Does Shea Butter Straighten Hair?

Does Shea Butter Straighten Hair?


Shea butter has become an increasingly popular natural hair care ingredient. Known for its ultra-moisturizing properties, many people have begun using shea butter to help improve the health and appearance of their hair. One common question is - can shea butter help straighten your hair? Keep reading to learn more about how shea butter works on hair and whether it can help create straighter, smoother locks.

What is Shea Butter?

Shea butter is a fatty oil derived from the nuts of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It has been used for centuries by people native to West Africa as both a food product and to protect hair and skin from dryness under the hot African sun.

Shea butter is rich in fatty acids like oleic, stearic, palmitic and linoleic acids. These fatty acids give shea butter excellent emollient properties, allowing it to moisturize and soften hair. Shea butter also contains vitamins A and E which provide antioxidant benefits to protect hair from damage.

How Shea Butter Works on Hair

When applied to hair, shea butter coats the hair strands and seals in moisture. The fatty acids penetrate the hair shaft and help repair damage from chemical treatments, heat styling and environmental factors. This helps make hair smoother and more manageable.

The moisturizing effects of shea butter can temporarily straighten curly or kinky hair textures. When hair is very dry, the hair cuticle lifts up, causing strands to tangle and curl. By replenishing moisture, shea butter helps weigh down the cuticle, allowing hair to stretch out and appear straighter.

However, this straightening effect is temporary. Once hair gets wet or collects moisture from the air, it will revert to its natural texture. Shea butter cannot permanently alter the structure or shape of curly hair.

Benefits of Shea Butter for Hair

Using shea butter on hair provides these benefits:

  • Softens and detangles - Shea butter is an excellent natural conditioner that makes combing and styling easier.
  • Reduces frizz - The emollients in shea butter coat the hair shaft to eliminate flyaways and smooth the cuticle.
  • Adds shine - Vitamin E and fatty acids give hair a glossy, healthy appearance.
  • Protects against heat/UV damage - Antioxidants in shea butter create a protective barrier against styling and environmental damage.
  • Prevents breakage - Shea butter strengthens hair fibers to reduce breakage caused by brushing, styling and processing.
  • Soothes dry/itchy scalp - The anti-inflammatory properties of shea butter can help relieve a dry, irritated scalp.

How to Use Shea Butter for Straightening Hair

To maximize shea butter's straightening effects, it's best to apply it to damp freshly washed and conditioned hair. Here are two simple ways to use it:

As a Hair Mask

  1. After shampooing, massage a generous amount of pure, raw shea butter into sections of damp hair from roots to ends.
  2. Put your hair in twists, braids or pull it up into a shower cap. Let the mask sit for at least 20 minutes to fully penetrate the hair shaft.
  3. Rinse out the shea butter thoroughly with lukewarm water.
  4. Follow with a moisturizing conditioner and style as usual for straighter, smoother hair.

As a Leave-In Conditioner

  1. After washing and conditioning your hair, melt a teaspoon of shea butter in your palms by rubbing hands together.
  2. Evenly distribute the softened butter throughout your hair, concentrating on the ends.
  3. Use a wide-tooth comb to detangle.
  4. Let hair air dry or gently blow dry on a low setting to maximize straightness.

Tips for Getting the Best Results

  • Look for raw, unrefined shea butter which retains more nutrients.
  • Focus the shea butter on your hair ends which tend to be the driest.
  • Don't overdo it. A little shea butter goes a long way. Too much can leave hair limp and greasy.
  • Try other natural oils like coconut or avocado oil to boost shea butter's effects.
  • Deep condition hair weekly and use a Clarifying shampoo monthly to prevent product buildup.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does shea butter straighten hair permanently?

No, shea butter cannot permanently straighten naturally curly or kinky hair textures. Its effects are temporary and wash out once hair gets wet.

Does shea butter straighten hair overnight?

Leaving shea butter in hair overnight allows more time for it to penetrate and coat the hair shaft. This maximizes its straightening effects. Cover hair with a silk cap or scarf at night to help the moisture absorb.

Can shea butter be used on all hair types?

Yes, shea butter is suitable for all hair types including straight, wavy, curly, coily and kinky hair. Those with fine hair should use sparingly to avoid greasiness.

Does shea butter protect hair from heat styling?

Yes. The vitamins and fatty acids create a protective barrier that shields hair from damage caused by hot tools. Shea butter is a great pre-styler before using flat irons, curling wands or blow dryers.


While shea butter cannot permanently alter your natural hair pattern, it can help provide temporary straightening benefits when used properly. Taking advantage of shea butter’s ultra-moisturizing properties can help hair look and feel smoother, silkier and more manageable. When incorporated into a regular hair care routine, shea butter can improve hair health, shine and strength over time.