How To Use Shea Butter For Natural Or Relaxed Black Hair

How to use shea butter

Learn how to effectively use shea butter to seal moisture into your hair

Shea butter is an ivory coloured fat extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. 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. 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.

Using it on the hair can be in a variety of ways.

• You can apply it straight to damp hair. It tends to be a bit hard in its natural state but 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. Place the shea butter in a double boiler and melt it on a low heat. Add a natural 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 recipe is below.

Shea butter crème

1. 4 tablespoons shea butter
2. 2 tablespoon cocoa butter
3. 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4. A few drops of your favourite essential oil for fragrance

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 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.



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About Alma

Hi! I'm Alma Ruddock, a full time blogger. I stumbled on a hair care forum in 2008 frustrated with my breaking relaxed hair and the information that I found there changed the fate of my hair forever!. I started as a way to help both myself and other women of color achieve their dreams of long healthy hair. I have now achieved my goal length and I continue to bring new information about hair on both this website and my personal blog.

  • Michelle Moore

    I really like to use shea butter over cocoa butter on my stretch marks. I feel like cocoa butter gave me an odd scent :/

  • BHI

    Raw cocoa butter doesn't smell the same as the vanilla scented stuff we are used to!

  • emily

    Can I use this every day as a moisturizer? And can I add some beeswax to use for twists?

    • BHI


  • Nkeon

    Bit of misinformation on here.  Shea butter is more of a sealant than a moisturiser.  It doesn’t have any moisture/water properties to be used straight on dry hair.  You could use it alone on damp/wet hair or use a leave-in moisturiser first but I wouldn’t use it on your dry hair as a moisturiser.  It may feel good at first but then you’ll notice the lack on moisture in your hair from using it alone.  You could also whip it with some water/aloe juice and use an emulsifier to make it a moisturiser.

    • Ingsprivate

      Great info. What emulsifier would be best to use?

      • BHI

        You don’t need an emulsifier with this recipe because all the ingredients are oil. If you wanted to add some water then I would suggest lecithin emulsifying wax or honey.

  • Jellis

    jellis- I tried the recipe for the shea butter creme. The recipe turned out very good. It brought my dry curly
            to life. My hair takes shea butter very well. The recipe helped me to find a way to make the shea butter         easier to apply to my hair thank you!

  • nappydame

    i made the creme today and must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out. I used to melt shea butter and mix it with jojoba or almond oil, to do my bantu knots. But I always ended up using too much product, making my hair sticky, greasy, but still dull and very attractive to lint. With your creme, my fresh twists are bouncy, shiny and soft. My hair just feels good! Now to see how they hold up this upcoming week…

    • Alma

      Great to hear! I found that whipping air into the oil makes it lighter and it stops you from using too much product!

  • Anuri Anosike

    Hey, well my story is pretty long but here goes anyway. I recently came back from nigeria, and while I was there, my mom’s hair stylist cut my hair. It was right before she was about to relax it, she said it was damaged..and so she had to cut it so I could start from fresh. I dont know how damaged it was, but I agree that I wasnt really taking care of it because I had been focusing on my finals. Before the “big cut”, months before, I had gotten a really HORRIBLE chemical burn. I dont know if the relaxer my mom used was inferior or if she left it on too long, but when she was washing it took half my hair with it. I’m talking the whole back section of my hair, just short and scanty. Fast forward to after the big cut. A few days later, I braided my hair and came back to the States. (I’m starting college this september) Now that was sometime at the end of june. I’m taking my braids out, and seeing my hair is just heart breaking. its still uneven, short in some parts, longer in others..I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO ALMA. HELP ME. I need to put my hair back in braids cuz I start classes on sept 4th, but I also need to relax it, cuz I relax after every 3 months..and I know relaxer weakens hair..and then to braid it after that would just be death to my hair. I cant afford to wait a few days to braid my hair, I’m a student. I’m gonna be a nerd for the next few months I’m gonna be busy for the rest of this month, and move in day is sept 1st, while classes start on sept 4th. My family is having a bbq on sept 2nd, so my only free day is sept 3rd. I dont know what to do. Do I get a protein treatment before I relax it, and then get another protein treatment after I relax it too? And then deep condition before I finally get my braids done? I dont know what to do. My hair used to be so long before. Its just an eye sore now. I feel so lost and un-confident. If that’s even a word. Please help. Thanks.

    • Alma

      Hi Anuri. Gosh, the relaxer burns sound horrible! Sorry you had to go through that. Look there’s no rule that says that you have to relax your hair on schedule particularly if you are just planning to braid it up again anyway.

      I’ve mentioned in a previous article( that you shouldn’t even think about relaxing if you are having thinning issues because it could do permanent damage to your follicles. You are too young to go bald so I strongly suggest that you give that relaxer a miss for now until the thickness of your hair is restored.

      Go ahead and do the protein treatment, a moisturizing DC and braid your hair up if you must. Be sure that whoever is braiding doesn’t do it too tight then you can assess the situation once you take your braids down. Good luck hun!

  • naturallynappy

    I found that when I just use shea butter, my hair still feels really dry. It doesn’t lock in the moisture at all. I’m trying this new treatment where I moisturize first:

    water to wet hair + shea moisture curl enhancing smoothie + jojoba oil

    then add the shea butter to do a braid/twist out. Should I be moisturizing before I add the shea butter? Or after?


    • Alma

      Absolutely! Shea butter just seals in moisture that you already have in your hair. If your hair is dry before applying shea butter it remains dry. Always moisturize with either a water based moisturizer or dampen hair slightly with plain water before sealing with shea butter.

  • OlayinkaFab

    Coconut and shea butter are the best way to encourage hair growth. I used them 3-4 times a week and my hair has grown tremendously in the last year. Best method ever.

  • IslandGirl!

    I have had a lot of negative experiences in regards to my hair. I have tried a lot of products but none seem to be helping. My hair is extremely stubborn, thick and dry. I would appreciate any advice on how to deal with this. I have been to a hair dresser but she has made me go bald twice in a row and I have not been the same ever since. I like the sound of shea butter but if you can suggest anything else I would really appreciate the help.

    • Alma

      Bald? Gosh, sounds awful. It’s difficult to sum up what you need to do in just one message, that’s why there’s a whole website for it! lol. Anyway for now just know that there is no hair so thick and dry that it can’t be tamed with a solid regimen. Shea butter is great for natural hair but on it’s own without a good regimen, it won’t do much for your hair. To begin with, all I can say is that you will have to get reading, There’s a wealth of material both on this site and a bunch of other sites online. Here’s where to start Good luck IslandGirl

  • Tammie Elkerson-Mcgill

    I really love using pure shea butter on my hair after it is dampened. It makes it more manageable and soft. Can’t live without it on my hair.

  • Diane C. Dejean

    Where do you find shea butter?

  • Janice Banks

    Any hair supply store, or health food store.

  • Maria Anthony

    Hi! My hair doesn’t grow at d edge, is sooo bad. I can’t comb my hair backward without parting it. Pls any suggestion(s) of hw I can have front hair? Tnx!

  • Ruttie

    i”m a nigerian and seriously most of us here have tragic hair stories…only the lucky ones have long hair….fortunately my family members have long hair buh unfortunately it skipped out on me and atimes it feels horrible…my hair is short scanty and unattractivee….i’ve tried everything but it seems to bail out on me…dunno what to do anymore cos i’m tired of using wigs and headties…will try using shea butter…..but do u pls hv any other suggestions