One of the coolest things about hair is that a lot of kitchen ingre­di­ents work well for treat­ments. Coconut milk, hon­ey, and olive oil are all ingre­di­ents that my hair loves, and I love that I can pick them up from the gro­cery store while doing my week­ly shop­ping. After read­ing about the ben­e­fits of ghee, I decid­ed to use it on my hair. What’s ghee, you ask?

Ghee is clar­i­fied but­ter, and is often used in Mid­dle East­ern and Asian cook­ing. It’s also used in Ethiopia as a hair treat­ment.

An Ethiopian man with ghee in his hair
An Ethiopi­an man with ghee in his hair

Why put but­ter on one’s hair? Because there is a dif­fer­ence between reg­u­lar but­ter and clar­i­fied but­ter. Basi­cal­ly, clar­i­fied but­ter is the fat only, and is like a solid oil. 


I have read that accord­ing to Ayurvedic prin­ci­ples, ghee pro­motes hair growth. Now…whether that is true is nei­ther here nor there (I’m not sure if it does), but it is a great “oil” for the hair. My expe­ri­ence with ghee has been great.

Con­sis­ten­cy: Like a thin pomade…turns to oil quick­ly and absorbs eas­i­ly into hair and skin.

Smell: I think it smells a bit like sweet cream, but I can see how some peo­ple would inter­pret a twinge of funk. At first, I thought it smelled like the fake but­ter that they use in microwave pop­corn, but it start­ed to smell like cream. Some­one also told me it smells like havar­ti cheese?

Uses: As a pre­poo, ghee is awe­some. I’ve pre­pooed with it overnight, and 20 min­utes before wash­ing, and my hair was soft each time. Also, it’s not so thick that it leaves an annoy­ing residue. I’ve also used ghee as my oil under a gel, and had great results! It’s not greasy, and I got soft­ened, non-crunchy hair. For my skin, it’s not heavy (like shea) and absorbs quick­ly, soft­ens skin, and gives a “dewy” appear­ance. I even used it on flat ironed hair to smooth it before I put my scarf on for the night, and my hair was so soft in the morn­ing! I didn’t even care that I got called “cheese­head” for a cou­ple of days (if this would both­er you, please rin­se it out!).

I’ve also been cook­ing with my ghee and using it with toast. I spread it on gluten free bread and add a dash of gar­lic salt and pep­per. Regard­ing inter­nal ben­e­fits, ghee is said to low­er the risk of heart dis­ease and con­tains vit­a­mins A, D, E, K in addi­tion to fat­ty acids CLA and butyric acid. And it’s so tasty! Just don’t use too much. You can either order ghee online or pur­chase it from your local health food mar­ket (I don’t think I’ve seen it at the mass chain gro­cery stores) or Indi­an mar­ket.

Have you ever used ghee for cook­ing or your beau­ty rou­tine? 


Elle is the edi­tor and cre­ative direc­tor of the YouTube chan­nel and blog, Quest for the Per­fect Curl at Her chan­nel focus­es on nat­u­ral hair, beau­ty, and fit­ness. She loves prod­ucts that smell like dessert, yoga, and glit­ter. Fol­low her @qftpc.

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28 Comments on "I Tried the Ethiopian Practice of Putting Clarified Butter (Ghee) in My Natural Hair"

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Hi u all but­ter for hair has been used in Ethiopia for a long time most Ethiopi­ans swear by that is high­ly ben­e­fi­cial not only for hair but also for the brain and eyes.and ladies use unsalt­ed but­ter not ghee.

Tobi I

I’ve seen Ghee at the Giant food stores in my area (DMV) So I think that means that TJs, Whole Foods and Weg­mans prob­a­bly have it

Genet Bogart

Dear Elle, if you want the best results, as Ethiopi­ans do it,cooking the but­ter isn’t a good idea. we nev­er do that. there is a pro­duct that is just com­ing out and its the real thing with amaz­ing nat­u­ral blends. i can give you the infor­ma­tion if you like to try it.let me know.


In Rwan­da we also have that, I con­sid­ered using it too but I some­how was wait­ing for some­one to first try it. Thank you for fea­tur­ing it.
Here it’s even cheap­er that any oth­er but­ter so I am def­i­nite­ly try­ing it ?
I have type 4c, do you think it’s gonna work??


I’m Ethiopi­an and have been doing this since I was a kid, so I’m hap­py to see it fea­tured!

One tip: In order to get rid of the smell, Ethiopi­ans often mix in some cof­fee grounds with the but­ter, or do a cof­fee rin­se after rins­ing it out the but­ter (we love our cof­fee) and I find that helps a lot!


I will try clar­i­fied but­ter (a.k.a. tes­me, k’ibe , etc.) as a pre-poo soon. It’s not too dif­fer­ent than my beloved coconut oil pre-poo. As a wom­an of African descent, I like the fact that it’s an Ethiopi­an hair­care prac­tice.


Its also used in the Caribbean alot for cook­ing pur­pos­es. My moth­er use to use Ghee for mak­ing roti which is most­ly used for that pur­pose. She cut down the usage of Ghee for health rea­sons. I don’t know if I would use it for my hair though. May­be

Caroline Akwi
Tra­di­tion­al ghee is best because comes from cows which have not been fed on arti­fi­cial med­i­ci­nes and feeds. Ghee from nat­u­ral milk is healthy but rare, I think. I pray i nev­er get to a point of avoid­ing ghee because it makes food deli­cious… Ghee has been part and parcel of the cat­tle keep­ing tribes and nev­er did it ever have side effects. I remem­ber when­ev­er the ghee was cooked it was always and excit­ing moment where some of it would be mixed in ground nut paste (pea nut but­ter) and some with­out and we would eat it with mil­let… Read more »
lecia p

Just a thought. Would adding an essen­tial oil help the smell? Lemon, orange or some­thing aro­mat­ic? I’d like to try it but not if im going to smell like stinky cheese! lol!

Caroline Akwi

lol! sug­gest­ed using ghee to my daugh­ter and she was like ” I am not ready to smell like milk”


You can just ask for clar­i­fied but­ter. In my lan­guage Tigrinya we call it tes­me.

Sarah Brooke

Wow I must try this! I’ve always won­dered if it would be good to put in hair.

I was actu­al­ly using ghee in body but­ters and found it to be super mois­tur­iz­ing but still light. I decid­ed to add it to a hair mask a cou­ple of months ago, and my curls looked amaz­ing! The only prob­lem (huge prob­lem) my hair was funky, the scent set with me even after I re-washed my per­fect curls the next night. My hair looked great once again, but that smell still lin­gered, like spoiled milk, or old cheese. Now I’m leery, but I think I have to melt the but­ter bet­ter, like a melt­ed coconut oil sub­stance, and then may­be… Read more »

Some­one men­tioned mix­ing some cof­fee grounds to get rid of the smell.…the guy 3 com­ments above you


I’ve read that you can also make your own ghee. It involves cook­ing the but­ter (from cows that are grass fed) and then strain­ing it. I saw the recipe on the web­site for Well­ness Mama. Too lazy to do it myself but I’ve thought about a lot

Caroline Akwi
Raw ghee is got from churn­ing raw milk that has been got from a cow, and put in a gourd, or bot­tle. After every milk­ing, some milk is poured in to the con­tain­er (gourd or bot­tle) and after some time, it should be shak­en (churned) in such a way that the milk is sep­a­rat­ed from the fat/ ghee. This process lasts as long as you want to accu­mu­late the ghee and as a result, one gets two prod­ucts: sour milk which one keeps on pour­ing out for cook­ing stews, or drink­ing, and ghee which is lat­er boiled or also con­sumed raw.

You read well­ness mama too? :-D I just read about black Seed oil on her blog..awesome!


Yeah it is pret­ty easy to boil and strain your­self. We use it a lot in Ethiopi­an cook­ing and add pep­per and spices. In Ethiopia its used as a pre­poo or deep con­di­tion­er, so I find it strange that she used it as a leave in.


What is it called in Ethiopia? I’ve seen it in the Arab stores around here but there are some Ethiopi­an stores that I would rather throw some sup­port to as well if I can.


In what coun­try is it called ghee, because that is not what it is called in Ethiopia? Is this in Eng­lish?

dr ali syed

Ghee comes from Pak­istan and India. It is gen­er­al­ly made from scratch by fer­ment­ing milk to curd (yogurt). The curd is churned to get but­ter from the top, leav­ing but­ter milk. The but­ter is then cured with flour and processed to con­vert it into Ghee. I will try to get research the whole process of mak­ing Ghee soon for your infor­ma­tion.

Caroline Akwi
Ghee is the com­mon­est but­ter used in the cat­tle keep­ing tribes in the world. I think we dif­fer in the meth­ods of pro­duc­ing it and won­der whether all peo­ples use gourds for churn­ing the milk. What I have noticed is that most or all the cat­tle keep­ing tribes have gourds which are spe­cial­ly used for the sour milk because of their light weight and shape. They are eas­i­ly tied to their lug­gage as the herds­men graze their cat­tle for long dis­tances. Gourds are beau­ti­ful too :-) In Ate­so, its called akinyet in some parts while in areas towards Karamo­ja its… Read more »

In Ethiopia, it’s known as k’ibe (kih-bay)

Dana Brown

It’s called ghee in India and goes by many dif­fer­ent names.


Ah, thank you!


Good post! I plan to try this!


Hmmm, I’ll look into the stuff.…I’ve heard of it before, but I want­ed some­one else to try it first

Caroline Akwi

LOL! My Eritre­an neigh­bour uses it and has encour­aged me to use it on a day when I will not have to go to work. Will update you, crys­si :-)