ingredient.