African hair is one of the most interesting and widely discussed types of hair in the world. In recent years, most African women have departed from chemicals that straighten the hair to wearing natural curls with pride.
As the love and appreciation for natural African hair increases, more and more people have tried to find ways of augmenting and caring for their natural look.
There is now a thriving market for products manufactured purposely for African curls, not forgetting the straightening creams and hot rods for those who want their hair to withstand everyday styling.
But before the introduction of these products, the ancient African had a way of perfectly caring for and maintaining their mane. There were products and routines that, reportedly, accounted for perfectly healthy, supple and oftentimes lengthy hair. Here are a few such products:
Castor Oil, Egypt
In ancient Egypt, hair was a symbol of beauty, wealth, status and fertility. To maintain the growth and the strength of their natural hair, most Egyptians used castor oil for their hair due to its nourishing properties. The oil is massaged into the hair and scalp, and then a hot wrap is put over it. This is to enable the vitamins and fatty acids in the concentrated castor oil to penetrate deeply into the scalp and hair follicles. In recent times, castor oil has grown in popularity among beauticians and natural hair enthusiasts who want to achieve the perfect natural hair.
Clarified butter (also known as Niter kibbeh) has been used by the people of the Afar tribe in Ethiopia as hair care products for centuries. To make this, butter is simmered for a length of time, allowing milk fat or solids to separate out and the water to evaporate leaving behind a distinctive fat rich in essential fatty acids, as well as, some fat-soluble vitamins, which are needed for multiple physiological functions in the body.
The butter can be eaten for its nutritional purposes and is applied to the hair to protect it from the sun and keep it perfectly supple. The butter is best liquified by placing the container in warm water, and then generously applied to hair.
Chebe powder, Chad
The Basara women of Chad have been known to grow unusually long hair in times past. The secret, it turns out, is Chebe powder, a mixture of Chebe (Lavender croton), Mahlaba (Cherry kernels), Samour (Mastic Gum), Clove & Sudanese Khumra Perfume oils – all products that are locally sourced.
The powder is applied to the hair with some hair grease (mostly shea butter mixed with perfume oils) after the hair is wet with water. The grease and powder are applied to the hair alternatively until the hair is fully saturated. Afterwards, the hair is braided and wet with water again.