Does Shea Butter Thicken Hair?

Does Shea Butter Thicken Hair?

Shea butter is a plant-based oil that comes from the nut of the African shea tree. It is commonly used in hair care products and touted for its moisturizing properties. Some people claim that shea butter can also thicken hair strands. Here is an in-depth look at whether shea butter can truly help thicken hair.

How Shea Butter Works on Hair

Shea butter is rich in fatty acids like oleic, stearic, palmitic, and linoleic acids. These fatty acids give shea butter emollient properties that smooth down the outer cuticle layer of the hair strand. This helps to lock in moisture, reduce frizz, and give hair a glossy shine.

The moisturizing effects of shea butter can temporarily plump up hair strands. This makes the strands appear thicker than they are. However, shea butter cannot permanently change the actual diameter or density of each strand.

Potential Benefits for Thinning Hair

While shea butter cannot physically thicken hair, it may help temporarily plump fine, thinning hair to give the appearance of more volume. Here are some of the ways it may be beneficial:

Moisturizes Hair and Scalp

Dry, brittle strands are prone to breakage and shedding which can worsen thinning hair. Shea butter penetrates the hair shaft to hydrate hair and alleviate dryness. It also moisturizes the scalp to promote a healthy environment for new hair growth.

Reduces Breakage

The emollient effects of shea butter coat the hair cuticles to reduce friction and minimize breakage when brushing or styling. Less breakage means thinning hair retains more of its length.

Protects Against Heat Damage

Shea butter forms a protective layer on the hair strands. This barrier shields against heat damage from heated styling tools. Avoiding damage helps maintain the integrity of thinning hair.

Improves Manageability

Shea butter smooths the cuticle layer to make hair more manageable. This allows easy styling so there is less tugging and pulling on delicate thinning hair.

How to Use Shea Butter for Thinning Hair

Here are some tips on incorporating shea butter into your hair care routine:

Look for Organic, Unrefined Shea Butter

Raw shea butter retains more nutrients compared to refined varieties. Seek out organic shea butter that is ethically sourced.

Perform Regular Scalp Massages

Massaging unrefined shea butter into the scalp stimulates circulation and promotes a healthy environment for hair growth. Doing this 1-2 times per week may help thinning hair.

Use as a Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Rub shea butter thoroughly into your hair and scalp the night before wash day. Cover hair with a shower cap overnight. Wash it out in the morning for conditioned, moisturized hair.

Add to Your Conditioner

Add a dollop of shea butter to your usual conditioner. The extra moisture boost helps thinning hair look and feel thicker. Focus application on the mid-lengths and ends.

Seal in Leave-In Conditioners

Apply your regular leave-in conditioner as usual. Follow with a small amount of shea butter to seal the cuticle and lock in moisture.

Avoid Roots When Styling

Only apply shea butter from mid-length to ends when styling thinning hair. Adding it at the roots could make hair appear more limp and flat.

Are There More Effective Options?

While shea butter can temporarily plump up thinning hair strands, it cannot permanently thicken hair or increase hair density. Here are some other options that may be more effective:


Minoxidil is an FDA-approved topical treatment that can stimulate hair growth. It comes as a liquid or foam and is applied directly to the scalp twice daily.

Hair Thickening Sprays

Some hair thickening sprays contain polymers that coat the hair shaft to make strands appear thicker. They provide temporary volume until the next shampoo.

Hair Growth Supplements

Supplements containing nutrients like biotin, vitamin D, iron, and zinc support healthy hair growth. They help create an optimal environment for thicker, fuller hair.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)

PRP therapy involves injecting concentrated growth factors from your own blood into the scalp. This stimulates follicles to grow thicker, fuller hair strands.

Low Level Laser Therapy

Low level lasers help reactivate dormant follicles to grow new hair. The results are gradual but can lead to long-term thickening of thinning hair.


Shea butter can help maximize the health of existing thinning hair strands. However, it cannot permanently thicken hair or increase hair density. For the best results, use shea butter as part of a multifaceted approach. Combining it with other treatments that stimulate growth may help achieve thicker-looking hair over time. Consult a dermatologist to develop an effective hair regrowth plan tailored to your individual needs.