When you check natural hair products, websites and beauty blogs, chances are you’ll come across shea butter. This slightly yellowish or ivory-colored fat is regarded as a cure-all and miracle worker for hair and skin, but what exactly do we know about it? Here, CurlyNikki.com provides a primer on where shea butter originates, what it’s used for and where you can go get you some!

What is shea butter?

Shea butter comes from the shea-karite tree nut, a native tree found in the East and West Africa tropics. It’s a complex fat that melts at body temperature and is easily absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy feeling. People have used it for years as medicine for a variety of health-related concerns, such as healing burns and treating scars or surgical marks. Now, it’s used primarily in beauty products.

What are some major shea butter benefits?

For hair, shea butter boasts several benefits. It can soothe an irritated scalp without clogging pores; it can provide strands with moisture from roots to ends; it can soften hard and brittle tresses without leaving hair greasy or heavy; and it can act as a thermal protector by coating the hair shaft and deflecting heat tool damage. Finally shea butter can shield hair from the sun’s ultraviolet rays with its built-in sun protection factor.

Are there different types of shea butter?

Yes, there are two different types of shea butter: refined and unrefined. Unrefined shea butter is untouched and packs a powerful punch of all its natural qualities. The drawback? Unrefined shea butter has a strong natural aroma that can be hard to mask. Refined shea butter has no aroma and is absorbed quickly into hair and skin. The drawback? In the production process, refined shea butter loses some of its natural potency.

Where can I buy shea butter, and how do I use it?

Shea butter can usually be found in health food and beauty supply stores. Use it to make homemade scrubs and conditioners, or add some to your favorite hair and skin products to boost their health benefits.

Looking for more at-home remedies? Click here for a DIY sugar-sweet scalp scrub.