It might surprise you that our ancient ancestors had some hair care secrets to banish bad hair days – minus the chemicals. Maybe Cleopatra was on to something! Check out these 5 ancient secret ingredients and our favorite modern products that use them.
1. CAMELLIA OIL
A treasured beauty secret of the geishas was Camellia oil (also known as Tsubaki oil in Asia). The oil is extracted by cold pressing the flower’s seeds. Women in Japan and China have used it for years to help condition their scalp and to promote hair growth. It’s even a secret ingredient in Shiseido mascara, a Japanese brand!
◗ Restores moisture and shine to dry hair
◗ Promotes hair growth
◗ Conditions scalp
We recommend: Wawaza Aya Japanese Camellia Hair and Body Oil It’s cold pressed from wild-harvested seeds of the Camellia flower in Japan. There are no additives, preservatives, colorings, or fragrances and the product is never tested on animals. The oil is a deep golden color and has a creamy texture. Use it as a daily conditioner by massaging 1-2 pumps into towel dried hair and scalp and wash out normally. $22; wawaza.com
2 AFRICAN BLACK SOAP
This lumpy brown soap may not look like a typical American toiletry, but it’s actually used all over West Africa and often contains coconut and palm oils, cocoa pod, and plantain skins. It makes a great all natural shampoo that won’t strip your hair. The soap is made by first sun drying African harvested plants and barks like shea tree bark or palm tree leaves and roasting them in a pot. Then, water and oils are added, and the mixture is stirred for at least a day before being left to cure for up to two weeks.
◗ Soothes scalp irritations
◗ Vitamins A and E, and iron nourish hair and scalp
◗ All natural cleanser
We recommend: Shea Terra Organics 100% Pure Raw African Soap This brand strives to bring economic stability to third world countries by creating a market for their natural, beneficial skin and hair products, which are a favorite of Angelina Jolie. The 100% Pure Raw African Black Soap powder can be diluted with water to make a shampoo. $18; sheaterraorganics.com
SheaMoisture African Black Soap Hair Care Started in 1912 by the daughter of a healer in Sierra Leone, SheaMoisture remains a family business committed to quality and helping communities in need. Products include deep cleansing shampoo, balancing conditioner, purification mask, and dandruff and dry scalp elixir, all of which are eco-friendly, cruelty-free, and freetrade. Starting at $11; sheamoisture.com
Ancient Hawaiians used nutrient-rich awapuhi ginger extract to add shine and moisture to their hair. The sudsy juice is extracted from the flower. Squeeze the extract onto wet hair and either rinse out like a shampoo or leave in. The results are comparable to a keratin treatment. The plant is also called “wild ginger” and its red, yellow, and white varieties can easily be grown in a Florida garden.
◗ Softens and conditions hair
◗ Increases shine
◗ Restores damaged hair
We recommend: Paul Mitchell Wild Ginger Keratin Intensive Treatment Apply to damp hair and rinse out after 3-5 minutes. Use once a week. The awapuhi helps replenish lackluster hair with intense moisture and shine. $18; Cutting Loose Salons
Leaves from the flowering henna plant were used in the beauty salons of ancient Egypt to dye hair a rich red color. It’s still regularly used today in much of the Middle East and India for hair and as a traditional temporary tattoo for brides. The best part about this natural hair dye is that it also penetrates dull and damaged hair, resulting in shinier, thicker strands.
◗ Covers grey hair
◗ Controls dandruff
◗ Safeguards strands from damage
We recommend: LUSH Henna Hair Dye LUSH has a full line of henna hair dye bars that are packed with cocoa butter and essential oils. The bars are 100% vegan and come in four shades: black, brown, chestnut, and red. $26; LUSHUSA.com
HOW TO DIY DYE: Melt the henna bar down with hot water to a mud-like consistency. Apply henna to your hair while standing in the shower and wearing gloves to avoid stains. The dye takes up to six hours to set in, depending on your desired shade. Cover your hair in plastic wrap to make the dye more effective and keep it off everything else while you multitask. (TIP: Use Vaseline or LUSH Ultrabalm around face, ears, and neck to avoid straining the skin.)
5. FERMENTED RICE WATER
The women of Yao, China broke a world record with their long locks. What’s their secret? Fermented rice water – a great source of antioxidants, vitamin E, and proteins that repair and strengthen hair. Yao women also believed that rice water prevented grey hair and although there is no evidence that it actually does, it sure couldn’t hurt!
◗ Adds shine
◗ Improves hair elasticity
◗ Cleans without drying out hair
We recommend: Kiehl’s Rice and Wheat Volumizing Conditioning Rinse This best-selling product is made with rice and wheat proteins and also contains jojoba seed and rice bran extract. It conditions without weighing hair down so locks look silky yet still full of volume. $19; Kiehl’s.com