It is often said that with slavery came a depletion in knowledge of hair maintenance. However, traditional African techniques of hair maintenance are actually being used as we speak! Here are some new and old favourites:

1. Rooibos Tea

rooibos tea
In truth, I have not found evidence that Rooibos tea was used on hair traditionally in South Africa where it originates. It is certainly a popular caffeine free tea drink. Scientific studies have shown that rooibos tea contains antioxidants and even has antimicrobial effects. It is gaining popularity among naturals who want to use tea rinses on their hair for these reasons.

2. Marula oil

marula oil
This is a traditional oil from Mozambique and South Africa. It is popular as a skin moisturiser but can certainly also be processed to a food grade standard and eaten. Like pretty much all natural oils, it contains a large amount of oleic acid and is not ideal for people with scalp problems (e.g eczema, dandruff). It is also known to contain antioxidants.

3. Rhassoul Clay

rhassoul clay
Hailing from Morocco, Rhassoul clay is a traditional mud wash that can cleanse oil from hair. It is not readily explained on how it does this but what is certain is that it can!

4. African Black Soap

Dudu_Osun
This is a traditional soap from West Africa and is commonly made from oil (shea butter commonly and plant ash. Some say it is gentler than traditional soap but it is important to remember that soap is soap and it will always have a high pH. If that is something you are sensitive to, then do not use it.

5. Shea Butter, Avocado Butter, Cocoa Butter, Coconut oil, Argan Oil

sheabutter-main
I will not harp on too much about these as they are pretty common knowledge. The one thing that is consistent across the continent is the use of oil to help maintain hair moisure. This is perhaps the bigger and more important story. If you are experiencing dry hair, do try to include an oil/butter within your moisturising routine.

6. Ghee (butter)

ghee butter
I have previously talked about the use of butter (as in real actual edible butter) for hair care in Ethiopian communities. Thanks to a documentary on traditional people there, I have realised that the butter they use is what we refer to as ghee which is a type of clarified butter that you can find in Indian food stores. The butter is used to help moisturize and/or seal in moisture. Additionally, it’s used to strengthen hair which is possible in part due to the fat in butter, much like in coconut oil, is unsaturated

7. African threading

african threading
African threading is experiencing a renaissance thanks to youtubers such as Nadine of Girls love your curls who has featured a more modern interpretation that does not involve fully wrapping hair in thread and creates a more twisted style. This technique was used traditionally in West and Central Africa to wrap and protect hair as well as create intricate styles. Today, it is used in a similar manner and in addition is a way to stretch hair with no heat.

8. Braiding

tigrai_women_different_hair_braids
Intricate braiding is a feature of many traditional and modern African communities. There are many African women who traditionally (and in modern day) chose to wear their hair short as it is convenient and fuss free. However, from the Himba women of Southern Africa to Ethiopian tribes of Eastern Africa and even to the Nigerian women of Western Africa, there are many communities who traditionally (and in modern day) showcase long braided hair. Braiding long hair is as much for beauty as shown in the attention to detail as it is for maintenance of hair length. It is a protective style that has withstood the test of time.

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61 Comments on "8 African Traditional Secrets for Long Healthy Hair"

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Jayla Elon

I endorse your recommendations.

Genet Bogart

Ethiopian ghee has been used for centuries to moisturized and maintain the beauty and strength of hair and natural beauty. its not only great for hair but also for skin. if you would like to try and be part of this amazing product, ( with out the smell) and its freshly made just for you when you order.please email me at Genet.Bogart@gmail.com

AfroCapricornette

As much as I like Dudu Osun (black soap), it is drying on skin and will be for hair unless you incorporate oils as well. For skin, it clears black spots but you need to moisturize as it’s drying, for me at leat.

Hair long

Do NOT use ghee in your hair. I’m Ethiopian and we do not use ghee. Clarified butter( cooked butter with spices) is for food while freshly made unspiced butter is for hair. Ghee would be horrible for hair!!! It has salt and peppers which would dry hair out.

Shae

thank you for that clarification

LizzieBrizzie

Can you recommend a recipe for Kibe or where I can purchase it?

Genet Bogart

LizzieBrizzie, we are in the process of setting up our company, but i can send you a fresh ghee made out of milk that the cows are grass fed. the best kind.

queenofmeanie

For years before she passed my mother looked for someone to thread her hair and every hair dresser said no, but let’s put a relaxer in your hair. My mother would say no and walk out. I wish she was alive today, so I could take her and have her head threaded.

My mother said her hair was threaded as a child. If she was a live today, she would be 79.

werknesh

check out http://www.werknesh.com to purchase the Ethiopian hair butter, Habesha Kibe! Directly imported from Ethiopia, it’s the ultimate pre-shampoo treatment that truly strengthens and nourishes you hair and scalp. Ethiopian women have been using it for Centuries! A completely natural approach to hair care!

misa

I like this article, but please keep in mind that African Black Soap was invented by the Yoruba people of Nigeria (as you can see with the name Dude Ogun/ Ose Dudu) ose Dudu is a Nigerian soap used by Nigerians and Ghanaian people only

Suad
A response to to Misa. Please do not misinform the public I ma Nigerian (not Yoruba) black soap is indigenous of various cultures around West Africa (Dudu Osun) happens to be one brand of black soap that is commercially available. in the market in Nigeria you will find different variations of the black soap from the different ethinicitied of Nigeria nd beyond. As a matter of fact the Ghana black soap is very popular in Nigeria and widely sold. Shea butter which is one of the main components of the black soap grows mainly in the Central and Northern part… Read more »
AfroCapricornette

I think Misa meant that the name Dudu Osu is Yoruba from Nigeria. Everyone knows shea butter is common in W/Afr not just Nigeria. No need to get your panties in a bunch lol.

traic

Suad…alothough Dudu Osun is available all over West Africa, the name alone makes you know that it is a Yoruba invention. I’m sorry, but that is the truth. If it is an invention of others, then there would be other names for the product.

Wambui Wamutogoria

I dont understand the pessimistic tone in this article. These are fantastic methods for healthy natural hair

Melissa

God, I love Rooibos.

kimba

Nigerian women aren’t the only west African women who braid their hair. Also Nigerian women do not represent all West African women. The majority of women in West Africa wear braids. These women come from Guinea, Liberia (who many Africans know for being good at doing hair), Ghana and Sierra Leone to name a few. So please keep this in mind for further articles and just mention regions so you don’t leave people out.

BeastOfNoNation

But the author clearly mentioned other african women braid their hair though. The picture used was even of east african women so what is the issue?

tosan
It pleased me greatly when my son saw the threading hairstyle and said “wow, that’s beautiful mom,how did she get it to stand like that” he is only 5 years old. I thread my hair as a method of stretching. I also use the traditional black soap as a shampoo…I cut it up into little bits and let it soak in an old shampoo bottle with aloe Vera juice. In addition,i use shea butter for my hair and skin.I rarely use store bought hair products. I really do appreciate my culture and heritage and will pass it on to my… Read more »
Kelly
Interesting read, I’m South African we don’t use rooibos on our hair but I drink it alot and use the facial products. We don’t really have traditional hair care regime, we use off the shelf products (which are limited). In S. A we do alot of braiding, threading and cornrows. In black primary schools its a must for girls to keep their hair short like boys but in high school is where you can grow it but make sure it stays in a cornrow. The only time as kids we could enjoy our hair out in the open and do… Read more »
AK

I’m from Kenya, live in the U.S. now and I remember getting African threading hairstyles and seeing other people in it when I was young. So, as far as I know not in only West and Central Africa as no. 8 suggests. In fact they have re-invented it and you can now get it threaded to look like locs which I of course did the last time I was there !

Sam

In number six you mention a documentary. What documentary did you view for info on Ghee? I am interested in viewing the film as well.

Thanks

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TMC toronto meetup march 29th

This is an interesting article! I am familiar with all but Ghee. I drink my roibos tea though, I don’t do tea rinses, as they’re an extra step which i’m just not in the mood for.
Truth is, many modern day Africans actually have damaged hair which is a result of over manipulation.
http://www.themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

Tabatha

I’ve always had braids in my hair on and off in my life, but I just discovered African Hair threading and I LOVE IT! Its a great way to stretch your hair without heat after you wash it. Also I have been using African Black soap off and on for about 4 years. I like it. Its great for almost every part of your body. If you get the liquid version then you can use it in your hair.

Ellie
Ah! The African threading. Mum used yarn or any other kind of string to twist my hair, sometimes she laid them flat and other times she connected it. We call them antennas because they looked like that. & honest to God, if my mum left ’em standing, I wouldn’t leave the house. I hated them but when they’re connected it’s pretty. But goodness, guess what? We just finished the rooibos tea. I’ve never heard of using it as a tea rinse but alrighty. It’s like ±$2 at the shops. Black soap, yep, I love the smell of it. I defo… Read more »
Sandi

It seems as though the writer of this article doesn’t believe the first four products work or are good for you

The Natural Haven

Sandi, I write from a factual point of view so in general you will get reasons why you should try something AND reasons why it may not work for you all together, in the same article. I would not put any of the items on this list if I did not think that they are worth exploring. The fact that they may have downsides or apparent benefits that are not well researched are put there so that you go in having all the information, not partial truths.

Brandy
Actually, its on Wikipedia, the Maasai men, the Morans have been dyeing their hair red and having locs or mohawks or tying down their locs in mohawks, you should look up their culture, and its a tradition that has been passed down for years, the Maasai are known to be fiercely protective of their culture, even today they do not like to wear “modern” clothing. After that the MAU MAU, freedom fighters, still Kenyans, but a different tribe had locs as a symbol of figthing the British empiralists, locs were a symbol of them not ‘bowing down’ to the British… Read more »
Mary

Hey, I’m Kenyan, and its true locs used to be worn for a lot of reasons years back in Kenya, but today, even corporate women are having their hair in locs, as long as its neat its accepted

Dara

Like the article! Is african black soap good for dandruff?

CB

yes. 🙂

Elle
“It is often said that with slavery came a depletion in knowledge of hair maintenance” Actually, I find it’s another one of those sourceless and baseless statements made without any credibility or background knowledge whatsoever, grounded entirely on loosely-patched guesswork, one-sided historical text not written by Blacks, yet taken at face value by Blacks even though it’s devoid of true anthropological study and reality. I’m from the south – and no, memory and knowledge and common sense didn’t just drop out of our brains or our culture once we entered the New World. A variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and… Read more »
Troll

troll alert, u must be white?

The Natural Haven
Elle, your argument does not convince me because it is an established fact that dislike of kinky or woolly hair as it was often referred to in the 1800s and the introduction of hair straightening methods and products started off in USA. This is a direct influence of slavery and the fact that people were convinced that their hair was either unmanageable (meaning methods and products were not regarded as sufficient) or unattractive. Some of your statements feel like they are a denial that the society and cultural norms of where you live influence the decisions and knowledge that you… Read more »
Hansy

I agree with JC. Generations of black women straightening their hair is why so many of us didn’t even know how our natural hair felt or look. It took me 32 years to realize that I could wear my natural hair. I never thought it to be possible.

Melissa

So ladies, what’s the technique for tiny flat twists with almost no scalp showing?

Brandy

JC!! You are Kenyan but you forgot to add locs on the list, they originated from the Maasai people.

Elle

A lot of cultures claim to have a long history with locs. I think it’s one of those things where no one will ever know for sure. That doesn’t mean everyone can’t show how their culture used the style.

Arial

We know for sure that it originated in one of the African cultures, because that’s where the first people came from.

The Natural Haven

I didn’t forget locs, they are a valid method of getting long hair but I generally look at techniques for growing long loose hair as this is the stronger focus on BGLH.

lablooplah

oh man, i grew up in Kenya, HAAAAAAAAAATEED the smell of ghee butter, people also apply it on their body. I think the secret of growing hair in africa is the heat! lol

Hansy

I always see Ghee butter in the super markets here where I live. I was wondering if I could use it on my hair. I think I will give it a go, maybe use it as a pre-poo?? I certainly don’t want to walk around town smelling awful.

Rosa Harris

add an essential oil for better smell

May

I’m from Ethiopia and you could always smell someone from a mile away if they had it in their hair (because some would even go in public with it!)
It works wonders on hair if you can deal with the smell.

Genet Bogart

lol i agree. we came up with a something that makes it smell like a cotton candy.

Dananana

I recently DC’d with ghee, and you’re totally right. Great results–my hair was definitely softer and more moisturized….But that smell, ugh.

Ugonna Wosu

My hair grew the longest(as a child) with my mom’s African threading and jheri curl hair spray to keep it moist.

Andie

I can definitely vouch for shea butter, african black soap, and threading. My mom is from Ghana, so growing up, all three were very common in my household. Nowadays, I definitely use black soap to clarify, shea butter to seal, and I would definitely be down for a threading ‘do!

Nhlanhla

I live in South Africa and never heard of using rooibos as a tea rinse before. I think i will try it.

Tondi

I’m from Zimbabwe and am quite surprised myseld, never heard of it either.

bonnie

I live in Botswana which is right next to South Africa. Almost every woman wears braids and cornrows because they are low maintenance and cheap,around 20US dollars at most

Amor

I wish it was cheap to get my hair braided in the US. I would like to get it braided with styles like those of the Ethiopian girls. Or I guess I gotta learn how to braid my own hair. I love braids as it is the best protective style for me.

Gugu

Dumelang (Mom is Sotho, lol). Fellow Southern African (Zimbabwean) in Canada. I’ve never heard of the Rooibos thing or the clay but we definitely grew up on braids, cornrows and threading. Before my hair was ruined by a childhood skin condition, my hair was always shoulder length or longer due to threading and braids. It’s low maintenance, looks great and I love that it’s so authentically African!

stephanie

I can relate sister Zimbabwe is next to both Botswana and South Africa , hair braiding is cheap

Beth

Dumela Bonnie! Nice to find a fellow Motswana around these parts. Are you also on a hair journey?

kitso

Dumelang bagaetsho, nice to see you guys here. Not a motswana but lived in your beautiful country for almost 12 years. True braiding/plaiting is the thing. Nhlanhla nawe sawubona. Are you guys on a hair journey?

transitioningchica

I live in Ohio, United States, and WISH I could get braids for that price here! haha!! I’m longing for braids/senegalese twists, but I just can’t do the $100+ price tag at this moment.

Tatianna

I live in Ohio too. I agree that is too much money. I learned how to do my hair myself. I don’t like people in my hair anyway. They use these small combs that cause a lot of my hair to break off.

Andie

I can relate, Bonnie. I went home to Ghana this summer and got my hair done in twists (teeny ones at that) for around 30 bucks.

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