Recently, there have been whispers amongst the blogosphere claiming that Haitian women may have a secret related to maintaining long natural hair. I even found one comment that said Haitian 4c hair may even be somehow different because it shrinks less and is not so dry. While some attribute longer hair or hair with more luster to the tropical climate or diet, I focused my investigation on whether there are any traditional methods and products common among Haitians that may have a scientific benefit.
1. Moelle de Boeuf (Bone Marrow)
Yes, I will start off with one that on the surface appears quite odd. Moelle de boeuf is French for bone marrow. There are tales of grandmothers stirring up bone soup , cooling it down to allow the beef jelly to form and adding that to oil to create a hair and skin moisturizer. Commercially, there are hairdressing pomades available with the highlighted ingredient moelle de boeuf. So, what is this miracle ingredient? Well, beef jelly derived from bone marrow is essentially gelatin! Commercially, gelatin is produced from boiling bones much like the grandma story! Gelatin is hydrolyzed protein and therefore can both strengthen and moisturize hair.
Apparently almost every Haitian will have seen or used L’huile mascreti which is Haitian castor oil. It can be cold pressed with a yellow color or indeed have ash added to make it Haitian black castor oil. Most reviews that I have seen do say that the genuine article is supposed to have a really strong smell (some say stink) and therefore recommend adding an essential oil. If you are a fan of castor oil then this may be a variation that you may choose to try. As is common with castor oil, there are many who say it can help hair regrow (no hard evidence) as well as serve as a thick sealing oil for longer lasting moisture (definitely likely).
3. Nighttime Routine
Moving away from products and going to methods there is a rather common night time tradition of braiding hair rather than sleeping with hair loose in Haitian culture. Some may choose to moisturize and use l’huile mascreti in the process, while others just detangle lightly and create 8–10 braids. It is common knowledge, especially if your hair is fine, kinky,long or dense that compacting it in a braid or twist before sleeping will reduce tangling in the morning. You can also utilise the process to create a fresh braid or twist out. Scientifically, the less mechanical damage your hair experiences, the more likely it is to still be on your head for years to come.
Any Haitian ladies out there? What hair care secrets were you taught growing up? If you’re not Haitian, feel free to share your cultural background and what you were taught about maintaining natural hair!