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What are the benefits of shea butter for the hair?

Shea butter is a plant-based fat. Extracted through the mechanical pressing of shea nuts, it is known for its multiple virtues. Hydrating and nourishing, it is a friend to all skin types as well as hair. To take care of your hair, let's explore together the benefits of shea butter.

Summary
Published July 11, 2023, updated on January 29, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 5 min read

Nourishes the hair.

Shea butter is a plant-based ingredient rich in fatty acids, vitamins, and phytosterols. This combination of active ingredients provides properties sought after by dry and dull hair. Indeed, oleic and stearic acids are among the nutrients necessary for hair, making it more flexible and softer. Acting in depth, they are as beneficial for the hair fiber as for the scalp. In addition, the other molecules ensure hair hydration by forming a protective film. When used on curly hair, shea butter helps define curls while making styling easier.

Caution: The amount of shea butter used should vary depending on your hair type: fine hair will require a smaller amount than thick hair.

Strengthens the hair fiber.

Shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids (stearic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid) that strengthen hair resilience. These molecules have a structure similar to the lipids that make up the hair cuticle. They are thus able to insert themselves where they act as intercellular cement. By contributing to the restoration and cohesion of the cuticle, fatty acids also promote its impermeability and the protection of the internal layers of the hair fiber, such as the cortex. The latter is rich in keratin fibers, giving hair its flexibility and elasticity. Shea butter thus coats the scales, restores shine to the hair, softens the hair fiber, and helps prevent the formation of split ends.

Fights against dandruff.

Shea butter is used to eliminate oily dandruff. This is a cluster of dead cells resulting from the flaking of the scalp created when the skin renewal cycle occurs too rapidly. These generally result from an inflammatory reaction due to the presence of the Malassezia fungus, and its multiplication is favored by an excess of sebum. By combating inflammation and balancing the amount of sebum, shea butter limits these reactions. It also soothes the irritations and itching associated with them. Furthermore, shea butter acts on dry dandruff by limiting the flaking of the scalp.

Usage advice: Apply shea butter daily directly to your scalp and massage your scalp.

Prevents hair aging.

Just like skin, hair ages, either due to the passage of time or through oxidative reactions. This phenomenon is characterized by graying, dull, and brittle hair. Thanks to its composition of vitamins A and E, shea butter possesses antioxidant properties that are beneficial in promoting the renewal of hair fibers, thereby preventing aging. Indeed, these molecules act on the free radicals, which are responsible for cellular oxidation. They also stimulate blood circulation in the scalp, which helps to regenerate the hair fiber. In addition to its action against hair aging, shea butter also strengthens the hair.

Protects hair from UV rays.

The constituents of shea butter (phytosterols) also have a protective action against the UV rays of the sun. Prolonged exposure to these rays is known to weaken the hair fiber and dry out the scalp. Moreover, the sun can alter hair color, either lightening it or making it dull. By protecting your hair from UV rays, shea butter helps to prevent weakening and maintain the vibrancy of your color for longer. However, the action of shea butter can be enhanced with vegetable oils such as buriti oil.

Usage Advice:

  • To protect against UV rays, simply apply a small amount of shea butter directly to the hair before sun exposure.

  • To maintain its color, it is recommended to use shea butter in the form of a mask. Mix a dab of shea butter pure with a virgin oil, according to your need. Apply the mixture to the entire wet hair, focusing on the ends. Let it sit, then rinse.

Sources

PEKER K. & al. Medicinal and nutritional benefits from the shea tree. Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare (2017).

BABY A. R. &al. Butyrospermum parkii butter increased the photostability and in vivo SPF of a molded sunscreen system. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (2020)

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