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You've heard through the grapevine that shea butter can keep your natural hair moisturized, but is it true? The short answer is, yes. Shea butter has been used in parts of Africa for more than a century, and has only caught on fairly recently in the U.S. Read on for more information on how shea butter can help keep your locks lovely and lustrous.
The Science of Shea Butter
What the heck is shea butter, anyway? It's a substance that comes from the Shea-Karite tree, found only in parts of Africa. The shea tree takes a whopping 15 years to produce fruit -- and another 15 to produce in high quantities the fatty acids that make it special. It is the presence of this fatty acid that gives it its healing properties as a moisturizer for your hair and skin.
How it Can Help
Shea butter works by being absorbed into your hair and scalp (sans clogged pores!), healing your hair of dryness, brittleness and even weather damage, according to hair care site Treasuredlocks.com. Unrefined shea butter, in particular, retains more of its natural healing properties than do its more processed forms.
(Do) Rub it In
Shea butter can be used in many different ways. It can be melted in a boiler and combined with other moisturizers, such as cocoa butter, for a customized ultra-moisturizer. (If the scent isn't quite your style, it can also be altered with essential oils; however, bringing it to high temperatures can cause healing properties to be lost.) Rub it into your hair and scalp daily, on dry or damp hair for a moisturized mane.
Shop on the Spot
Browse online sources for shea butter, or check out your local ethnic hair care store. Try to buy unrefined shea butter, as it contains more healing properties than more refined versions that were raised to high temperatures. If you order shea butter and it's melted when you receive it, that's fine -- just stick it in the fridge, and it should be restored to a solid state in no time.