We all love the little beauty secrets passed onto us by our grandmoms and so forth. There are numerous ancient beauty secrets that the people used in the olden days to stay beautiful It is said that with slavery came a deep loss of the knowledge of hair maintenance. However, traditional African techniques of hair maintenance are actually what we do. In the last two decades, natural hair has come back into fashion and many women want to know how to grow long healthy hair. Unfortunately, many women struggle and fail to keep up with this trend because they don’t know the magic formula to apply for success. Ancient African methods for hair growth are very potent and are still being used for hair maintenance to date. Here are some new and old favorites:
Yes you read that right, it’s not an oil, it’s a tea! This magical tea comes from South Africa. It is an edible product and popular decaffeinated tea drink. Rooibos tea has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to aid healthy hair growth.
This is a traditional oil from Mozambique and South Africa. It is popular as a skin moisturizer but can certainly also processed to a food-grade standard and eaten. Like pretty much all-natural oils, it contains a sizeable amount of oleic acid and is not ideal for people with scalp problems (e.g. eczema, dandruff). We knew it to contain antioxidants.
It’s pretty difficult to grow healthy hair when it is dirty. Since sulfate is one of the ingredients your shampoo should not have, rhassoul clay from Morocco is a great answer. This mud wash thoroughly; it cleans the hair and scalp without stripping them of helpful properties.
This is a traditional soap from West Africa and 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.
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 moisture. This is perhaps the bigger and more important story. If you are experiencing dry hair, try to include an oil/butter within your moisturizing routine.
I have previously talked about the use of butter (as in actual edible butter) for hair care in Ethiopian communities. Thanks to a documentary on traditional people there, I have realized 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. It’s used to strengthen hair which is possible in part because the fat in butter, much like in coconut oil, is unsaturated
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 a thread and creates a more twisted style. We used traditionally this technique in West and Central Africa to wrap and protect hair as well as create intricate styles.
Intricate braiding is a feature of many traditional and modern African communities. There are many African women who traditionally (and in modern-day) wore 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 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.