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5 ways shea butter helps curly hair

As part of Black History Month, we’re celebrating the ingredients of African origins that we use in our natural curl care products, starting with the super conditioning shea butter.

Shea butter is a solid fatty oil that has long been used across Africa for its deep-conditioning and sun-protective qualities for the skin and hair. It’s actually more fat than butter, with loads of fatty acids like linoleic, oleic, stearic and palmitic acids that seal moisture into the hair, increase shine and reduce frizz. It’s also rich in vitamins A and E to nourish and protect.

This wonder butter comes from the Sahel region in West and East Africa, where cooperatives of women harvest the fruits of the karité tree and use traditional methods to extract shea butter from the nuts. This provides valuable income to the millions of women across Africa who work in the shea butter trade. 

But what else makes shea butter so amazing for curly and textured hair? Read on to discover the benefits of this wonder butter!

1. Locks moisture into your hair

Shea butter acts as a sealant for curly and Afro-textured hair, keeping precious moisture locked inside the strands. It does this by forming a protective coating around the strands to stop moisture escaping, leaving your hair soft, smooth and shiny. In order to maximise the benefits of shea butter, you need to make sure there is already moisture in your hair so that the shea butter can seal it in. This means applying it when your hair is wet, straight after washing it. 

2. Protects your hair and scalp from UV damage

When your hair is exposed to too much sun, it can become dry and damaged by the harmful UV rays. Dry + damaged hair = more chance of frizz, breakage and dullness, so you really want to make sure your curls are sun-protected when you’re spending time outside. Shea butter has a small (but sufficient) amount of natural SPF that acts as a natural shield against some of the sun’s rays. 

3. Soothes an irritated scalp

Got dandruff or a dry scalp? The anti-inflammatory qualities and high content of fatty acids in shea butter makes it an effective scalp treatment. When a small amount is massaged into the scalp, it absorbs easily without clogging the pores. This can help to replace the natural oils that have been stripped away by sulphate-based shampoos or over-washing.

4. Protects against heat

Repeated heat styling is a one-way ticket to frazzled, fried and frizzy hair. High heat breaks down the chemical bonds in the strands, weakening the hair fibre and allowing moisture to escape from the core. Try heat-free drying, babe. But if you can’t bear to part ways with your hairdryer, you’ll be happy to hear that shea butter can be used as a heat protectant. Melt it down and mix it with a carrier oil (like avocado oil or grapeseed oil) and apply small amounts before blow drying or straightening your hair.

5. Smooths down frizz and flyaways

The same protective coating that seals in moisture into the strands also works to add definition and shine to frizzy hair. By applying a tiny amount of shea butter to your hair, a thin film will coat the strands to smooth down any unwanted frizz or flyaway hairs, without leaving them looking greasy.

How to use shea butter for hair

A little goes a long way! Start with a small amount and rub it between your palms to melt it down before smoothing it through your locks. You can also mix it with another natural oil (like avocado oil or grapeseed oil) for an extra moisture-boosting and conditioning treatment. If you have super fine hair, shea butter might weigh your curls down so that’s when you can mix a tiny amount with the oil to soak up the benefits.

Tips for buying good quality shea butter

  • Choose raw or unrefined shea butter in its natural state for the best quality. The extraction process to make refined shea butter involves high heat, chemicals and bleaching to remove the nutty aroma (which also removes the vitamins and nutrients that are good for your hair).

  • Always do a patch test on your skin first before applying shea butter to your scalp to make sure you don’t have any reaction to it.

  • If you can’t find raw shea butter, there are loads of hair care products with shea butter as an ingredient. We’ve added it to our 03 Cream to keep moisture on lock and your curls silky smooth and our 05 Curl Mask for a rich and restorative treatment. 

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