Oils are known to be great for natural hair care, right next to their thicker and solidified cousins, butters. Butters are naturally heavier than oils due to their thickness, and they do a great job of providing heavy-duty moisture that oils alone may not be able to attain for your natural hair. Some of the most popular and beneficial butters for natural hair include aloe butter, mango butter, cocoa butter and shea butter.
Aloe butter is made from extractions from the aloe vera plant that have been whipped with coconut oil, and is light while still being an excellent skin and hair moisturizer. It is one of the less expensive butters available for natural hair. Cocoa butter is widely known for being used on skin, but it also has amazing sealing and softening properties when it comes to hair. Mango butter is similar in consistency to cocoa butter, though it has higher levels of fatty acids that boost its conditioning and moisturizing abilities. These three butters are useful and effective for natural hair care and growth in their own right, but the most popular butter of all may be shea butter.
Shea Butter and Its Benefits
Shea butter is a thick, yellow butter made from the shea tree, a tree native to East and West Africa. The nuts from the tree are harvested and pounded, then boiled. As the nuts boil, the fat or butter rises to the top of the water. This butter is scooped off and allowed to cool. When it cools, what’s left is a rich, 100% pure shea butter that’s ready to head on to its next stage of manufacturing.
Shea butter’s benefits are astounding. Aside from its softening effects, the butter has natural anti-inflammatory abilities and is rich in vitamins A, E and F. It is high in fatty acids and other nutrients that are needed to help the skin produce collagen. It even offers a level of protection from UV rays, acting as a partial but natural sunscreen for hair and skin.
There are both refined and unrefined versions of shea butter, and unsurprisingly, the unrefined shea butter is best for both your skin and hair. Refined shea butter is not as easily applied to to skin and hair, and does not have as many moisturizing and nourishing properties. One easy way to tell the difference between refined and unrefined shea butter is by the colour and texture. Pure shea butter is yellow in colour, and has a distinct nutty smell that is a dead giveaway. Though there are unrefined shea butters that are a beige or almost-white colour as well, light coloured butters that are waxy and have an off-putting smell to them are red lights, as they are most likely refined. Your shea butter can be used as is, or whipped into a light cream with other oils added to boost its properties. A few drops of lavender oil or another scented essential oil can be added to the mix if you don’t like the nutty smell that shea is known for.
Shea butter helps natural hair grow by keeping it moist, soft and lubricated. Dry hair that tangles is bound to break more easily, so by keeping your ends and the length of your hair well-oiled with shea butter, you provide lubrication for your strands to slide past each other without becoming tangled. It’s also no secret that moisturized hair retains more length, so if you’re having trouble keeping your ends alive, shea butter may be the answer. Shea butter is also incredible for dry scalp. Its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties relieve your dry, itchy flaky scalp, creating a balanced and healthy environment for optimal hair growth.
How is Shea Butter used in Natural Hair Care?
Shea butter can be used in a number of ways. For one, you can warm the butter to melt it carefully down into a liquefied state and use it for a scalp massage. It’s an easy and effective way to get the solidified butter into your scalp. You can also mix liquefied shea butter into your deep conditioning treatments or masks to give them an extra softening kick.
Additionally, because of its thickness, shea butter can be used in styling for hold or to tame frizzy hair. Use some shea butter on your natural hair for twist-outs, braid-outs and even roller sets to help your hair keep its pattern. It may not last as long as store-bought mousses or gels, but it’s a great natural alternative to commercial holding products.
If your ends seem to have trouble retaining moisture more than the rest of your hair, shea butter can be applied to them to help seal in your moisturizer. With the thick butter over your hair shaft, water will evaporate less quickly from your ends and your hair will stay hydrated longer. Lastly, to add a deep, rich shine to your hair, rub a small amount of shea butter between your palms and smooth it into your hair.
When it comes to butters, shea may just be the king of them all. Growing in popularity day by day, this butter’s nourishing ingredients as well as its moisturizing and softening properties make it one of the most loved butters in natural hair care today.