Skip to main content

3 Natural Hair Products That Work Well But Smell Terrible

Avatar • May 5, 2014

Black-woman-something-smells-PF

Have you ever been at a restaurant with family or friends who urge you to try an exotic dish? They describe the taste, texture, maybe even health benefits of the dish in such great detail that by the time you finally place your order, you’re practically salivating. Finally the waiter places a dish before you that looks and maybe even smells like something that was forgotten in the back of somebody’s fridge for six months. This is probably the best comparison to the experiences I’ve had with a few natural hair treatments. Some of which harbored such an odor that it made me the center of attention and not in a good way. Below are a few products I have tried and even loved that gave off an unexpected odor which left me reconsidering if the benefits outweighed the smelly drawbacks.

Amla Oil

dabour_amla_00ml

I remember the day I walked into the Indian grocery store in Cambridge, MA eagerly looking for the oil some women raved about on hair boards. Finally, I found a bottle and although it contained mineral oil, a product I had stopped using for months, I was set on using it in my next pre-poo treatment. On some of the reviews I read about the product some users described it as having a robust, exotic and spicy smell. Either I purchased the wrong stuff or those users were living in the land of lies, fairytales and fantasies. The stuff stank! It wasn’t the strong, noxious type of smell that turns your stomach. Rather, it had a strange “after smell”. A quick sniff of the oil didn’t predict how it would smell after an hour of letting it sit on my hair. The best way to describe the scent was this: the distant, faint fragrance of urine you smell when you enter a New York City subway station downtown. After that first use, I was positive that I could only use Amla oil (at least the thick, heavy kind I purchased at the Indian grocers), if I was going to wash it out of my hair within the hour.

So, you may wonder: Was it worth it? For me, the benefits outweighed the smelly negatives. The oil provided great slip and after a year of use my hair was a dark, shiny black (Amla oil darkens the hair over time). While I no longer use Amla oil because I now only use a slippery conditioner to detangle, I’d be willing to bear the acidic smell because it faded immediately after washing my hair.

Sulfur

About 6 months into my hair journey I decided that I would no longer consider taking supplements for the sole purpose of increasing my rate of hair growth. My breakout from Biotin and the migraines and bizarre dreams I experienced from taking MSM was an unpleasant experience to say the least! Around that time I began to read articles on forums and watch hair vlogs that described the benefits of sulfur on hair growth. I saw before and after hair shots that made me truly believe that I could exceed my 6 inch a year hair growth goal. Needless to say I eagerly ordered a bottle of an oil mix containing sulfur and applied it to my hair. In fairness to the manufacturer of the product, it was clear they used a variety of essential oils in an attempt to mask the smell of the product. Nevertheless my hair smelled like a cross between fruity oils and rotting eggs. I can laugh about it now and I do think the oil helped the dryness of my scalp (not so much with hair growth), but it was embarrassing to have someone question the source of a smell only to realize it was your hair. Unlike Amla oil I would not use sulfur in the future. I’m fastidious about my hygiene so the thought of using a product that may make others think I don’t wash my hair is simply not worth it. I wish I could say that I don’t care what others think, but when it comes to wearing smelly hair in public, I really do care.

Essential Oils

When it comes to essential oils the saying “everything in moderation” is apropos. If you’ve tinkered with essential oils, then you know that very little goes quite a long way. One of my favorite essential oils is peppermint oil. I have found that helps itchiness on my scalp and skin. However, I didn’t always realize the potency of the product. I recommend using too little rather than too much of this oil because, trust me, your bed linens, clothing and hair will smell like chewing gum for quite some time. The same can be said of other essential oils. You will want to play with proportions before you apply it directly to your hair or your skin.

As an aside, if you ever have the misfortune of having little gray, furry visitors, as I did when I lived in a college dorm, peppermint oil is a harmless way of getting rid of mice. So, not only does it sooth your scalp and skin, but helps with any potential pest problems too. Just be sure to use in moderation.

What are the strangest smelling hair products that you’ve used? 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
71 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mary
Mary
6 years ago

EVOO when I’m using Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Conditioner. The two together make a smelly, sweaty smelling combo.

Ash
Ash
6 years ago

I’ve only used mayo once — and never again! I was supposed to leave it on 45 min; I could only endure 10, my tummy was turning so bad. It did leave my hair the softest it’s ever been, with great curls — but I can’t take smelling like a sandwich.

Chanda
Chanda
6 years ago
Reply to  Ash

Girl, I did that mess back in ’93 thinking I was doing something. Then I had to go to work that hot August day. Never again!

Ash
Ash
6 years ago
Reply to  Chanda

Lol!! I can’t even imagine…

Dorian
6 years ago

When I first saw the title of the article, I immediately thought of sulfur. That stuff definitely has a burnt smell.

VJ
VJ
6 years ago

I HATE the smell of Shea Moisture Yucca and Baobob Thickening Growth Milk. It works wonders for my hair but the smell is horrible IMO. I always have to mask it with something or mix it with some oil, water, and condish to keep from getting a headache.

ki
ki
6 years ago

Carols daughter healthy hair butter! Smells like vapor rub lol

SummerBaby
SummerBaby
6 years ago

I love the snell of peppermint oil. I hate the smell of Aubrey honeysuckle & rose conditioner.

silkynaps
silkynaps
6 years ago
Reply to  SummerBaby

Ha! All Aubrey Organics conditioners smell like something old and moldy or poopish…I can’t really place the scent, but I thought it was just me that couldn’t stand it.

I do want to try amla oil though. I’d love for my hair to become darker without having to deal with roots.

nubiennze
nubiennze
5 years ago
Reply to  SummerBaby

I can tolerate all the AO condishes except Rose Mosqueta. Literally so nauseating that I couldn’t bring myself to finish the bottle, even though it worked well on my hair.

I also bought Alikay Naturals Lemongrass leave-in because people raved about it (including the fragrance). I opened the bottle, took one whiff, and never used it once. I gave it to my niece, who loves the scent…maybe it’s just me.

FinVoilaQuoi
FinVoilaQuoi
6 years ago

LOLing at the pest control tip because I saw a tiny mouse in my room once and immediately mopped the floors with wayyyy too much peppermint oil. I felt like I was living in a candy cane castle. Windows were left open for days. My room mates were less than pleased by I didn’t see a nan ‘nother mouse.

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago
Reply to  FinVoilaQuoi

I use peppermint oil under the kitchen sink & in back of the drawers to keep mice away. They never come out in the open because I have TWO CATS !

Tabatha
Tabatha
6 years ago

Yes stuff with sulfur does not have a pleasant smell. Also Tropical Isle castor oil doesn’t always have the greatest smell.

Knotty Natural
6 years ago
Reply to  Tabatha

I was hoping someone mentioned black castor oil…it smells disgusting! Funny story about my experience here: http://www.lillian-mae.com/natural-hair-essentials/my-jamaican-black-castor-oil-experience/

FlynFab
FlynFab
6 years ago
Reply to  Knotty Natural

I can’t stand the smell of JBCO nor raw Shea Butter. But both work well, so I suck it up (in small doses).

Aijalon Halema Leilani
Aijalon Halema Leilani
6 years ago

Raw Yellow African Butter, Ghee, Olive Oil !

Rinny
6 years ago

Olive Oil has recently come under questioning for me. A friend said it smells like new crayons. Coconut oil it is for this gal.

Miss Mo
Miss Mo
6 years ago

If something works wonders for my hair, I don’t give a hoot about the smell.

Been holding off buying Amla oil due to pricing but will be getting it soon. 🙂

#SoLongAsItWorksDon’tCurr

LOL

Melissa
Melissa
6 years ago

Vatika Coconut oil. I stopped using it, bought extra virgin coconut oil instead. Whenever I used it it would stink up my whole room!

Dananana
Dananana
6 years ago

Ghee! Gave me the softest hair ever after a deep condition, but it broke out my back and it made me smell like I hadn’t bathed even after I washed it out of my hair. Bacne and BO do not equal sexy.

On a side note, has anybody actually tried treating their scalp with garlic and or onion? I’m curious because I’ve heard they reduce shedding and promote growth, but those are not smells I’d like to carry with me.

Hansy
Hansy
6 years ago
Reply to  Dananana

DO NOT USE Garlic. I did it and my hair smelled like garlic for weeks. NEVER AGAIN!

nhilario
nhilario
6 years ago

see…i love the smell of sulfur!!!

Miss T
Miss T
6 years ago

Has anyone else used amla oil? I want to know more about it and the best way to use it.

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago
Reply to  Miss T

I’ve used two different brands of Amla hair oil:One was by “Tara” and the other was by “Dabur”. The one that was by Tara was light green in colour, lightweight, had a very faint smell which was kinda nice( i liked it ) and the oil was very light in consistency or feel. I had to seal my hair with a thicker product after using it but i liked it overall. The one by Dabur( which i currently use now ) is dark green in colour, heavy and thick in consistency and feel. It also has a strong smell which… Read more »

Queen
Queen
6 years ago

I once left a jar of coconut oil in my shower (to apply to my wet skin for softness before I got out) and I swear to god within a week of two of it being in my shower (lid shut tightly), I opened the jar and it smelled like bleu cheese. I threw that mess away so fast lol ugh!

BUtifullyHuman
BUtifullyHuman
6 years ago
Reply to  Queen

LOL!!!!!! I am cracking up at my desk!

LBell
LBell
6 years ago
Reply to  Queen

Wow…the same thing happened to me (sort of). I started using unrefined coconut oil as a body oil and within a few hours I would start to smell some kind of burnt cheese-type smell. I realized it was my body chemistry reacting with the oil. Now I save the unrefined stuff for my hair and use the refined stuff for my body. On natural hair products smelling terrible: I’m a stickler for that kind of thing; I’m known for opening bottles and jars in the store and putting them right back if I don’t like the smell. On another note: I haven’t… Read more »

Lovely
Lovely
6 years ago

The smell of tea tree oil is so strong. It makes me feel like a a walking plant. The upside, though, is that it stopped my scalp and skin problems.

Jen Jen
Jen Jen
6 years ago
Reply to  Lovely

I tell my boo to stay away right after I’ve applied tea tree oil (the real stuff, not the one with additives). It stinks to high heaven until it wears off a few minutes later. The first time he tried to kiss me after I applied it with my facial moisturizer, he leaped back quicker than I ever thought possible. Ha!

Monique
Monique
6 years ago

I’m shocked Jamaican black castor oil and the aphogee treatment that you dry onto your hair that used to come in a square bottle didn’t make it on to that list. I used it twice and stopped. I can deal with the castor oil but the smell of that treatment almost made me never use aphogee product again (they dont all smell that way thank god)

Ebony Beauty
Ebony Beauty
6 years ago

Speaking of MSM, does anyone know whether or not it’s safe to take while breastfeeding?

Kenyetta
Kenyetta
6 years ago

Aussie Conditioner! It smells sooooo sweet that I had to put it in a plastic bag AND STILL noticed the smell. I think that’s because it had a pump, so I couldn’t stop the smell from leaving the bottle. It was too much for me, and I think I ended up giving it away. Never again.

Salimah
Salimah
6 years ago

The smell of henna makes me nauseated

Caramelcurls
Caramelcurls
6 years ago
Reply to  Salimah

Ditto!! This is why I had to stop using it. The long process and the smell of old, wet rotting weeds were too much for me–it just wasn’t worth it!

Kayce
Kayce
6 years ago
Reply to  Salimah

I’m so glad henna was the first comment here. When I saw this article the first thing I thought was henna. It is the only product smell so far that I really can’t deal with.

Sheena M
Sheena M
6 years ago

I use amla oil as my Pre poo treatment every 2 weeks. The smell is something that cure any sinus issues but the benefits for my hair out weighs the strong odor. I usually apply the night before my wash day on top of aloe juice/water dampened hair and detangle. I twist in big twists and leave on over night (hair wrapped in plastic cap, grocery bags, and head scarves) so it doesnt get on my pillow cases. In the morning, my hair is super soft, moisturized, and curls poppin! Another benefit is over the long term use of using… Read more »

Carmel Sewer
Carmel Sewer
6 years ago

I thought for sure Aphogee 2‑step protein treatment would be listed! It stopped my breakage dramatically but REEKED like hot pickles left in the sun.

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago

There must be a lot of younger folks on this board because no one…NO ONE! has mentioned GLOVER’S MANGE! The smell was horrendous…like Sulfur & pine tar ( both of which were ingredients) plus old bacon grease. The closest thing to that smell is MTG which also has sulphur but doesn’t smell as bad. Waaay back in the day, about 100 or so years ago,people used it on their animals that had mange & on themselves for scalp problems. Black people,especially,embraced it & mothers would make concoctions of Glover’s mange mixed with grease or oil & apply it to their… Read more »

Maritah
6 years ago

I tried Amla oil once and vowed never to do it again.
Another oil that us a total no-go for me is sesame oil!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clare
Clare
6 years ago

NEEM OIL! I don’t even know how to describe the smell. I have never used so much essential oils in my life.…and the stench did not go away. It did stop my scalp from itching and left me dandruff free, but never again.

Deedeemaha
Deedeemaha
6 years ago
Reply to  Clare

Meem oil stinks for sure. Smell like putting peanut butter in your hair. But it works I mask the smell with Ylang Ylang oil.

Ola Mae
Ola Mae
6 years ago
Reply to  Clare

You beat me to this post. LOL Neem oil is the worst!!! Apple Cider Vinegar is a close second for me. I’m scared to be around people after I use it to rinse my locs. I know it goes away eventually but in the beginning it STINKS!!!

nubiennze
nubiennze
5 years ago
Reply to  Clare

Lol, yep. I still use it because it is effective, but ????

Mercy
Mercy
6 years ago

For me, kera care twist and define cream goes top of that list! terrible smell, like an industrial glue or something. But it does a good job!

l.fredo
6 years ago

Love my amla oil. I heard the same thing about the smell but honestly it’s strong but not that bad to me. I have used it as an over nighter and my hair super soft after using it. Yes after awhile it will also darken the hair.

Victoria
Victoria
6 years ago

Apple Cider vinegar. I love using it and it works great, but it smells terrible. Luckily, the smell doesn’t last and once it dries and I apply a leave in, you can no longer smell it.

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago

Certain types of Shea butter for me! The super super raw kind from Ghana reeks like dirt! I’ve heard some people mix it with essential oils but it still smells too earthy for me lol

Mel
Mel
6 years ago

Ladies… Are we going to sit here and pretend tea tree oil doesn’t smell for days?
It works wonders but leaves SUCH a strong smell!

African Naturalistas Hair Products

What of refrigerated raw Aloe vera juice? After a while, it can almost make one puke.

veronica
6 years ago

Nothing beats the smell of plain Greek yogurt ugh! It is amazing on my hair though

Ebony
Ebony
6 years ago

You could replace the ammonia in first aid kits with Dr. Miracle’s products. That stuff will wake up anybody.

Song
Song
6 years ago

ALL Curl Junkie products…overly floral, like you’ve doused yourself in toilet freshener. Why on earth don’t they offer unscented versions? ;(

Cynthia
Cynthia
6 years ago

I think that the Hairdrenaline Potion smells terrible. I don’t even use it because of the nasty smell. Yuck.

saffron33
saffron33
6 years ago

For me neem oil was the worst, its suppose to cure dandruff & other scalp issues. It does work but the smell is undescriable lol. It made me have a headache & when I looked up the side effects I was horrified because it can possibly cause brain damage. The first time I used it, I used too much & even after washing my hair twice in the same day, the smell was still there & potent. Of course I was worried about other ppl smelling this & thinking I had bad hygiene or something. So if u buy this… Read more »

nubiennze
nubiennze
5 years ago
Reply to  saffron33

YES. Never heard about the brain damage thing though. ????

I use it in my clay washes, so I typically rinse it out immediately (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to bear the smell anyway).

Also wheat germ and grapeseed oils.

omoge
omoge
6 years ago

SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo and Restorative Conditioner. They are some of the BEST products I’ve used for my hair but, the smell almost makes me gag :(.

nubiennze
nubiennze
5 years ago
Reply to  omoge

I felt that way at first too, but the scent eventually grew on me. Now when I don’t use those products for a while I actually miss the smell, lol.

Cygnet
Cygnet
6 years ago

Three things no one else has mentioned all stink to me. Taliah Waajid Protective Mist Bodifier contains a chemical that has a faint stink underneath the otherwise pleasant smell. My hair doesn’t seem to take too well to the product in general, so not only will I not repurchase it, I’ll be avoiding any other products in which I smell that scent. Jojoba oil has a faint stink that dissipates quickly when applied and can be overcome somewhat when mixed with other more strongly scented things. I worked my way through two bottles of it, then, when I went to buy the… Read more »

Imani
Imani
6 years ago

Have to disagree abt the smell of Amla hair oil. Just ordered some last week when I researched the benefits & other user reviews beyond this article. i like the smell just fine..its kinda soft, exotic…nice!so yeah…maybe the writer got a bad batch??

Miss Mo
Miss Mo
6 years ago
Reply to  Imani

Yea I’m with you. I got Amla Gold though which is the newest one. The smell isn’t bad at all. Just a spicy spirit like smell. Maybe the older versions smell bad but I’ve noticed a lot of people are just overly sensitive to smell they are not used to lol. I thought it will smell like poop with all the reviews.

Same thing they were going on about Jamaican Black Castor Oil smell. It’s not even that serious…lol.

Oh well.

Adía
Adía
6 years ago

I’m surprised peppermint oil smells bad to you. I like it

VIE
VIE
6 years ago

Central Sq next to the 7 eleven? I got my henna and coconut juice there.

Lorna
Lorna
6 years ago

I use Dax Roots Bergamot Butter mixed with their jojoba oil for an amazing sealing cream. It works well but I am not a fan of the Bergamot Butter smell

kay
kay
6 years ago

I can’t stand the smell of coconut oil. Luckily, my hair hates it!!!

Dabney
Dabney
6 years ago

If you don’t like amla oil, try the bringharaj oil. It works like amla, and has a smell of brandy with herbs. It will darken your hair though. I found it worked when my hair began to shed. It can be found in Indian grocery stores.

KynnaB
KynnaB
6 years ago

Tea trea oil, to me smells like Pine-Son, I bought a bottle of 100% pure tea tree oil and no matter how much I dilute it with other oils it still smells

bnelle
bnelle
6 years ago

Henna, I use it for my scalp because I have dermatitis. It’s the only thing that works, but it will have you walking around smelling like fresh cut grass and curry.

sheena
sheena
6 years ago

Jamaican Castor Oil.…so stinky! But I noticed that my hair didn’t shed/break off as much.
My cousin uses Garlic shampoo & conditioner in her hair. She said it smells terrible, but does wonders for her hair!

NubianPrize
NubianPrize
6 years ago

Nothing mentioned here smells as bad as the old GLOVER’S MANGE my momma & many other mommas back in the day used to use on us kids’ hair as well as their own !! Mom used to mix it with baby oil & put it to my scalp.My hair would reeeeek of pine tar, sulphur & other stinky stuff. Schools were segregated back then & you could always tell when some little black girl’s mom had used Glover’s mange on her head. The upshot was that we had long healthy hair down our backs & healthy scalps with no dandruff.

Kitkat
Kitkat
5 years ago

i dilute essential oils in olive oil, seems to work ok

lola lalou
lola lalou
5 years ago

I tried Ghee as a pre-poo treatment… It was great for my hair, but definitely not worth the horrendous smell.

71
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Shopping Cart