Does Shea Butter Make Hair Grow Faster?
Shea butter has become an increasingly popular ingredient in hair care products in recent years. Many claims have been made that shea butter can help promote faster hair growth. But is there any truth to this? Let's take a closer look at what shea butter is, its benefits for hair, and whether it can really help speed up hair growth.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea butter is a fatty oil derived from the nuts of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It is a triglyceride fat rich in fatty acids and vitamins, traditionally used in Africa as a moisturizing cream for skin and hair.
Some key facts about shea butter:
- Extracted from the nut of the shea tree, native to Africa
- Rich in vitamins A, E, and F
- Contains fatty acids like oleic, stearic, palmitic, and linoleic acids
- Absorbs quickly into skin and hair without leaving a greasy residue
- Has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties
Shea butter has been used for centuries by African women to protect and nourish their hair. But does science back up the traditional belief that it can accelerate hair growth?
Benefits of Shea Butter for Hair
Here are some of the top ways shea butter can improve hair health:
The rich fatty acid content of shea butter makes it an excellent moisturizer for dry, brittle hair. It helps retain and lock in moisture in the hair strands without clogging pores or making hair look greasy.
Regular application can lead to:
- Increased hair elasticity & strength
- Restored shine & luster
- Reduced split ends & breakage
Soothes Scalp Irritation
The anti-inflammatory properties of shea butter can help soothe a dry, itchy scalp. The vitamins and fatty acids nourish the scalp and remove flaky skin or dandruff. This helps create a healthy scalp environment.
Protects Against Heat & UV Damage
Shea butter forms a protective coating on each strand. This acts as a shield against heat styling tools and UV rays, preventing damage to the hair cuticles.
Seals in Moisture as a Sealant
Shea butter is often used after shampooing as a sealant. It locks in the moisture provided by the conditioner or hair mask to keep hair hydrated.
Promotes Hair Strength & Growth
The vitamins A and E in shea butter nourish the hair follicles. This stimulates circulation in the scalp to encourage new, healthy hair growth. The fatty acids also strengthen and thicken existing hair strands.
So in summary, shea butter improves hair elasticity, shine, and strength while soothing the scalp. But is there evidence it specifically accelerates hair growth?
Can Shea Butter Increase Hair Growth Speed?
There is some scientific research indicating shea butter's potential to modestly increase hair growth rate:
- In one study, shea butter was found to increase the percentage of rats experiencing anagen (active growth) phase of the hair cycle.
- Shea nut oil applied to mouse skin increased dermal thickness and hair follicle size.
- The oleic acid in shea butter penetrates the hair shaft better than other oils. This improved penetration could plausibly improve growth.
However, current research is limited. There isn't enough evidence to conclusively state that shea butter drastically speeds up hair growth compared to other oils.
But it does appear that regular shea butter application creates an optimal environment for hair to grow consistently at its natural rate. It removes scalp buildup, nourishes follicles, and protects against breakage.
How To Use Shea Butter for Hair
Here are some tips on using shea butter to get the most hair growth & health benefits:
- Focus on quality - Choose raw, unrefined shea butter over heavily processed versions
- Do a patch test - Apply a small amount to your arm before full use to check for allergies
- Melt it first - Heat shea butter between fingertips to melt it before applying to hair
- Apply to damp hair - Use after showering, while hair is still wet, to lock in moisture
- Massage into scalp - Take your time massaging shea butter thoroughly into your scalp
- Distribute evenly - Brush melted shea butter from roots to tips to distribute evenly
- Use sparingly - Only a small amount is needed; too much can leave hair greasy
- Shampoo as normal - Follow up with your regular shampoo & conditioner routine
- Deep condition too - Combine shea butter with weekly deep conditioning for added hydration
Be patient. It can take 3-6 months of consistent use to see results from improved hair health and any potential growth effects. Avoid heavy shea butter use if hair is already naturally oily.
The Bottom Line
Shea butter improves many aspects of hair health due to its rich nutritional content. It moisturizes, reduces breakage, and soothes the scalp without greasiness. This creates an optimal environment for hair to achieve its fullest natural growth potential.
While the extent of shea butter’s growth accelerating effects is still unclear, its benefits for overall hair quality are well established. Using shea butter 1-2 times per week, paired with a healthy hair care regimen, can help you achieve stronger, hydrated, healthier hair.