Learn how to effectively use shea butter to seal moisture into your hair
I can’t possibly sing the praises of shea butter any louder if I tried. These days I’ve been convinced that shea butter in particular has accounted for the bounce and manageability of my hair.
I know because for the past few months I have gone without shea butter and my hair has been telling. Last time I had major shedding I had shea butter in my corner and the body and elasticity returned quickly. It makes sense too for only the best comes from nature.
Shea Butter – A Holy Grail Ingredient?
Shea butter is among the holy grail of products; an ivory colored fat extracted from the nuts of the shea tree which transforms hair, be it natural or relaxed.
It is used widely in cosmetics as a moisturizer and sometimes used in the chocolate industry as a substitute for cocoa butter*.
The use of shea butter has increased in popularity in the last few years with the increase in demand for more natural products for black curly hair types.
Unless it is a product that is made specifically for persons with nut allergies, it is rare that shea butter doesn’t have a spot in the ingredients list these days. Although its popularity in the west has only increased in recent years, in some parts of Africa it has been used for hundreds of years!
The best shea butter to use is the unrefined kind as all its healing properties are still intact. The refining process apart from adding different chemicals to the shea butter raises the temperature to about 400 degrees F which makes it lose some of its healing properties.
Unrefined shea butter* comes in blocks or can be bought already packed in jars. It is odourless if 100% pure or can be bought ready fragranced with essential oils or other fragrances.
How To Use Shea Butter
The great thing about shea butter is that it can be used on the hair in a variety of ways and produce incredible results. For instance:
• You can apply it straight to damp hair. It tends to be a bit hard in its natural state but when it is whipped, it will readily melt and be absorbed when it comes in contact with the skin or hair.
• You can also make shea butter easier to apply yourself if you have a bit of time and the knack for DIY hair products. Place the shea butter in a double boiler and melt it on a low heat. Add a natural liquid oil to the shea butter e.g. extra virgin olive oil* or coconut oil and stir until thoroughly mixed. The natural oil should make up about ¼ the volume of the shea butter. Pour the mixture back into a jar. Due to the addition of the olive oil, the shea butter will remain relatively soft when completely cooled and set and is easier to apply to the hair.
• Another way of using shea butter is to whip it with a few other natural ingredients and essential oils* to make a homemade butter.
A Simple Shea Butter Recipe
Shea butter crème
- 4 tablespoons shea butter
- 2 tablespoon cocoa butte
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
- A few drops of your favourite essential oil for fragrance – ensure that you use only a few drops of essential oils* to avoid allergic skin reactions, they are very potent.
Melt the shea butter and cocoa butter* in a double boiler over a low heat until melted and add the olive oil.
Pour the oils into a bowl and at this point, add a few drops of the essential oil for fragrance. Put your bowl over another bowl filled with ice to allow the oils to set faster.
Whisk vigorously while its cooling until the mixture is light and fluffy (you may want to use an electric hand whisk for this. Spoon into a jar and enjoy!
This recipe makes an excellent hair sealant for both natural and relaxed black hair. It also makes a wonderful body butter! See the article on how to choose a moisturizer.
It’s always good to know that there is a wide selection from which to choose, but be sure that you are getting top grade, and the finest quality products.
You can do so by taking time to research how shea butter from different brands are formulated and the processes they go through before you buy.
If you have nut allergies you should not use shea butter; remember, health and safety must be a part of your decision making process too. But if you don’t have any allergies then give shea butter a try. We are willing to bet that in no time, you will be singing the praises of shea butter too.
Updated by Marsha Buchannan