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4 Jamaican Traditional Secrets for Longer Natural Hair

Avatar • Apr 11, 2014

In previous articles, I discussed Haitian and African hair traditions and their possible benefits from a scientific stand point. Today, I take on Jamaican traditions of which there were so many. Sadly, I could not find substantial evidence for favourites such as Jamaican ginger or herbal hair washes but who knows, maybe in time there will be some research! Here are 4 that I found evidence for:

1. Coconut milk

coconut_milk

I found it interesting that coconut is sometimes referred to as dread nut in Jamaica. Dread coming from the Rastafarian dreadlocks and nut being of course that coconut is a nut (technically a drupe, but we can say nut)! There is a long history of coconut products being used to maintain natural hair and coconut milk is definitely up there in the list. It is made by adding water to the crushed coconut meat (white part) to extract a mix of oils and proteins from the meat. You can purchase prepared coconut milk in a can or even make your own from desiccated coconut. Coconut milk is regarded as a  conditioning treatment for hair as it has a high oil content. It is often used as a final rinse after washing hair.

2. Jamaican black castor oil (JBCO)

JBCO
Castor oil is hugely popular in the Caribbean and one of the most popular varieties is JBCO. Its darker colour arises from a traditional process of adding ash of the castor bean into the extracted oil. This is said to increase its mineral content (magnesium mainly). Of course you will have heard stories of JBCO being excellent for regrowing hair at the temples or increasing strand thickness. While there is no definitive proof that it can regrow hair or increase thickness, it is definitely the case that castor oil is a very viscous oil which forms a thick layer on hair to help reduce loss of moisture.

3. Beeswax

beeswax
Beeswax was traditionally used in Jamaica to help the matting process when locking hair. It is a notoriously difficult product to use on free natural hair but it is a good alternative to gel for those who like to smooth the edges of their hair. Beeswax is a natural wax and contains some fatty acids which are similar to those found in natural oils such as coconut oil or shea butter. It will melt in your hand and a pea sized amount would be sufficient to slick a full head. As it is a fairly heavy product which does not transfer easily once applied to hair, it will be able to act as a sealant but can also attract lint, so regular hair washing or limited use would be advisable.

4. Hot Oil treatments
Many cultures around the world do practice hot oil treatments and Jamaicans are definitely among them. The general practice is to use your favourite oil (a mix of coconut oil and JBCO seem popular) heated up in a water bath and then applied to unwashed hair for about 1 hour before rinsing off . You can naturally substitute the oil types to whatever oil you prefer. Hot oil treatments are recommended for dry hair to help increase the oil level on the hair enabling it to be able to maintain more moisture.

 

Do you routinely use any of the above treatments?

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Klassy Kinks
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This comment might be better served on the article about African traditions but it seems silly to me to group all of Africa’s traditions into one article, and separate those of Jamaica and Haiti (rather than writing one article on Caribbean traditions). It would be great if we could begin recognizing the vast diversity of African cultures, traditions, histories, and even approaches to natural hair the same way we recognize these distinctions in Caribbean cultures.

cacey
Guest
cacey

i totally agree.

kitso
Guest
kitso

Same thought struck me when i read the introduction, same thought struck me when i read the African secrets. I come from Zimbabwe and most of those things listed as African secrets, the oils the teas, id never heard of my whole 35 years. On the other hand these are great tips regardless of where they originate and are helpful indeed.

Dananana
Guest
Dananana

Ijeoma has a good point, but I can’t help but wonder if all of the children of the diaspora were socialized to see Africa as some far away, ambiguous former homeland that’s filled with wars and disease. Obviously, most of us have enough sense to realize that Africa is nothing of the sort (e.g. it’s a continent, it’s countries have high cultural diversity, what diseases are there are present in most tropical climes, etc.), but the pervasive idea that Africa is a region without national boundaries or cultural distinctions.…it seems pretty ingrained, and I don’t think we came up with… Read more »

Me
Guest
Me

You just took the words right out of my head! While I do think that it’s great that at least there are articles about African culture, I still so tired of Africa being generalized. Our cultures across nations and even within are so different, its disheartening to see them meshed into one broad category.

Susan
Guest
Susan

I have to disagree with you. The blogger is not obligated to write individual stories by country for Africa. In that article, she clearly gives credit to various countries. Africa is often spoken of as multiple countries. Haiti and Jamaica are not even connected by land. They have distinct ways of doing things. I prefer the Africa as a whole story because it is expansive in breadth of information, much like Africa. To even suggest such a thing on a positive article sounds a bit divisive. Let’s have some global African nationalism is squash this thing.

Klassy Kinks
Guest

To say that because Jamaica and Haiti are not connected by land and therefore have distinct ways of doing things is inadvertently assuming that because African countries border one another, we all do the same thing. Haiti and Jamaica are about 300 miles apart; Nigeria and South Africa are nearly 3,000 miles apart. I am not asking that different articles be written about African countries, although as a Nigerian, that would be insightful. As a matter of fact, if the 4,000 square miles of Jamaica can elicit an article on its traditions — and have commenters disagree on whether or… Read more »

Dananana
Guest
Dananana

Well said! It’s not like African countries can’t be grouped regionally by cardinal directions. North Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and South Africa all contain countries with very different cultures and traditions. The San are not the Himba, the Himba are not the Pygmies, the Pygmies are not Masai, etc.

Jc
Guest

As the author of the African article and as an African (Kenyan if you want to be specific), I chose to write the African article as a group and state within that article which part of Africa those traditions came from. I always write with readers in mind. If I wrote a series of articles from each single country in Africa, it would be a disaster in my view. There are many shared practices and many shared products, it makes sense therefore to group these instead of writing 58 different articles for each country! I cannot imagine who would want… Read more »

LOLA~SKYY
Guest
LOLA~SKYY

The African article has very good information! It encouraged me to look up a few of the methods and possibly include them into my haircare regime. I think many of the comments are being too critical about how the article should be “grouped.” After all, this is a short article and not a book. It makes me wonder if the commenters even read the content at all. The author clearly states the countries in Africa in each of the eight points. Furthermore, the author is KENYAN! LOL!!!
Some stuff is just ridiculous. SMH!

Avonne
Guest
Avonne

I agree, it is not necessary to get so technical. Anybody who wants more indepth information should probably start researching and blogging for themselves. Some people just need to calm down!

timber24
Guest
timber24

Just a thought. Not all black people stem from Africa.

What about Australian Aborigines? They are black, and we don’t hear much about them.

There are other peoples as well, but we can’t go all over the globe to include them.

Oh well, guess it doesn’t matter.

cacey
Guest
cacey

why’d you bring this up? aboriginal Australians are relatively isolated from us here in this hemisphere, and not only that, but this article is about Jamaican hair practices. are you saying in general that the blog should go out of its way to talk about the hair habits of the aboriginal Australians and blacks in other parts of the world? If so, i would think that their hair practices are either A) unknown to us, since white Australians would naturally have more contact with them and probably wouldnt have been interested in documenting their hair habits, or B) similar to… Read more »

Lana
Guest
Lana

Don’t get in a mood about it. We are a natural hair community and sometimes we forget just how big that community is. I’m sure the author didn’t mean to alienate anyone by specifying the big products of Jamaica. I think she is just trying to highlight whats big in Jamaica. As for Australian Aborigines, yes they are black but you don’t hear about their hair practices because we don’t know about their hair practices. If you know something share it. Put the information out there and people will try to find out more about if they’re interested. If don’t… Read more »

Pseudonym
Guest
Pseudonym

Do the research and then write an article about their hair care practices. I think that would be interesting!
#beproactive

bri
Guest
bri

why was this comment downvoted? Not all Black people stem from Africa is a true statement. To be honest, most of the “African Americans” in this country don’t come from Africa either.

Uli
Guest

Exactly,African Americans are the original JEWS,there were JEWS in Asia as well,Africa was once called ASIA,but either way,African Americans or other AFRO-descendants who are of JEWISH lineage have been removed from AFRICA/ISRAEL,either way,if someone wants to know Aborigines hair practices,find an Aborigines woman and ask her to blog about it.To let this be known,Asian Indian peoples are another form of African,or Negroid with straight hair,the media is just hiding this fact.

Stopignorance
Guest
Stopignorance

People always want to speech on areas there not aware of I’m from Australia and aboriginals don’t have Afro hair they have Indian silky hair. They came from Asia 60.000 years ago and science proves that they came from Africa about 80,000 years ago so tell me which other black people are not from Africa??

Karen
Guest

In answering the question, I so use coconut oil in my hair, my skin, and I cook with it. I use Jamaican Black Castor Oil, but I have yet to find a difference between it and regular castor oi. The only difference is the JBCO has parts of the bean in it which gives it the dark color. The consistency is the same and how they work are the same. I love them both and they do so much for my hair. I don’t use beeswax. I use shea butter instead. I love it.

DiJah
Guest
DiJah

The only thing from this list that I use now is JBCO to seal my hair in the winter time, and I only started doing that when I moved here. In all honesty, I grew up in Jamaica, and never used castor oil for my hair back then. Never heard of anyone using it then either. It wasn’t until the natural hair craze became popular did I hear of Jamaican Black Castor Oil, and of my peeps using it, thanks to blog like this and others.. Which also leads me to say, like JBCO, never seen or heard of anyone… Read more »

Dahdadee
Guest
Dahdadee

My mother and her siblings and other people I know grew up using castor oil and coconut milk in their hair. (All Jamaicans). I also know people here, in Jamaica who still uses coconut milk, bees wax and JBCO. Some of you are petty it’s ridiculous. Take the article as it is, does it matter where it was/ was not practice or originated! The question that was asked was, do you use any of these in your hair, you’re only required to answer yes or no and state which; why come on here and make this out to be more… Read more »

DiJah
Guest
DiJah

I came back to read other responses, and instead I’m greeted with being petty because I answered the question and shared my experience and observation. Wow. Excuse me for using the internet. My bad..

Dahdadee
Guest
Dahdadee

The first paragraph was in reference to what you said and I started a new speaking on a number of other comments. Probably should have done so differently. You weren’t targeted.

keziah
Guest
keziah

everything that was mention in the article are correct except for dread nut.. in Jamaica is it just coconut. Jamaicans boil the coconut and use the oil in their hair-( coconut milk).. but not all Jamaicans. i used everything listed because i grew up with my grandma she used it on the weekends. mom use bee wax in my hair.. am 25 and i still use all three my friends and cousin didnt.. so it all depends on the individual. PS: dont know why everyone want to stick every black people in the African box.. The“we are all African statement”… Read more »

Dahdadee
Guest
Dahdadee

Thanks for making it known to all that the items were and still are being used in Ja. NB. There are two brackets before and after ‘All Jamaicans’-and before that I stated something, which is, ‘My mother and her siblings used coconut milk and castor oil in their hair’. Now that means I was stating that my mother and her siblings are all Jamaicans. Not that ALL Jamaicans used them while growing up.

Avonne
Guest
Avonne

I fully agree with you Dahdadee. I am a Jamaican living here in the US for almost 15 years. When I was growing up I used castor oil, tuna plant and aloe vera in my hair at one time or another.
I also used stale beer, egg whites and hot oil treatments. Some people here on this forum are taking this too personally and going off on tangents that does not make sense.
Just read the article and state what traditions you do , heard of, or never do. No need to be so sarcastic some of you.
Just chill.

Jamhair
Guest
Jamhair

I am from Jamaica and my mother would use castor oil in my hair for what we call steaming. I am 38 years old so that was before the natural craze — Still use it. The castor oil is usually made and sold in the markets such as Linstead, Papine and Coronation. The coconut milk is rarely used but the “fat” as they would call it is used as an oil, done through boiling the grated coconut. Aloe Vera is not include but is popular in Jamaica for internal cleansing as well as washing of the hair. The true Rastafarians… Read more »

Ro
Guest
Ro

Um.….why all the bitter Bettys?? The author is simply trying to give you some information. …and remember most of us were born right here in thd good ole USA, raised on Afosheen and Dark and Lovely and havent a clue about the African customs for hair regardless of which diaspora they hail from.…we are just grateful to finally receive the information. ..

Elle
Guest
Elle

I agree sharing information is always good, but not all Americans are clueless about varieties of traditional haircare practices. Even those of us not not from the Caribbean, Latin America or continental Africa have a long history in cultivating, preserving and practicing natural and traditional-based haircare.

Nina
Guest
Nina

I absolutely love what coconut oil does for my hair; the moisture, shine–everything. But it wreaks havoc on my skin, so I had to discontinue it. JBCO is a nice thick oil, but I didn’t notice any changes in terms of hair growth. I hope others are having success with the products though.

kb
Guest
kb

I am jamaican living in jamaica. The most popular thing used here for natural hair is the aloe vera plant. Ppl use it to wash their here.
Castor oil was never very popular. What it was big for was “washout” i.e. laxative.
No one uses coconut milk/ oil in their hair traditionally. Those were for cooking.
Beeswax definately used for twists and locs
And hot oil treatments were done with commercially prepared oil treatments. And these treatments were mainly for processed hair, not naturals.
What most jamaicans practised for natural hair was shampoo, condition, and the use of blue magic or purlene hair food.

Roxy
Guest
Roxy

I am Jamaican as well and I totally agree with you KB. I used Cator oil but that was when I was around 5 or 6 and my Mom never used it that much either. I would only use the hair food or Dax in my hair, and wash it with shampoo and conditioner. We never look for sulfates in our shampoo and like KB said Hot oil was for damaged processed hair. Coconut oil was for skin and drinking only a few people would use it in their hair back in the days when hair grease was not available.… Read more »

Rochelle
Guest
Rochelle

WooHoo!!! I’m Jamaican and I know these!! 🙂 They really work although I don’t really use any of them now. Shout out to all the other Jamaicans on here on a natural hair journey.

tammeme
Guest
tammeme

I am from the Caribbean, and I know coconut milk is used to cook: to put in sweetbread, peas, callaloo or stewed chicken. I have not hear or seen anyone use it in hair. Coconut oil on the other hand I have seen people use it to rub down babies, to put in ones hair especially in the East Indian community. Castor oil was taken when you wanted a clean out or as we say “a purge” which is now called dextoxing. I know beeswax is utilized in the locking hair.

Dannii
Guest
Dannii

YESSSS!!! COCONUT MILK IS USED FOR RICE ‘N’ PEAS AND RUNDOWN LOOL

Anna896
Guest
Anna896

My mom (Jamaican) told me that they used to wash their hair with the flesh of the cactus, they call it “tuna” and her mom would make coconut oil and use it in their hair.

Jamhair
Guest
Jamhair

Glad you were able to mention Aloe Vera. I’m Jamaican too and I’m from St. Catherine where castor oil was popular when I was growing up some 30 odd years ago. People still use it in that area as well as other rural areas.

Dani
Guest
Dani

I am a Jamaican. I am not the child if a Jamaican living in a foreign country, I was born and bred here. I have to just say how poorly researched this article is. Most of the things spoken about are not utilized in regular hair care here. The first time I heard about JBCO was through browsing hair websites.Most of us do not put coconut milk in our hair. The truth is the most common hair products we use are imported and alot of people utilize manufactured and synthetic hair oils.However there has been a recent growth of awareness… Read more »

Tracienatural
Guest
Tracienatural

Dani, is it fair to say that different people from different parishes in different generations in Jamaica do different things? People in the countryside tend to use more natural products, especially in our grandparents generation and beyond. However, people in Kingston and other “town” areas will use more foreign products because it is more readily accessible. Correct? In the olden days, some country people used castor oil, some used coconut oil. Nowadays, Jamaica is much more modern. I don’t think the author was trying to insult anyone. Rather, she was trying to give credit to Jamaica for the products that… Read more »

Kb
Guest
Kb

Jamaica is not big enough for established traditions to vary so much from parish to parish that one does not know of it. I grew up in rural Jamaica and still had access to commercial hair care products. What dani and many of us are saying is that an article that’s titled traditional jamaican secrets for longer hair, then lists things that may be used sporadically, is a poor representation because majority of ppl don’t do it. It is not tradition. The natural hair movement is just taking off here like most other places, before, most Jamaicans with natural hair… Read more »

Jamhair
Guest
Jamhair

Tracienatural, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you! I’m from rural “country” Jamaica and castor oil, coconut oil and aloe Vera were staples for hair and skin care.

Natasha
Guest
Natasha

What’s wrong with being a child of a Jamaican living in a foreign country?? My mom used castor oil in my hair as a child and she surely didn’t learn this practice anywhere but back home. My hair grew very long (waist length) but idk if it was solely bc of the castor oil. She also gave me castor oil as a “wash out.” She only used castor oil from Jamaica but we didn’t call it jbco, it was just castor oil. I actually didn’t know there were different kinds of castor oil until this jbco trend. Lol.

Antoinette Stewart
Guest

What about fresh Aloe Vera gel my Grandma in JA used to tell me to do that, on free soaking wet natural hair for moisture & styling.
And garlic scrubs for the scalp to prevent from hair loss.

justme
Guest
justme

I see a lot of comments with the thumbs down vote. most of those comments are pretty positive. there is a thumbs up icon, but it appears to be overlooked.

Jamdwn
Guest
Jamdwn

I am Jamaican and though i didn’t use castor oil before going natural. I am very familiar with it because my mother and grandmother said it was used in their hair as children. All the other items listed in the article i grew up using or was used in my hair when i was a child. Aloe Vera is also widely used. There is a plant known as the Jamaican Tuna plant that is used to shampoo the hair its very good for dandruff and itchy scalp.

Adeola @ TheManeCaptain
Guest

wow, half of the comments on here are unrelated to the content of the article. I agree that one cannot write a separate article for every African country. And you can’t really group them by saying North, South, East or West Africa. And to be honest, I found that article on Africa funny because those practices are rarely used. Relaxers and weaves have taken over, dry unhealthy hair is now the norm. Though there are a few women with healthy hair, the ones with unhealthy hair far out numbers them all.
http://www.themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

Dananana
Guest
Dananana

Why can’t they be grouped in cardinal directions? Where I am, if you reference North Africa versus West Africa, people will know that you’re talking about Libya, Tunis, or Egypt versus Ghana, Cameroon, or Nigeria. I recognize that this doesn’t help to diminish the view of Africa as a place without distinct cultural boundaries, but I thought it might be slightly better than barely distinguishing cultural boundaries at all. I’m from the U.S.,so this is a genuine question.

Alexander
Guest
Alexander

lol, Dread Nut? I live in Jamaica, nowhere have I ever heard Coconut referred to as “Dread Nut”

JheanAdriDay
Guest
JheanAdriDay

Nothing nuh guh suh. Jamaican people use Coconut milk fi cook rice and peas!
We use blue magic, a blow dryer, and do twists and cornrows (canerows). Either that, or your hair is relaxed (creamed).

Jamhair
Guest
Jamhair

You are wrong! Some of this article is true. Don’t let us down being ignorant to the practices. Maybe the coconut milk is the same thing as the oil that is made from boiling the meat. There is a thin line between how that is made and what was outlined in the article.

Claudette UK
Guest
Claudette UK

Yes, fi sum it go so! A lot of us are natural now and yes, we use coconut milk for more than just rice and peas! We can use it in homemade conditioners and in homemade shampoos. There’s not many of us still using the blue magic and more and more of us are stepping away from the creamy crack.

Alinda
Guest
Alinda

Jamaican in her 50s here. We grew up using coconut oil, castor oil, sinkle bible (aka Aloe Vera)and Tuna. We would rub hibiscus in our hair to color it black. We used to make our own castor oil from the bean. Most everyone wore their hair naturally and we used other “bush” recipes to condition and style. As the country grew and changed in the 70s and 80s, people moved away from those old time hair “bush products” because we could buy popular products sold in the UK or US/Canada. Like any other society, Jamaican women want to be trendy… Read more »

Wambui Wamutogoria
Guest

I love these articles, I want more 🙂

Hillary D
Guest

We also use the sap of the tuna plant for hair growth 🙂

Nicole Smith
Guest
Nicole Smith

Tuna plant? Where do I find that plant? I am trying to grow my hair long and get moisture back in my hair?

Janell
Guest
Janell

It’s aloe Vera ??

Janell
Guest
Janell

You can use aloe Vera

Hillary D
Guest

Oh, sorry, should have the read the comments before posting! I’m first generation Jamaican-American, but I never heard of using coconut milk for hair growth from family. However, I use it anyways mixed with henna weekly.

Alae J.
Guest
Alae J.

I’m 23, and Jamaican. My 88 year old grandma used Tuna, Aloe, castor oil coconut milk and oil when she was growing up. If you weren’t exposed to it, fine, but you can’t just get up and discredit the whole article. ? unnu annoy me sometimes, always proving the “closed minded” Jamaican sterotype.

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