Shea Butter for Curly Hair: Uses & Benefits

Last Updated on April 16, 2022 by Olivia Herlihy RN

Shea butter is one of the best ingredients for protecting and moisturising curly hair! It is loaded with healthy fatty acids and other phytonutrients that help seal moisture into the strands, reduce frizz and promote growth. It is especially beneficial for Afro-textured hair which is naturally dryer than other hair types. This post looks at all the benefits of shea butter for curly hair, and how you can use it in your daily regimen!

shea butter for curly hair

Shea butter is a solid fatty oil that is found in the nuts of the Karite tree (also known as the Shea tree). The Karite tree is most common in the western and central regions of Africa.

Shea butter can be used as a hair treatment in its natural form without the need for any further processing. It nourishes the scalp and hair without exposing your skin to any potentially harmful chemicals.

At room temperature shea butter is solid. It starts to melt at a temperature of 31º-38º C. This means in order to use the butter on your hair, you will will need to warm it in your hands until it becomes an oil.

This post looks at:

  • The benefits of shea butter for curly hair
  • How to use shea butter on curly hair
  • Shea butter vs cocoa butter
  • Shea butter vs mango butter
  • Recommended shea butter products for the hair

Shea Butter for Curly Hair

Benefits of Shea Butter for Curly Hair

1. Shea Butter Reduces Frizz and Maintains Curls

If you are worried about frizzy hair, shea butter is a great solution! Since it has a high content of fatty acids such as oleic, stearic, and linoleic acid, it helps to seal moisture into the hair preventing it becoming frizzy. It is also a rich source of Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant and helps to prevent damage and dryness. When applied directly to the hair, it acts as a sealant on the cuticle and helps maintain curl formation.

2. Shea Butter Prevents Split Ends

The high concentration of fatty acids, antioxidants, and phenols present in shea butter helps to moisturize dry hair and reduce breakage during the washing process. It prevents the formation of split ends that can appear when the hair is dry or brittle.

Shea butter also helps to strengthen the hair when used in your pre-pooing treatment prior to shampooing your hair.

3. Shea Butter Promotes Hair Growth

The fatty acids present in shea butter are known to penetrate deep into the dermal layers and nourish cells below the surface, providing essential nutrients for hair growth.  

Studies have shown that 100% pure Shea Butter is a rich source of unsaponifiables, which are known to promote hair growth. When applied regularly, Shea butter can help to promote the growth of your hair and maintain healthy roots and hair follicles. Shea butter can be especially helpful for growing out Afro hair.

4. Soothes Scalp Irritation

Unrefined Shea butter is packed with fatty acids that help to keep the scalp moisturised and healthy. When applied to a dry scalp, it helps replace any oils that were lost due to using harsh, sulfate-based shampoos. If you have an itchy scalp, shea butter can also reduce inflammation and soothe the dry skin.

5. Shea Butter Protects Against UV Rays

Shea butter contains a small amount of SPF so it provides some protection for your hair against the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This not only prevents the drying effect of sunlight, it also protects your hair against discoloration and other damage caused by sun exposure.

Ways to Use Shea Butter on Curly Hair

There are many hair products that contain shea butter as a key ingredient, however it can be used in its natural form directly on the hair.

1. Apply Shea Butter as a Hair Mask

Shea butter has a high concentration of fatty acids that absorb easily into the hair shaft. It helps to moisturize dry hair without leaving behind any grease or residue, making it an ideal ingredient for deep conditioning treatments.

Regularly applying shea butter on your curls can help keep them hydrated and healthy.

2. Shea Butter as a Pre-poo Treatment

Pre-Pooing is a popular method used by curly haired girls to help reduce the amount of damage caused during washing. The pre-poo treatment helps to protect your strands from being stripped of their natural oils.

You could try mixing shea butter with vitamin E oil and add this to your favorite hair oil. Apply the mixture to wet hair before shampooing. This is a great way to reduce breakages due to dryness caused by chemical treatments such as relaxers or color processing.

3. As a Leave-in Treatment

You can use shea butter as a leave-in treatment which is great for dry hair. Simply take a coin-sized amount of unrefined Shea butter and massage it into your hair once or twice a week after washing.

Shea butter makes the hair glossier and increases movement in the curls. To minimize the greasy look, apply Shea butter to your hair when it is wet after washing your hair. The Shea butter can act as a leave-in conditioner and help smooth frizzy ends.

4. As a Deep Conditioning Treatment

Shea butter works great as a deep conditioning treatment for dry or damaged hair. For this treatment, you can either melt the unrefined Shea butter by placing it in warm water until fully liquefied, or rubbing it between your hands. Apply to the hair from root to tip then cover your head with a plastic cap secured with a scarf for an hour. Then shampoo, condition and style as usual.

Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter

Both cocoa butter and shea butter contain fatty acids that help to moisturise curly hair. They also both help to soothe a dry or irritated scalp. The butters are different however and have their own unique benefits.

Appearance: Shea butter has a creamy, ivory appearance, whereas Coco butter is has a brown tint.

Smell: Shea butter has a mild scent, which is slightly nutty whereas cocoa butter has a distinct smell, similar to chocolate.

Whether you use shea butter or cocoa butter is down to personal preference as both work well to hydrate dry curly hair. My personal preference however is shea butter since it’s more suited to sensitive skin. I would recommend avoiding cocoa butter if you have acne since, unlike shea butter, cocoa butter can clog the pores.

Shea Butter vs. Mango Butter

Shea butter and mango butter are both natural moisturizers for the hair, but again my preference is shea butter. The two butters differ in aroma, color, and consistency. Shea butter is creamier and whips more easily than mango butter. It’s also more nutrient rich than Mango Butter because of its high levels of vitamins A and E.

Related: The Benefits of Mango Butter for Hair

Although raw shea butter can be used in its natural form, there are some great hair products containing Shea that are easier to use.

African Pride Shea Butter Miracle Silky Hair Moisturizer

African Pride Shea Butter Miracle Silky Hair Moisturizer

If you are worried about dry hair, a shea butter hair moisturiser is the best way to add hydration and enhance your natural curl pattern. It also helps to improve hair texture and soften coarse hair.

The African Pride Shea Butter Miracle Silky Hair Moisturizer is enriched with natural Shea Butter to infuse dry, brittle, hard to manage curls with natural body, bounce and movement. It gives amazing manageability, softness and shine to naturally curly, wavy, kinky, coily and mixed textured hair.

The product also contains other moisturising ingredients such as soya bean oil, olive oil, Argan oil, mango butter, pure coconut oil, and aloe barbadensis leaf extract.

Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque

Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque

The Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque is perfect for repairing and moisturising dry, damaged curls. The formula contains natural ingredients including sea kelp which smooths any rough hair cuticles and Argan oil to restore shine and improve hair texture. This mask is rich in African shea butter to condition the hair and scalp.

This product works well on curly or coily hair types to improve curl formation and shine. I have also used it on my wavy hair and found it worked well repairing the heat damage caused by over use of styling tools.

Cantu Shea Butter Curl Activator Cream

Cantu curl activator cream

If you’re looking for a shea butter curling cream, the Cantu curl activator cream is perfect for delivering frizz-free curls with a light hold. I found you only need small amounts of this cream for great, defined, bouncy curls. The cream also contains sweet almond oil, avocado oil and mango seed butter, which are all packed with essential fatty acids to keep the hair moisturised. They also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to soothe an itchy scalp. This is one of my favourite shea butter curl creams!

The Body Shop Shea Butter Richly Replenishing Hair Mask

The Body Shop Shea Butter Richly Replenishing Hair Mask

The Body Shop have an entire range of shea butter products including a shea butter shampoo, conditioner and hair mask. Their shea butter hair mask is one of my favourite products for reducing frizz and promoting shine. It leaves curly hair bouncy and hydrated.

Related21 Best Curly Hair Products that Contain Shea Butter


If you found this article helpful, you may enjoy the following posts from other beauty blogs that I follow and trust.






This post was all about Shea Butter for Curly Hair

Thank you for reading my post on using shea butter for curly hair. If you have any favourite shea butter products please leave me a comment below. In West Africa shea butter has been used in natural hair care for centuries since this natural product can prevent sun damage to the hair and add strength, shine and moisture.

Olivia Herlihy RN

Olivia is a hair and skincare enthusiast with over 10 years experience working in healthcare and over 5 years as a Registered Nurse. She gained an online following after creating a natural haircare routine which completely transformed her hair. Olivia has since written an eBook on Ayurvedic hair care to help others use the same formula to improve their own hair.

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