If you think about the ANCIENT Wodaabe women from the Sahel region, Mbalatu women from Angola and Himba from Namibia there is one thing they had in common: They had extremely long and healthy hair, which they took pride in.
So, what did they actually use or do to maintain healthy hair? Did they have hair growth secrets that the rest of the world did not know about?
Curious to find out?
In this article, we will review 7 Ancient African Hair Growth Secrets that were used for centuries to grow long and healthy hair.
Hair in most African cultures was treated with a lot of reverence; it symbolized social status, spirituality, tribe and marital status etc. It is for these reasons hair was treated with a lot of love and care.
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8 Ancient African Hair Growth Secrets
1. Chebe Powder
Chebe powder is a popular ancient african hair growth secret that was commonly used in the Northern parts of Africa, particularly among the women of Chad. It is a powder made by mixing Shebe seeds, cloves, Samour resin, Missic stone and Mahllaba seeds.
There is not much science explaining the benefits of using the Chebe mixture but cultures that still use the chebe powder as a hair growth treatment, report that it moisturises the hair, defines curls and strengthens hair.
Each of the ingredients in the Chebe Powder are loaded with beneficial hair nutrients as described below:
Also known as Croton seeds, these were ground and added to the Chebe powder.
These seeds have anti-inflammatory properties great for maintaining a healthy scalp. When ground and used a paste for the hair, it’s reported that the shebe seeds may strengthen hair and prevent hair loss. 
The Shebe seeds restore the hair and scalp pH to the normal pH of 4.5 to 5.5 leading to healthy and glowing hair. When powdered and used as a hair mask, the Chebe seeds are a great hair moisturizer and conditioner.
Samour resin is the local name of the Acacia gum. It is transparent but changes to orange-brown when exposed to cooler temperatures.
It’s a product used in the cosmetic industry as a stabilizer and thickener. No wonder it was use to prepare the Chebe hair treatment during the ancient times.
Given that most of North Africa is hot, application of Samour resin helped in preserving the hair moisture as it forms a protective coat around the hair.
Cloves are great for treating dandruff since they contain anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Application on hair helps control the Malassezia fungus present on the scalp and is responsible for dandruff.
Cloves boost hair growth by repairing and strengthening hair and they help improve blood circulation in the scalp.
This may explain why our African ancestors had long hair especially after the application of the chebe powder.
How was Chebe powder prepared and applied on hair?
Each of the seeds in the ingredients is roasted before being ground. The resulting powder is sieved and large particle ground again until everything is in powder form. Beef fat was then added into the mixture to form a paste that was used as a hair mask.
To apply the Chebe paste:
- The hair was detangled and made wet
- The paste was then applied onto the hair until it was completely saturated with the products.
- The hair was then braided together.
- This process was repeated every 3 to 5 days.
Here is a video by Miss Sahel that talks more about the Chebe Powder.
2. Omutula tree bark
Omutula tree bark is also known as the Baobab tree bark. It was ground then mixed with fat to allow application on hair. This was commonly used by women from Namibia.
Scientifically, baobab is rich in omegas 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and linoleic acids. These properties make it a great hair moisturizer and the fact that linoleic acid is present, it allows hair to retain moisture.
The properties in baobab help in strengthening your hair’s keratin therefore strengthening your hair in general.
3. Dairy butter
This product was famous among the Ethiopian people and Chad people of Africa. The butter was made from fermented milk and used on hair while it was still fresh. They claimed that the butter helped in moisturizing their hair.
The butter also made their hair stronger therefore reducing hair breakage. It was used after every 3 days then washed off from the hair after two or three weeks.
Given the high temperatures experienced in Chad and Ethiopia, butter helped protect these nomadic cultures’ hair from the scorching sun, preserving the hair’s moisture.
4. Beef fat
Beef fat was used in ancient times to prepare the Chebe powder mixture. The equivalent of this in the modern day is using essential oils to prepare the Chebe mixture.
Beef fat is slowly becoming famous again. It is rich in vitamins A, D, K and E.
Beef fat helps in soothing an itchy scalp and restoring dry and frizzy hair by moisturizing it. As a result, your hair is left feeling soft and healthy.
Beef fat also served the purpose of protecting hair strands from the sun’s UV rays.
It is very evident that our African ancestors were very keen with moisturizing their hair. Moisturizing hair has proven to be beneficial for the hair and this practice has been going on till date.
5. Hair Braiding
Once our African sisters were done with treating their hair with mixtures like the chebe powder, they would always braid their hair in protective styles. The most common form was braiding the hair, but this varied from one culture to another.
The most common braids that are still in practice till date are the Fulani braids from the Fulani people in the Sahel region of Africa. Traditionally, hair was braided into five long braids and were left to hang or looped on the sides and styled by putting them on the middle of the head. The hair was then decorated using beads and some even put silver coins on.
This hairstyle is easy to maintain and once is on your head, it allows for little manipulation of hair.
Dreadlocks were common among the tribes that used red ochre on their hair. Examples include: Himba tribe from Namibia, Hamar tribe from Ethiopia and even the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.
Among the Himba people, hair was locked in a mixture of red ochre, butter, and goat hair. The application of red ochre was believed to enhance one’s beauty and also protect the hair and skin from the sun.
Among the the Hamar tribe, their hair locks were made by using water and resin to bind their hair.
Dreadlocks allow hair to retain most of its moisture. Dreadlocks also reduce hair manipulation giving the hair time to grow freely.
Related article: The origin of dreadlocks
7. Hair threading
Hair threading traces back its roots in the 15th century among the people of Western Africa.
This hairstyle is characterised by hair being wrapped by thread from its roots to the ends. It is a protective style that prevents shrinkage of hair by stretching it and avoids manipulation of hair. This in return results to more hair growth.
This practice is still in place today and is done in different ways.
It is very evident that our African ancestors ensured that they had little manipulation on their hair which is key for hair growth.
Other hair growth secrets such as using Chebe powder , wearing dreadlocks and braiding are techniques we see starting to gain traction in the modern day.
There you go, 7 ancient African hair growth secrets that actually worked, and can be use today!
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