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



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 www.questfortheperfectcurl.com. 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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27 thoughts on “I Tried the Ethiopian Practice of Putting Clarified Butter (Ghee) in My Natural Hair

    • 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 :-)

    • 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.

      • 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 called ainyet.

  1. 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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 it’ll wash out easier. Not sure.

  3. 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!

  4. 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

    • 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 bread! The aroma is so mouthwatering! However, taking too much of it like spoonfuls at a go would cause an oily butt :-) Its oil and should not be drunk but eaten with the bread :-) These were special moments with our grannies…

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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??

  8. 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. Genet.bogart@gmail.com

  9. 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

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