How to Use Shea Butter on Natural Hair

by Amara Mandeln ; Updated September 28, 2017

Shea butter is a natural emollient extracted from the seeds of the Karité tree, a perennial tree indigenous to the tropics of Africa. Shea butter is rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants and also boasts anti-inflammatory properties. Its moisturizing and conditioning properties makes it a favorite treatment for natural hair, which can often be unruly and unmanageable. Shea butter protects dry and damaged hair by sealing in moisture. It is also used to treat dandruff, psoriasis and other scalp problems. For best results, use unrefined Shea butter as a leave-in treatment once or twice a week.

Purchase raw (unrefined) Shea butter. Refined Shea butter is treated with chemicals to lighten its color and reduce the potency of its smell. However, many of the vitamins and minerals are lost in the refining process, making it less effective as a hair treatment.

Mix a small amount of the natural oil into the Shea butter. Try olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, or any other natural oil of your choice. Use one part oil to four parts Shea butter. Whip the mixture until the Shea butter has softened enough to use as a cream.

Shampoo and towel dry your hair. Your hair should be damp, but not wet, prior to applying the Shea butter mixture.

Apply 1 tbsp. of the Shea butter and oil mixture to your hair. Massage it gently into your scalp and comb the mixture through to the ends. Use 1/2 tbsp. if your hair is less than shoulder length.

Wrap your hair in a warm towel and let set for 20 to 30 minutes.

Comb your hair through. Do not rinse your hair. Dry and style as normal.


  • Apply Shea butter to your hair before swimming. A natural sealant, it will protect your hair against chlorine damage.

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  • "Beautiful Black Hair: Real Solutions to Real Problems"; Shamboosie; 2002.
  • "Fast Beauty: 1,000 Quick Fixes"; Rona Berg, 2005.

Photo Credits

  • Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media

About the Author

Amara Mandeln lives in Berlin, where she has been working as a freelance writer since 2007. Mandeln’s writing on architecture and design has been featured in "Blue Moon" travel guides and on the website "European City." She is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Bryn Mawr College.