Shea; yea or nay?
April 30, 2017 12:42 AM   Subscribe

Is blowing out my hair with shea butter bad for it somehow?

I have thin, slightly dull and dry hair. I recently had a hairstylist give me a cut I didn't like, but she blew out my hair with pure shea butter afterwards and I liked the result. Suddenly my hair was thick and glossy and moved together as locks instead of flying away everywhere. Of course, that all went away once I washed my hair again.

I found another hairstylist who gave me a great cut, but when I asked him if we could do a shea butter blowout like the other lady he started making faces. The only explanation he gave me was that it was bad for my hair, and that dirt would stick to it. Googling gives me a mixed result; some people say it dries out your hair, others say it adds moisture. I didn't see anything to support the claim that dirt will stick to it. (In case it's relevant, I'm white with the corresponding hair type.)
posted by Soliloquy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, I'd say it depends. There's a lot of factors at play here.

There's plenty of hair types (for white people included) that do well with shea butter, but since you mentioned you have thin hair I'm going to assume it's straight/mostly straight. Shea butter is really good as a sealant to lock in moisture that's already there, and thick curly hair has a tendancy to love it. The thing is, if hair is already dry and not getting enough moisture, adding shea is not going to moisturize it, and will only block out other products that would -- contributing to the overall problem.

The main issue with blowouts (esp. for dry hair) is that heat is involved, which is already damaging. The shea most likely acted like a heat shield and let whatever products the hairdresser used do their thing to get the result you liked. But honestly, pure shea butter on the regular might be too heavy for thin hair anyway. For a once in a while blowout, if your hair likes it, it should be fine.

(also attracting dirt, wtf is he saying)

For the dry issue, I'd look into getting products specifically for thin, dry hair to add back some moisture to it, and then using a light oil (argan, grapeseed, maaaybe coconut) to seal it in. Also stuff with protein (keratin, hydrolyzed protein like rice, etc.) to keep shape and add body. Nothing too heavy that will weigh it down. I personally stay away from products with sulfate/silicones/parabens, so I lean towards buying vegan or all/near-natural because they don't use the stuff that dries me out. Learning the science of hair is uh, a lot of research, as I am learning over the years; but even if you're not super curly, blogs geared towards curly and natural hair tend to know their stuff re: the science of it. Just stick to lightweight products.
posted by lesser weasel at 2:59 AM on April 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

According to this blog, shea butter might have some (small) potential to penetrate hair. Which (if true, which isn't clear) can be a good thing in the short term (makes things shiny, lends some weight), but can cause buildup over the long term. (I had this issue when I tried coconut oil for a bit. Made things look great for a while, then ended up with hair that was more dull, dry, and brittle-looking. But I don't think it'd be a huge issue with shea butter.) I'm sure it's fine to use as long as you do some kind of clarifying treatment once a week or so. (Which you'd have to do with silicone products anyway.)

You might want to get your iron and B vitamin levels checked out, if you haven't. My hair was dull and very prone to breakage until I started supplementing with iron (following medical advice to do so - don't do it otherwise bc too much iron is bad for you). Now I have normallish hair, and don't have to look for the most moisturizing thing. But check out Kevin Murphy products, highly recommend the Re.Store cleansing conditioner for a weekly treatment.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:38 AM on April 30, 2017

I don't have an answer about shea butter, just a suggestion about a dryer. The Infiniti Pro rotating brush dryer was a game changer for me. After trying more round brushes of various sizes and materials than I care to remember, I'm finally able to get the look a stylist gets using just a dryer, i.e., no need for an iron.

(I'm a white woman with straight hair that I color (lighten) about once/month—if I'm not careful, it gets dry.)
posted by she's not there at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2017

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