Indigenous Native American Women Hair Care
Indigenous Native American Women hair care routines are one of the most traditional maintenance methods to grow a healthy head of hair. My desire is to grow long healthy hair. Therefore, the best place start is with the ancestral knowledge of the indigenous people here in America. This is why I decided to explore and learn more about their hair care practices. So, here are a few things that I’ve learned so far.
Native herbs and oils that were used on the hair
Many of the women grew their hair healthy and long using native herbs and oils on their hair. These natural herbs and oils are natural hair moisturizers, relieves dry itchy scalp, are antibacterial, and improves scalp and hair health.
Some of the common herbs used are:
- Lavender – Conditions the hair and skin, is also antimicrobial and kills bacteria.
- Sage – Known to improve blood circulation and stimulate cell renewal.
- Slipper Elm – Can treat many skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. It also promotes new cell growth, removes dandruff, helps to detangle the hair, and conditions the hair leaving it soft and smooth.
- Aloe Vera – Is a great natural moisturizer that also soothes and heal the scalp as well as aid in cell regeneration and hair growth.
- Yarrow – An infusion of the leaves from this strong scented floral plant was used as a hair wash. It also have antibacterial properties.
- Stinging Nettle – Helps in the promotion of hair growth. The leaves are rich in silica and sulfur which helps make the hair shinier and healthier. Creating a hair rinse with the leaves and water will aid in hair re-growth and also helps in restoring the hair original color.
- Saw Palmetto – Promote hair regeneration and repair hair loss. Also, it strengthens the hair and helped prevent dry scaly scalp.
- Rosemary – Promote hair growth by stimulating blood circulation in the scalp. Rosemary has also been known to reduce early signs graying.
- Wild Mint – Used to relieve dry itchy skin. Make a tea with the leaves the pour and massage into the scalp.
A few of the natural oils are:
- Jojoba – Soothes the skin and unclogs hair follicles. An effective natural moisturizer that treats dry flaky skin.
- Rosehip – Is moisturizing and hydrates dry skin. It is also packed with antioxidants and vitamins such as vitamin C, A, and E which nourishes the hair strands and follicles.
- Sunflower – Soothes irritated skin. Seals in moisture and protects the hair strands from damage.
Animal fat traditionally used by Native Americans are:
- Bear Grease
“Bear’s grease has a long history of use in hair care regimens. American Indians used the product to stiffen and style their hair as well as to add shine. In the 19th century, people used bear’s grease to make pomades, a waxy substance similar to hair gel used to style hair. Magazines, newspapers and ladies guides also promised that bear’s grease would help grow hair as well as serve as a cure for both baldness and sores.
Pomades, the more popular use for bear’s grease, were either made at home or by perfumers. The first step in making a bear’s grease pomade was to boil bear fat until it was purified and then add a preservative, such as benzoic acid. Pomades were often colored using a variety of natural substances such as cocoa powder and turmeric. Bear fat has a strong odor, so recipes included ingredients such as rose leaves, rosemary oil, lavender, thyme, almond oil, or vanilla to cover up the unpleasant smell. A pomade recipe found in A Practical Treatise on the Manufacture of Perfumery, published in 1892, includes the following ingredients: purified bear’s grease or beef tallow, rose-geranium oil and vanilla tincture. According to The Art of Beauty published in 1825, the finished product had a consistency similar to “olive oil” or “frozen honey.” (Source)
- Deer Tallow – Is actually deer fat that was used on Indigenous Native American women hair during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was used as an everyday skin and hair moisturizer. Tallow was also used for cooking and flavoring food.
Washing and Protective Styling
Traditional Indigenous Native American Women hair regimen involved infrequent hair washing and styling. Native American Indian women hair strands are generally fine. Therefore, constant manipulation and styling will hinder hair growth. Furthermore, they took pride in their hair and did not cut them due to spiritual reasons.
Indigenous Native American Women hair was also often braided, twisted or worn in locks. These protective hairstyles allowed the hair to thrive and grow. Additionally, they also stretched and protected their hair by wrapping it with animal fur, strips of cloth or ribbons. They did this to decorate, protect their hair from damage and aid in moisture retention of their hair strands.
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