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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60 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.

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 kids,… 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 rec­om­mend… 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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