Shea Butter Benefits For Hair. Credit: Africa Studio
The cosmetic industry has had a long and fulfilling relationship with shea butter. It is one of nature's best gifts to humanity, especially if natural grooming is important to you. You will often find it listed on the back of your products with its Latin name of Butyrospermum Parkii Butter.
Shea butter is a fat that is harvested from the nuts of the Vitellaria Paradoxa tree in West Africa. This tree is sometimes referred to as the “Karite tree” which translates to the “tree of life” and is considered sacred to many African tribes. This is because shea butter is known to have many healing properties. Shea butter is extracted from this tree by the laborious process of harvesting, washing, and prepping the shea nuts. Once the process is complete you are left with a solid, off-white butter. It has been a key ingredient in cuisine, lamp oils, skin balms, shampoos, as well as traditional medicines since the 14th century and is still very much relied upon today. Records state that Cleopatra, an Egyptian Queen, ordered that clay jars of shea butter be carried around with her in her caravan.
Shea butter is nutrient rich fatty butter that contains amazing health benefits for your skin, face, body health and hair. It contains a high concentration of fatty acids such as linoleic, palate, stearic and oleic fatty acids which helps balance oil production. Shea butter is also composed of antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin A, E and F. Vitamin A is vital for cell growth and cell turnover, which helps the glands make an oily substance called sebum which helps to self-moisturise skin, scalp and hair. Vitamin E reduces the amount of oxidative stress and free radicals that cause the hair follicles to break down, which gives your hair a chance of improved hair growth. Vitamin F is a great antioxidant that minimises loss of moisture from the hair, keeping hair hydrated, and maintains a healthy balanced scalp. Shea butter also contains amounts of triglyceride which repairs the surface of the hair while retaining moisture by creating a barrier that stops dryness.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto1. Shea Butter Is Moisturising For Your Hair And Scalp
Shea butter is rich in vitamins A and E, as well as stearic and linoleic fatty acids, which give this ingredient emollient properties meaning that it is both moisturising and nourishing for the hair and scalp without making it look oily. Shea butter acts as a sealant meaning it covers hair in a protective coating that locks in moisture making it perfect for dry or coarse hair types as this keeps the hair hydrated and soft. This effect of sealing the hair will help to smooth down frizz, prevent split ends as well as help retain a shiny coat. A study published in 2019 on the effects of shea oil, a by-product of shea butter with the same nourishing effects, on women’s hair revealed that by using shea based hair products you could lock in moisture and make hair more resistant to breakage.
Shea butter contains the chemical compound amyrin, which is a well-documented anti-inflammatory. Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory properties are great for reducing redness and irritation on the scalp by providing soothing effects without clogging up pores. A study on the anti-inflammatory effects of shea butter against various inflammatory conditions states that shea butter is an effective therapeutic agent. This also makes shea butter perfect for soothing inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis in your scalp which can halt hair growth.
Shea butter is both antibacterial and antifungal making it a great candidate for fighting dandruff. Dandruff is often caused by irritated skin by an overproduction of oil which creates a yeast-like fungus that feeds on the oils that are produced. Dandruff is also caused by dry skin and a buildup of dead skin cells sitting on the scalp. A review in 2018 catalogued the evidence of the treatment of atopic dermatitis with shea butter cleans and removes this debris which in turn reduces the chances of dandruff.
It is well known that shea butter protects your skin from free radicals, but this also goes for your hair. This is because shea butter is rich in antioxidants such as quercetin, epicatechin, gallate, gallocatechin, and epigallocatechin which prevent environmental stressors such as pollution and sun exposure from drying out your hair and causing it to break. Shea butter contains a small amount of SPF which helps to protect hair follicles from environmental toxins and acts as a barrier against UV rays. The high fatty acid content in shea butter is also good at preventing hair breakage and soothing split ends caused by the environment.
5. Shea Butter Is Beneficial For Hair Growth
Shea butter is packed with nutrients such as fatty acids, vitamins A and E, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc which are all highly beneficial when it comes to the overall health of your hair. Shea butter also contains triterpenes which help trigger collagen production which helps build and strengthen keratin (the protein that makes up hair). Collagen is rich in amino acids which helps strengthen hair follicles as well as contribute to a stronger and more elastic dermis. By maintaining a healthy dermis, you can prevent hair thinning and retain a thicker and fuller head of hair. By understanding the structure of hair and what it needs to remain healthy it is simple enough to determine which ingredients you need to apply to it and which ones you do not.
Make A Shea Butter Hair Mask
DIY shea butter hair masks are a quick and easy treatment to whip up at home which will deliver a vast amount of restorative nutrients to your hair. You can do this by simply buying a tub of organic, unrefined Shea Butter and melting a generous scoop of it in the microwave for 30 second intervals until it is melted. Leave your shea butter to cool down and then apply it to your hair, making sure to rub the product deep into your scalp to help circulation. Leave your hair mask on for 20-30 minutes and then hop in the shower and rinse mixture out of your hair.
Feel free to add essential oils, castor oil, half an avocado or even aloe vera gel to your mixture if you like, but it is not necessary.
Use Shea Butter Based Hair Products
A truly great way to incorporate shea butter into your daily life is by buying hair products that already contain this nourishing ingredient. This is a great and passive way to get this ingredient into your hair without going through the effort of making a shea butter hair mask. Natural, shea-based products like NO GUNK’s Styling Funk, Matte Lava Clay, as well as their Funky Flex Cream all contain this precious ingredient. Effectively killing two birds with one stone by helping you to nourish and style your hair all in one go!
Tell us, how do you incoporate shea butter into your grooming routine?
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Zheelana is a writer based in Cardiff. She has a BA Honours in English and Creative Writing and is a certified TESOL teacher. When she isn’t out hiking in the lush Welsh countryside, she fills her days with reading, journaling, and going out for food.