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The Surprising History Behind Why Black Women Grease Their Scalps and Cover Their Hair

• Jun 11, 2014

mugshotneworleans2
Early 20th Century African American Woman Photo Credit

by Alondra

The natural hair world is like one big university. What an interesting way to start off a blog, right?

I’m serious though, it’s as if I wake up every morning and report to class of some sort. Every day, thanks to beloved social media, I’m learning something different. Be it product information, hair care tips, or even the science behind hair…I’m getting schooled on it all! Most recently I had one of the most enlightening discussions with one of my curl mates (like class mates…get it?).  Any who, the convo went a little something like this:

Girl, I heard that we (Black women) traditionally grease our scalps because the slaves used to do it, but not to help grow their hair. They would put petroleum jelly on their scalps to prevent fleas and ticks from feeding on their scalps.”

If this tid bit of history just made you have an “Ahhh, ” moment then you’re just like me. I had never heard this before!

However, it immediately made me go back in time to the days when I was sitting in between my mom’s legs as she parted my hair and slapped that “Blue Magic” on my head. I remember getting up with a head shiny enough to compete with the moon at night and feeling like my hair was infallible because of it. But now…after not greasing my scalp for years, I can honestly say that it did nothing for me. All it did was make my hair heavy and limp!

Of course we haven’t totally booted the “scalp oiling” practice. We now know that treating the scalp with oil is conducive to achieving goals; but the thick grease… we could do without.  This conversation led me to wonder, what other common hair care practices exist that have stuck with us since slavery?

Now, we all swear by sleeping in our satin bonnets and for the fancy, lying on a satin pillow case…but exactly how did this come about? While I was doing my research, I found that the slaves would cover their heads in cloths to:

1. Hide it from the sun, cold and other elements during the day (mainly to stay cool or warm)

2. Hide any bald patches that were caused by ringworms and other skin infections

3. Protect their hair and scalp at night from insects while they slept.

It wasn’t until many years later that it was discovered that covering the hair in satin scarves would not only protect it but also be beneficial to the health of the hair!

Much like the human race and even technology, natural hair care has its own story of evolution and I am 100% here for it chile! The natural hair community is rich with history and I, for one, will come prepared with my pen and paper ready to take notes because you can’t truly love what you don’t truly know.

Are there any historical hair care facts that you’ve uncovered during your natural hair journey? Please share with us what you know! Each one teach one, girlfriend!

Source: Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

About Alondra: Joke telling, hair pick toting, life-living Southern Bell by way of Memphis, Tennessee. I’m a young,educated black woman pursuing dreams by day and a super hero by night; my powers reside in my mind. To state it simply, I plan to save the world one conversation at a time. @Color_Me_Diva @MyManeThang

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BGLH now sells raw and whipped shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter. Purchase here: bglh-marketplace.com

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246 Comments on "The Surprising History Behind Why Black Women Grease Their Scalps and Cover Their Hair"

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leneybean
Guest
I remember this little girl I used to play with thought I had lice (it was dandruff and wash day for me) and I told my mom who then looked at me crazy. Later in life I realized that it was highly unlikely to get lice in my hair unlike my straighter hair friends because of the oil in my friend. Also, since I didn’t wash my hair every day wish lead to product buildup (nothing serious) bugs wouldn’t want to be in my hair because it would be hard for them to move around. Our ancestors were no dummies… Read more »
michelle
Guest

Idk but history books and slave records show that most slaves in the United States can trace their lineage back to mostly West African countries and some Central African areas. (popular areas Bight of Benin(Nigeria),Bight of Biafra(Nigeria),Cameroon, N.Angola,Ivory Coast, Ghana..lesser percentages would be from Senegal,Gambia, Sierra Leone.

andre
Guest

Its because all those people are hebrews(black people)…google it

Dee
Guest

I think wrapping our hair is more than just about bugs and things like that. When we were in Egypt we would lay on silk and wrap our hair in silk as well. It’s like you know who you are even after being stripped from our land.

Hi There
Guest
LOOOL wait “we”? we as in…who? we as in black people? “We” were never in Egypt. The idea that ancient egyptians were black in the first place is a highly contested one. No ones been able to agree on it. And most slaves that ended up in the US came primarily from west, maybe southern, Africa anyway. Nobody was “stripped from Egypt. So the likelihood that a black American is descent from Egypt is highly unlikely. So how can you “know who you are” if the practice your’e speaking of was never yours to begin with? However, kudos to our… Read more »
Rachel
Guest

Yes, heavily contested by white society and scholars who do not want to admit that black people could have possibly been apart of the most advanced civilization in the world at that time.

Twinkle
Guest

Thank you!! Ignorance is real

devon
Guest

Thank you so much. “We weren’t in Egypt?” Girl bye.

B-girl
Guest

Right! God brought us out of the land of Egypt. Hebrew Israelite. Look it up in the good book.

Hi There
Guest

we” meaning african americans not black people (there is a difference). black doesnt mean african american. seeing as majority of slaves were taken from west and central africa, then the likelehood is that you (african american) were probably not in egypt. and I dont mean that as an insult, I mean it as a fact. I feel its kind of rude to just attach yourself to a culture randomly just because its in africa.

AvaH
Guest
@ Hi There — please note that there has been a lot of documented evidence about the ancient Egyptians being of African dissent: Physical Anthropology Evidence (physical attributes of Africans) Melanin Dosage Test (chemical responsible for color of skin) Osteological Evidence (known as, “Negroid” or “Negrito” type) Evidence From Blood Types (Type ‘B’ same as those of Western Africa — prior to crossbreeding) The Egyptians as They Saw Themselves (how the Egyptians designated themselves as KMT-which means, ‘The Blacks’) Cultural Unity of Egypt With The Rest of Africa (there was a lot of commonalities in Egypt of Africans-including hair types)… Read more »
Flynfab
Guest

@Hi There -Wow excuse me? Of course Egyptions are African! The COUNTRY of Egypt is in the CONTINENT of Africa. Skin color has nothing to do with one being of African decent. And of course peoples with various shades of dark skin tones originated from Egypt, which again, is in Africa. Such ignorance.

Hi There
Guest

yes I know Egypt is in Africa. i’m from Africa myself. But she insinuated that there is some sort of link with black americans of today and ancient egyptians of which my reply was.. that is unlikely. Even if you are of the view that the ancient egyptians were black (there has been a lot of debate about it), slaves weren’t generally taken from Egypt. so yeah I still dont undertand her point. it sounds nice and poetic but it doesnt make sense

Yas
Guest

Honey, you need a history lesson. There was more than one slave trade. I for one, have DNA test results that prove my ancestors were primarily East African; so if that’s the case then YES, it is quite probable that a great many black people may have ties to Ancient Kemet (Egypt) as well.

Zedzed
Guest

Ancient Egyptians were Black Africans, there have been scientific proof of this. The current Egyptians are Arabs who systematically killed and enslaved black driving them away from North Africa and repopulating with Arabs. We blacks need to reclaim our history and pride because we DO have a wonderful history that pre-dates the coming of the vultures (Arabs & Whites)

Hi There
Guest

I dont need to reclaim my history because as a nigerian my history was never taken from me. And i’m very proud of being a Nigerian and African and of our history (even the bad parts). I’m sure the egyptians (whatever colour) might have a lot to say about their history, but seeing as I am not one that is not my concern. as an american (i’m assuming you’re american) you have your own history. why try and attach yourself to someone elses?

also calling whites/arabs “vultures” is really racist

mmmdot
Guest

I don’t care where you’re from, using that “reverse racism” lie is disgusting and it shows that you’re nothing but a troll.

Newbie
Guest

Wait so is Egypt NOT in Africa? Their Race is AFRICAN ethnicity is EGYPTIAN and nationality (if living in america) Is American so they would be considered African-American. Please do some research before you leave these foolish comments. -_-

Please
Guest

man oh man I hope that person logged off and went to research or read a book of some kind

Hi There
Guest

where in my comment did I say Egypt wasnt in africa. please copy and paste it in your reply

eve-audrey
Guest

I am african too and i ask you to go away and read a book. I have never met a nigerian as ignorant as you in real life. That’s the only thing that surprises me. Troll

Zedzed
Guest
This reply is directed @Hi There. I said we need to reclaim our history because the Europeans and the Arabs say that “We do not have a History”, the Black man is inferior, the black does not have a civilization. The main justification for colonisation was “Bringing civilisation to a savage people”. Most recently, the former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy at a meeting in Senegal said and I quote ““The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history … They have never really launched themselves into the future,” “The African peasant only knew the… Read more »
lurker
Guest
actually…egyptians in america would not be considered african-american. nor would any people from north africa. its sounds weird but the US gov’t has definitions for each “race” and people with north african heritage are defined as white not african-american or black. it’s stupid because they’re from the continent africa, yet aren’t considered african… just another way to divide people. both the 2000 census and the FBI define north africans (and peoples with that heritage) as white. If you look it up on wikipedia, you’ll find the source links to both of these sites. also, the commenter “Hi There” never said… Read more »
lurker
Guest

If its not clear… my comment was directed at “newbie”…

Elea
Guest

I agree…

Gigi2
Guest

But let’s NOT think Egypt was the only “advanced” civilization in Egypt please. Because in all honesty the ancestors of AA came from West and Central Africa, both of which have very rich and diverse cultures (did you know the richest man in history was a king form West Africa called Mansa Musa I,who had so much money and influence he was able to make the gold in Egypt worthless?

KADE
Guest

OMG!! Thank you for pointing this out! I feel as those people only want to claim Egypt was the only advanced African kingdom. NO! It was not! The whole of Africa had successful and efficient tribes. We just don’t hear of it as much because no one wants to see africa in this light. All they want is the africa that “sold its people” or africa the “3rd world” or “the world’s poorest” blah blah blah

lauri
Guest

Majority of Black people be it AA, Caribbean (West Indies etc), Latin American are descendents from West Africa, Modern day Ghana and Sierra Leone particularly. Slave trade routes have been documented from that region. Not trying to discount Egyptian Ancestry but Egypt isnt the only country in the continent and remember European colonizers did “split” the continent in order to exploit African bodies, labour and resources.

jojosatoes
Guest
Gigi2, you took me back to elementary school when you mentioned Mansa Kan Kan Musa — ha. One of the comments reminded me of when Oprah said she traced her roots the Zulu tribe — lol. Africans really need to do something about properly teaching our history based on facts, not white and Arabic lies. We had so many thriving kingdoms: Ancient Ghana, the Songhai Empire, Timbuktu, Ancient Mali, Ancient Sudan, Nubia, the Kingdoms of the Ashante, Dahomey, Benin — all ruled by black Africans. Even South Africa had thriving African kingdoms before the Dutch came with their troubles The… Read more »
Hi There
Guest

thank you for pointing out one of the points that I made (but seems to be highly ignored). most AA of today would have come from west and central Africa

girlplease
Guest
Clearly you are either trolling or you need to learn your history. Africans or rather dark skinned people have been all over this world. From Asia to Africa to the west, we have been EVERYWHERE. Why do you think they DON’T teach you about African culture? So you can believe everything else they tell you, which isn’t the truth. Why do you think they broke the noses off of 95% of EGYPTIAN statues? Because the features were African. Why do you think they alter the statues to THIS day, replacing them with thinner noses and repainting them with lighter colors… Read more »
linda
Guest
“WE were never in Egypt…” then you should learn about your own “real” history and start doing research on it if indeed you are Black. I will help you with a starting point by providing you with a name: “Cheikh Anta Diop”. He was an historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician who studied the human race’s origins and pre-colonial African culture. Diop published his technique and methodology for a melanin dosage test in scholarly journals. Diop used this technique to determine the melanin content of the Egyptian mummies. Forensic investigators later adopted this technique to determine the “racial identity” of badly… Read more »
Ada
Guest

Shes right. Every african amerivan keeps romantasizing about ancient egypt and all that ish.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

But majority of the slaves were shipped from west african countries like nigeria, ghana, senegal, niger, cameroon, ivory coast, liberia, etc.

Egypt had nothing to do with the slave trade in the americas.

Twinkle
Guest

Hi there..get lost and don’t ever come back with this buffoonery.

Ada
Guest

You need to buy yourself a map. Dont be an idiot.
Yes,egyptians are black. But 95% of AFRICAN AMERICANS are from west africa.
Simply for the fact that its closer to the us than east africa.

Why would u go to a mcdonalds all the way in california when u live in new york and theres a mcdonalds next door?

Yall are acting like each african country is of walking distance. GTFO

Egypt is in Africa
Guest

Egypt is in Africa.Yes, it’s close to the Middle East, but it is located on the continent of Africa So the idea that there wasn’t or isn’t at this present time, black people there, is retarded. From a geological stand point, there definitely was and are black people in Egypt. The cover up that there are no black people there, came from the all the beautiful stolen art work and statues, etc, in which they knocked off the noses of many to hide the “black features.” You can’t believe everything you hear, do your own research.

Ada
Guest
No one is saying egypt isnt africa! Yes, egyptians are black! But most african americans are of west african descent. The white americans went ro west africa because it was much closer than east africa. You guys are forgetting that Africa is a huge continenent! They didnt have planes to get from place to place. Why would anyone go through the trouble of going from america all the way to east africa when they could just go to west africa. Its like you living in newyork but you buy a plane ticket just to go to mcdonalds in california. Im… Read more »
Hi There
Guest

thank you soooo much ada! I’m not sure why people think they can just pick a random country on a map and align their history with it. i found the ladies comment strange beacuse the only people i’ve ever heard refer to themselves as egyptians…are egyptians. I was also quite sure of the fact that the slave trade wasnt really focused on that part of Africa. so why would an african american feel like they were “stripped from their land” when that probably was never their land to begin with. the whole thing is very romanticised

Shauna
Guest
So it would be completely unlikely that individuals from Egypt would migrate to other parts of the continent such as west and South Africa? Let me ask it this way, American families that have roots in the south always remain in the south or do they move to different states in the country? Yes, it has been documented that most of the slaves were taken from west Africa, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that some Egyptians were incapable of migrating to other parts of Africa like west Africa where as you say most of the slaves were taken… Read more »
Ms. Gee
Guest

@Hi There. You were making a valid point but you sort of came off as being derisive with your first post and maybe that’s what got people so riled that they are dismissing your explanation. But it certainly has started a good discussion on our history 😉

Hi There
Guest

@Ms.Gee lol yes I can see that now. Perhaps I should have toned it down with the sarcasm. I just don’t like it when people use emotive language to create a false picture. But yes your’e right, what a discussion it has started

elhena
Guest

really? Just look at the Egyptian art, pyramids, gods, statues, etc… “we” were Egyptians! THEY want us to forget that WE were here first. I think it eats at them that they cannot deny that fact. I’m still upset about the “accidental” fire that burned down the largest library know to men: the one in Alexandria. Just so WE wouldn’t learn where we come from. People wake up.

linda
Guest
Really some people in here need to learn their own History and I mean H…istory (with a giant H ) before coming on a hair forum to showcase their ignorance about their own origin. Ancient Egypt was Black. Even if future slaves weren’t caught in Egypt, we still find a lot of descendants of Black Egypt along the Atlantic Ocean coast side from Egypt to South Africa. Why? because they migrated. Back in time, the Sahara desert didn’t exist the way it is nowadays, it was a luxurious forest just like you find in most parts of Africa. Ancient Egyptians… Read more »
Twe
Guest

Africa is a country of blacks. And some of the black slaves do came from Egypt but that don’tb necessary mean they are African Americans

Liz
Guest

YES, let’s not forget Napoleon had his army aim at the Sphinx’s NOSE’S for a reason. There was a little history he wanted no one to remember, especially since he was being bested by a black soldier himself…

luminous
Guest

Most slaves were PHYSICALLY taken from West Africa, but the North African trade routes existed for centuries before the slave trade. The trade routes covered most of northern Africa, including Egypt and Sudan, and centered around Mali. When people trade, it’s not just goods but also DNA and ideas. So you can not say a person taken from West Africa has no ties at all to East Africa, especially considering the nomadic trading cultures of that time.

CommonSense
Guest

Uh, Hi you to do more research. Africans were taken from many places in Africa, including the interior of the continent to the west where they were sold. They not only came from the West, as is popularly believed. Also, it is not highly unlikely that some Blacks may share DNA with Egyptians.

Jumoke
Guest
I’m sorry you received so much hate and misinformation Hi There. I’m Nigerian too and it annoys me with a passion when Black Americans swear they were taken from Egypt like school didn’t teach you about the TransAtlantic Slave Trade smh and I get what you mean. I said it on my blog that ancient Egyptians weren’t “African” back then because the term “Africa” didn’t exist yet! Of course it’s an African country today (no duh) but not all Egyptians share the same ethnicity. It’s like saying ancient Native American Indians were Americans before America existed. Many modern day Egyptians… Read more »
Liz
Guest

Look at King Tut’s mother and TELL ME that we weren’t black. I was on a Micheal Jackson video once and the top comment there was that “King Tut was actually white”. Really. Really???? As though his mother wasn’t one of the darkest women I’ve ever seen. As though Egyptians weren’t known to pick their wives from all the darkest women in Africa (including the West and South).

Claiming Egypt as “white” is the same as me claiming Catholicism because of 2 black popes 5 centuries ago. It’s just not realistic.

Empress
Guest

Highly unlike the Egyptian were white, so yes the culture would have been black. White originated in Europe not Africa

Crysterical
Guest

I’d just like to say that, that last line in your response might have changed my life…“It’s like you know who you are even after being stripped from your land”

That’s so true and so beautiful.

Tabatha
Guest
YES I knew that. It is interesting. The petroleum jelly also suffocates ticks if they got into your scalp, so if you by chance have a tick on you smear on a good amount of Vaseline and then the tick flea what ever can’t breath and it will pull out and go else where. White people did it too. I remember when I’d watch little house on the prairie and the girls would wear their bonnets. I asked my grandma what are the hats for? And that’s when she told me this bit of history. Lol, as a 6 year… Read more »
EbnCurly
Guest

I was more surprised by the article’s focus on slavery, enslavement is not the sum total of our cultural heritage. We brought a lot of traditions with us from Africa (i.e. braiding, head wrapping).

Carleee
Guest

This is also true. Bryd and Tharp actually discuss some of the traditions of black hair in parts of Africa. For instance, in some cultures, black people never wore afros because it was a sign of low class. People who had the leisure to style their hair did elaborate braiding and threading techniques. Interesting huh? The book referenced in the article actually starts from African, pre-15th century tradition all the way to modern American perception of black hair.

jojo satoes
Guest

Yup! My grandmother who never traveled outside of Africa and who was also illiterate (so she didnt read abt it in a book) and very cultured greased and wrapped her hair. So did her sisters. Oiling skin and hair have always been a part of how Africans groom.

making waves
Guest

I heard that the slaves wrapped their hair because their hair products were taken away, they couldn’t groom their hair so that is when the gead wraps were worn.

Carleee
Guest

It’s true. Byrd and Tharp discuss the way in which slaves were not allowed time to even groom themselves. We all know that natural black hair thrives from water and good detangling techniques. So they had to improvise by covering their hair.

Queen
Guest

There was also the Tignon laws, where in New Orleans some of the Caucasian women felt that the black women (specifically the free blacks, although enslaved women were targeted too) were attracting “too much attention” and laws were made to get them to tone down their clothing and cover their hair, to make them “less” appealing. I was shocked when I heard that but unfortunately I can’t say I was surprised, if that makes sense. But as we usually do, the black women found a way to turn lemons into lemonade and adorned their tignons with brooches, etc. lol.

Jacky
Guest

And so the Tignon laws backfired in the Caucasian women’s faces because the blacks were able to make their hair-ties into such elaborate and beautiful designs that they got even more attention. Thanks for sharing this information, i didn’t know about the Tignon laws until you told me about it.

Sunshine
Guest
As an African I highly doubt that this all began during slavery but pre dates Slavery because even in Africa people grease their scalp and I’m quite sure they didnt learn of it post slavery era its something that has been on for the past millenia ad they used to grease with animal fat, Nut oils(eg the baobab frui oil, shea nut oil etc so it could be when they reached the Americas they didn’t have the luxury of African indeginous oils in sight so they resorted to whatwas available(Petroleum)as for covering with Scarfs the article may have a point… Read more »
roh
Guest
ITA with this. My first reaction to the slaves putting petroleum jelly on their scalps thing was “um, was vaseline even around then?”. Vaseline was patented in 1872, almost 10 years after slavery (officially)ended in the US. I’m pretty sure black people used (and still use) petroleum jelly and pj-based products because it’s a cheap oily substance. There is plenty of evidence of Africans (and people all over the world, actually — olive oil in the Mediterranean, coconut oil in the pacific islands, etc) using various oils/fatty substances on their hair and body for ages. And let’s be honest, we… Read more »
Carleee
Guest
I’m actually reading that book (Hair Story by Byrd and Tharps), and it is excellent! This book is so important for all naturals. It’s a history on the evolving perception of (American) blacks over time, with a focus on hair. This book is GREAT! People always say, “It’s just hair”. It’s never *just* hair. The idea of blacks as *other* is often symbolized through our hair. Hair carries the ethnic heritage of a people. By making it socially unacceptable for black people to wear their natural hair, blacks are symbolically annihilated from society by eliminating any true representation of (diverse)… Read more »
May
Guest

I don’t know if it started with slavery… I’m sure the history runs deeper in that because traditionally, women wrap their hair in Ethiopia, and I’m sure the same goes for many other African countries (though we usually use handmade cotton cloths rather than silk). Using oils is also a traditional practice.

As for grease, I heard it’s also because slaves were stripped of the products they normally used, so they had to make due with what they had, but I’m not exactly sure on that part.

Mela
Guest

You are implying that all the ancestors of black people were slaves. Slaves come from Africa. If I want the story of our hair, I will mostly do my research on how our african ancestors were taking care of their hair not just the african slaves of america

cheni_zim
Guest

I love this site, but not all black women are African-American I.e. descendantS from the slave era, African women have been oiling their scalps and covering their hair for centuries, even before slavery. Black history did not begin with slavery…

O
Guest

And Egypt isn’t the only area of Africa with ancient history.

White scholars have tried to suppress the fact that those they were enslaving from mainly West Africa came from groups with highly intelligent and skilled craftsmen, artists etc as it suited their purpose to dehumanise us.

Plus West Africans actually traded with the Americas long before the Whites found America themselves.

Lorell
Guest

You need to research further back, way before slavery. Black women have hair rituals that have persisted for thousands of years. It would have been helpful for you to dig deeper. Thanks for trying though.

Dananana
Guest

Love this history discussion! More like this please 🙂

Jacky
Guest

Great article but i do think that greasing the hair has been a common hair practice among Africans( even men ) since pre-slavery times. It’s very common in Africa too so i can’t say that it came about only through slavery.

Sumbo
Guest

Badly researched article. Black Africans who were never slaves oiled and still oil their scalp probably for the same reason we oil our skin — to combat dryness.

mernlle
Guest

I have to say I don’t know if I agree with the notion that slaves grease their heads for that reasons. I am Haitian and we grease our scalp and cover our heads. So I have to disagree with the slave thing. Now I think we cover our heads because we want out hair away when we are doing things and because it keeps us from getting hot. Also because its easy to deal with. Plus we like to do our hair with styles so tying it down keep our styles preserve.

Miss Mo
Guest

Please how does covering your hair keep you from getting hot. *confused face*

Jumoke
Guest

For the same reason one would put their hair in a ponytail before working out. Hair in your face increases heat so one would cover it out of the way to cool off

academyjs
Guest

But Haitians were enslaved also until 1791. So why wouldn’t this apply to them? The histories between the Caribbean and US blacks is intertwined- with slaves often being transported back and forth.

Simbasmom
Guest
I am reading all of the posted comments and there is WAY too much division amongst black people.… ALL black people. We really could learn something from one another. What TRULY is the point of constantly trying to 1 up each other for the sake of sounding intelligent? No matter what country and continent you reside we are ALL black, so why are we fighting? This is stupid. After reading your comments.… you ALL have your points.… and yet NONE of you are listening to any of the points being made by one another. There is a lot of negativity… Read more »
Candace
Guest

Belle”

CommonSense
Guest

Perhaps this is why you never hear or heard of any black person having lice!!!!! Even to this day, I have never met a black person who has had lice!

O
Guest

I know off Black people who had lice as children.

The reason they had lice was lack of oil in their hair and no scalp examination as they were being taken care of by White people.

Black mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts tend to examine kids hair at least weekly.

Oh and some South Asians also oil their hair and scalps. Which is why their straight looking hair always looks oily.

Monica Kay
Guest
I’m not sure how this post lead to a discussion of Pan-Africanism but it’s always interesting to read. I’m inclined to believe that wrapping our hair and oiling our scalps are cultural remembrances that we carried through the Middle Passage. It’s obvious that the use of head wraps, scarves and head gear are important in African cultures and those of African descended people in the new world. How else would you explain the predilection for those elaborate Sunday hats? Don’t they remind you of geles? As for oiling our scabs, in the absence of palm oil and shea butter, our… Read more »
Monica Kay
Guest

OMG. Scalps not scabs.

Ava Monroe
Guest

We are not African, Israelis fled to Africa to avoid being killed by the Romans. Wake up Judah.

Kay Von kent
Guest

TEACH!

jlcollins
Guest

In my discussion with family lard was used for scalp treatment. That’s deep south hair care…lol.

Jumoke
Guest
I don’t mean to be late but I agree with Hi There’s original comment. Y’all should check out my blog post about how Black Americans are NOT the Descendants of Egyptians- http://jumibearz.weebly.com/jumithinks/black-americans-are-not-the-descendants-of-egyptians I just find it so sad that Black Americans cling so much to this distortion of Africa for the sake of identity. What really is wrong with being West African/SubSaharan African? Why do Blacks defend Egypt with all their might but not the rest of Africa? Why is every Black person an Egyptologist but don’t even know who Kwame Nkrumah (first African president) is? Africa is a rich… Read more »
Dewayne Perry
Guest

@jumoke Unfortunately your story doesn’t go along with the narrative these “conscious” blacks would have you believe.

Jumoké
Guest
Because they’re not as conscious as they think. They try so hard to disassociate themselves from the “negative” aspects of Africa but will cling on to the only “positive” image there is of the continent. I found it saddening that one commenter above defended her claim for Egypt because East Africans were nomads so it was a possiblity that she was Egyptian… 1. There are other countries in East Africa besides Egypt 2. Because you might be 2% Egyptian, you’re going to obliterate 70% of your West/Central African ethnicity… Reminds me of Black girls who hold on to the fact… Read more »
O
Guest
@Jumoké I have to disagree on something which is she isn’t likely to be Egyptian or Sudanese at all. The poster’s genes likely came from the people who originally inhabited the area we know as the Sahara Desert. They migrated East, West and South when the area changed from savannah to desert. So they share some of the same genes. This means she is likely to fully originate from West and/or South of the Sahara Desert. The people who lived there had an advanced civilisation shown on cave paintings i.e. they rode horses with saddles, ploughed crops. The absolute proof… Read more »
Jumoké
Guest

I couldn’t agree with you more! Sahara desert has a rich and forgotten history but no one wants to hear that. Everyone just wants to sit around the campfire and hear stories of the Nile like gtfoh! You talk about white folks brainwashing you but you’ve brainwashed yourself to think Egypt was the only advance civilization in Africa and the rest of us were sitting around playing with sticks for thousands of years?? -____- give me a break

cacey
Guest
i totally agree with you on this. completely different cultures and so much evidence points to the fact that we were in West Africa at the same time as the actual Egyptians were in Egypt. It’s a lot like how most black people believe erroneously that they have “native american” in them, and will claim that they are mixed Native when they can’t even name that supposedly “indian” ancestor. it was a story in my family too. I think that black people are the worst when it comes to history, and that our culture in this day and age actively… Read more »
Jumoke
Guest

*slow claps* I. LOVE. THIS! But like I mentioned above, no one wants to hear that smh

Hi There
Guest
@Jumoke @cacey so glad you guys were able to find some information to back up what I was saying. I think its sad that slavery left a lot of black americans with no links to their past, but I think its bizarre that people seem to think that they are entitled to align themselves with any African culture cause at the end of the day its “the mother land” (I hate that term). Africans are soooo different from one another. Even Nigerians have different customs and traditions (Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo). I just think it would be easier, and make more… Read more »
Terri
Guest

Great point. I think the argument for that however, is the fact that immigrants from England left willingly and fought the English for their independence in America. Enslaved people of African descent, on the other hand, were not willingly Americans and were not as invested in the “American” identity as the Patriots were.

siamesecat
Guest
Where I live at in Oklahoma, every white person you MEET claims Native American blood. And none of them can name the ancestor and they usually pick the Cherokee yet they don’t know anything about the culture. Lol, white people in the mid West aren’t too different from black people who also like to claim Indian blood. I have heard white people call themselves, Cherokee, even though they have the whitest skin imaginable with pale blue eyes and blonde hair. I have no idea why so many people outside of the Native American cultures romanticize Native Americaness. I call it… Read more »
youngin girl
Guest
Yeah, I mean look, I don’t think any less or more of a person because of where they come from. My Grandma and me got through going over family pictures from 10 to 11:40 am something in between that and it all started with my Grandma showing me a picture of my Grandpa’s sister, the oldest one, who is mixed with indian(native). We were talking about her children and great grandchildren. She had long natural hair. So did my auntie rose but her hair came off because of wigs which is what my Grandma said. We were looking at pictures… Read more »
blackbombshell
Guest
I totally agree with you. However, I do have a link to both Egypt as well as West Africa. My grandmother was born in Egypt. My grandfather,who was a black American, married my grandmother who was Egyptian black,(LONG STORY)but she was also about 40% Arab as well. So there are people from different African regions who DO marry. I still considered my grandmother BLACK, for she is black as a person can get. However she was almost half Arab as well, and I can’t deny that. However, I am often saddened to see African American relatives on my grandfather’s side… Read more »
Ava Monroe
Guest

BYWOODS TO KEEP US IN THE DARK AND FROM KNOWING WHO WE REALLY ARE AND WHERE OUR ANCESTORS CAME FROM: IF YOUR FATHER IS ONE OF THESE BYWORDS: INDIAN, BLACK, AFRICAN AMERICAN THE “N” WORD, MEXICAN, THE LIST GOES ON DON’T FELL LIKE TYPING IT ALL DOWN)THEN YOU ARE AN ISRAELI HEBREW. RESEARCH AND YOU WILL KNOW, ALL THIS MESS ABOUT BEING MIXED WITH THIS THAT AND THE OTHER JUST LEAVES YOU MIXED UP IN THE HEAD SORRY

Ava Monroe
Guest
You’re right Black Americans are not descendants of Egyptians, because they are descendants of Israel. Our ancestors fled to Africa to avoid being killed by the Romans, the Most High cursed us because our ancestors did not follow the commandments. Israel had 12 sons, most of us so called Blacks or African Americans(which or nothing but bywords they gave us to hide who we really are)are from the tribe of Judah. Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 states that those who are in Israel today calling themselves Jews and claiming to be Gods special chosen people are liars. Deuteronomy 28 explains who… Read more »
Kstate710
Guest

This is one of the best posts I’ve read thus far. Thanks for keeping us in hair school.

trackback

[…] via The Surprising History Behind Why Black Women Grease Their Scalps and Cover Their Hair | Black Girl …. […]

fiona
Guest
I am African and can tell you that wrapping our heads has very little to do with what you have written- please get your facts right before publishing. In fact, your comments perpetuate the stereotype that wrapping our heads is a negative thing- a disguise of some sort, our way of hiding. NO. In my culture (you will know that we are not all the same, Africa is a continent with 54 countries), women wrap their heads in scarves as a sign of respect at traditional functions (traditional wedding ceremonies, funerals etc). Also more mature women will wrap their heads… Read more »
Cortney
Guest

In the blogger’s defense, the post speaks to the historical reference of why slaves covered their hair… not African women.

siamesecat
Guest
Uh hello, the people who were forced here from AFRICA were AFRICAN women! So technically the article is talking about AFRICAN women. They were bringing traditions such as head wrapping, greasing, henna, oils to the new world. These were traditions that stuck and also customs that stuck too. They were AFRICAN, as African as you get in the 1500’s. Once they had babies, born on U.S. soil,Africans passed their traditions on to the American Blacks that were born in this country. But make no mistake, hair covering, such as wigs, wraps, oil mixtures, hair tinctures, and hennas were all OVER… Read more »
StraightShooter
Guest

So you know, many Black Americans that were forced to America were also forced to forget many of their old customs. Perhaps a Black American history lesson is in order for you and the orginal poster. The writer was clearly talking about Black Americans. Black is Black, but we don’t all have cultural ties. Also many Black people during slavery and after were forced to cover their hair. All Black people don’t have the same history, culture, or struggle. It’s the same thing with white people. They don’t all have the culture.

Ava Monroe
Guest

HEBREW WOMEN ARE SUPPOSE TO COVER THEIR HAIR WHEN THEY PRAY TO THE MOST HIGH (WE ARE ISRAELI HEBREWS NOT BLACK)

fi
Guest

Bwahahahahaha, get an education please, this is embrassing! It is no wonder African Americans are regarded as ignorant. Which books have you read?

Ava Monroe
Guest

SORRY WRONG! THE WOMEN WHO WERE FORCE HERE FROM AFRICA ARE ISRAELI HEBREWS FROM THE TRIBE OF JUDAH. WE WERE LIVING IN AFRICA BECAUSE WE FLED THERE TO AVOID BEING KILLED BY THE ROMANS, THE MOST HIGH PUT A CURSE ON OUR ANCESTORS BECAUSE THEY DID NOT KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. “BLACK, AFRICAN AMERICAN, INDIAN, MEXICAN, ETC. ARE ALL BYWORDS GIVEN TO KEEP US FROM KNOWING WHO WE REALLY ARE AS A PEOPLE.

Chris
Guest

You aren’t doing yourself any favours by writing in all caps, by the way. Whenever I see paragraphs of capital letters I just keep scrolling. It only takes away from your credibility and makes you look psychotic.

kalagenesis
Guest

lol

denise
Guest

I don’t think why they wrapped their heads in Africa and why they wrapped their heads in slavery would amount to the same thing. I’m sure massa didn’t care about differentiating younger and older slaves through head wraps or about paying any respect at any formal setting. Mind you, they didn’t have slave formal wear

youngin girl
Guest

Interesting and enlightening. Reading some of these comments from front to back makes me very elated to be who I am. I’m 18 and I would love to date an African. I am elated to be the decendants from a rich culture. This blog touches on so much. I’m going to tell my Mom what I learned and probably show my grandma.

siamesecat
Guest
First of all Africans in slavery days, took some of their beliefs systems and customs with them to the new world. Believe me, when I tell you, that Africans were using hair oils and oil massages for thousands of years before they hit the “New world” on “The Good Ship Jesus” Ok, so we were very intelligent in our motherland, hello. Second of all you write the article as though African history began at slavery. Sure they did do those things to protect the scalp from insects, however it has been a serious custom in Africa as well to grease… Read more »
StraightShooter
Guest

Why are so many Africans upset by this? I have met many Africans and they are some of the prejudiced people ever especially against Black Americans. It’s confusing to me. Is it hard to understand that many aspects of culture were forgotten suring the middle passage? Black is Black, but culturally we have hardly anything in common.

denise
Guest

You are absolutely right about that. We all look the “same” but we’re not the same.

Abraham
Guest

Africans are not like us. We may look similar but we can distinguish ourselves from them. You have to find out what African is. Then find out what you are. Like Ave Monroe was saying we are from Isreal (Jacob). Africans will tell you they never sold their people into slavey. With that being said they, the Africans treat us just like any other culture out here.

fiona
Guest

what?? Are you talking about DNA or culture or nationality? What are you talking about — Israel? You need to do some studying girlfriend…

siamesecat
Guest
White people often claim Native blood just as often as black people do. I think it’s white people’s way of staking claim on the land. They want more of a connection to America. It’s like saying they “Belong” here and are NOT invaders technically. lol It’s rather silly because every one seems to be romanticizing the Native American thing, when MOST people know that the WHITE man killed like 87% of Natives. They killed so many, how can there be soooo many claims to the blood is beyond me? Most white people DO however, have some black blood more often… Read more »
Jean
Guest

I think people are so quick to “teach” others that they go to far with the “teaching”, a lot of people in the black community say their of Native American descent. In all honesty there were still biracial people, all though now only 5% black people actually have Indian some where in their culture. I’m one of them, here’s a picture of my mother, she has similar facials. Yet don’t get it twisted I’m proud to be who ever I am.
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/image.jpg[/img]

Jean
Guest

Sorry, there were still biracial people 100–200 years ago. Most of them melato I must say but still

Dominicca
Guest

did you mean mulatto?

Jean
Guest

The story of my blood, my great great great grandmother was Irish, she married an Indian man. They had children one of those children married a half black half Indian man. Pow which made my nanny she had children with an 100% black male. That made my grandmother who had kids with a black male who also had Indian descent. Pow match made in heaven.

Lauren
Guest

I didn’t mean to thumbs down your comment; just new to the site and trying to figure the functions.

People are confused by how I’m mixed with so much, but it’s really quite as simple as you have wrote.

Ava Monroe
Guest

Means nothing, you are an Israeli from the tribe of Judah the so called Indians in your family or from the tribe of Gad. Israel had 12 sons. Indian as well as Black are nothing but bywords place upon us to keep us from waking up, or knowing who we really are

kalagenesis
Guest

Shut up up with your Jewish black coonery

Tamara Doloar
Guest

Thank you!

Kashmere
Guest
My mum is very educated when it comes to hair, especially afro textured and she always steered clear of grease because she didn’t want it clogging my scalp, but always kept my hair well oiled and moisturised to keep me from catching other kids fleas lol. She reinforced this in me so much as a child, because she didn’t want my thick hair getting invaded by tiny little parasites that would be difficult to get rid of. It worked, because I’ve never had so much as an egg laid in my hair let alone fleas, haha, and to this day… Read more »
Ava Monroe
Guest

We wrap our hair because our ancestors are Hebrews(Israelis) from the tribe of Judah. Hebrew women are suppose to wrap their hair when they pray and worship the Most High. You’re crazy, if you are still calling yourselves African American, Black, or any of those other bywords that they have given to you describe what you are as a people, because they didn’t want you to know you are from the people who God chose to love, yet punished because our ancestors didn’t follow the commandments. Judah is waking up 2019 Judah will roar.

Tamara Doloar
Guest

No, they are from us. Central Africa. As all modern man did. A scientific fact. Why do you so badly want to associate with Jews? Why do you hate your blackness?

Tristan
Guest

These traditions don’t just stem from slavery. They come from the continent. North Africans used olive oils to grease their scalps which is why the Greeks started copying them and doing it too. We’ve always used butters and oils and wrapped our hair it just took on a different purpose during slavery.

4c AmerRican
Guest

Wth doed North Africans have to do with North American Black people supposedly from West Africa?

Tamara Doloar
Guest

Are you really that uneducated.

Lovely Givan
Guest

Well, I grease my hair cuz if I don’t it will dry up & break off! I tie my hair at night so my braids won’t get raggedy!

Yunoka
Guest
While all those points about African traditions are true and many practices were still being practiced during slavery, we are talking about black slavery in America. Those Africans have different cultural reasonings for doing things, though it’s probably because of African traditions. I was taught in a Africa-American studies class that black women also had to cover their hair because it enticed the white male. It was law passed to de-feminized the black woman. So bringing along her African traditions her scarfs were always elaborated, and still had an effect on the white male. So it still kept it’s cultural… Read more »
Ms. Crys Mack
Guest

Google “Tignon laws” . It’s more than just hair care…

MR K HUTTON
Guest

Nubian hairy is not a carrier of pediculus humanus capitis IE:Head lice because of its texture and dog and cats carrier fleas and ticks.
Long before we started using iron comb and petroleum jelly the ancient Nubians groomed they hairy exquisitely and adorn oil’s so we are just retaining some of are culture pass down to one culture to an other.

leelah
Guest

Sorry, you’re wrong. Nubian Hair can get lice. Its a myth that black people can’t get lice because for so long we didn’t because…we greased our scalp. Lice can’t hold on to the hair strand with a lot of oil in the hair. The number one natural remedy for lice is a whole bunch of oil in the hair. Then you have to pick the lice out of the hair as they struggle to move through the oil. And people don’t carry fleas and ticks, but they can bite people, hence Lyme disease.

Junie
Guest

It’s no secret. This is something that’s always been said that black or Afro hair whether Relaxed or Natural do not get Lice because of the oils & grease used. The environment makes it difficult for the Lice to survive. Those with drier hair & scalp have to be careful around someone who has Lice.

Lee Barnes
Guest

Actually it is not the oil that keeps lice away. That information is False. If you study lice and what they inhabit, you would find that lice lives mainly in feathers and fur. Our hair texture is not of feather nor of a fur texture so it isnot the oils at all because as you know oils and slip are no stranger to sleeker texture hair, fur and feathers. Afro hair is actually real HAIR and lice don’t grow in hair. Other races have what mimics fur so lice are more prone to gravitate to those textures.

Ess
Guest

If it is said that black people don’t get lice do to the oil that is put on the hair then why are white people more likely to get lice when their hair is just naturally oily, so would it be safe to say only white people with clean hair got lice?E

Tamara Doloar
Guest

I haven’t, in my entire time on this planet, met one black person who has gotten lice. Meanwhile when I was in elementary school Latin and white kids got it.

Aliyah Morrison
Guest

Same my mom used grease on my hair when I was little and all it did was make it limo and greasy I started using oil because of my grandma and it’s shiny not greasy and seals my hair now that I’m natural I use only water conditioner and oil to seal my hair and for shine .

Cosita
Guest

Can someone explain how US slaves were using petrolatum jelly when it wasn’t invented until 1872? If this site even checking the “facts” it puts out?
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Chesebrough

April Caddell
Guest

They might have used animal fat.

QB
Guest
If that’s in the book, then that book is riddled with misinformation. Africans have always and continue to use natural oils and unguents in their hair and scalp. Most ancient people did. Indians put Amla oil and coconut oil in their hair and on their scalps. Italians and Sicilians used Olive oil. Middle easterners used blackseed oil. Also, slaves did not put petroleum jelly/grease on their scalps as petroleum wasn’t used in hair dressings until the 1950’s. Before then, hair greases were made from lanolin. Also, whites passed laws barring black women from showing their hair , this is why… Read more »
4c AmerRican
Guest

Madam CJ Walker born into slavery is the most known Black Hair Pioneer. Who used Home remedies most likeky passed on from her mom. She used stuff like Vegetable oil & glycerin. And the author can’t figure out what we put in our hair?

LaBella
Guest
I am a mixed race woman with children by a white man. My daughters came home from school with head lice, and they even gave it to me. When I was younger, I used heavy petroleum jelly in my hair, but by that point I didn’t.. Let me tell you, nothing worked. Not OTC treatment, not prescription.. I was killing my kids hair trying to get the bugs out, let alone my own because of the chemical bath.. When I told the doctor his prescription treatment didn’t work, he told me to grease my kids heads up with Vaseline.. This… Read more »
Junie
Guest

I’m glad you finally found what works for your hair.

I never said the bugs couldn’t hold on to hair. I said : “The environment makes it difficult for the Lice to survive.”

mrisha
Guest

I enjoyed the article and learned something more. My Mom always did a weekly wash on our hair with (hair rep and blue magic et al). We never had problems with hair lice. Grease was always used on our hair. Oils were never in the budget. Another great learning story on how it came about regarding how and why grease was used on African American hair. I am sure there is so much more to learn about that era.

Regine
Guest
Natural hair care didn’t start during slavery ir goes beyond that. Before salvery they were in Africa treating their hair with herbs, berries, and oils. They also wore elaborate hairstyles that would be immediately chopped off as soon they were taken into slavery. When their hair started to grow back due to the lack of berries, oils and etc. they started wearing the bonnets as well because they could no longer maintain their hair. If they were lucky they’d sneak any bit of grease (cooking oil, pig fact,etc.) to try and maintain their hair. Even the ancient egyptians (whom were… Read more »
dee
Guest

your response has more relevant information than the damn article!

Kyla G
Guest

That’s exactly what I was thinking. Where did the slaves get it from? They weren’t always slaves and they were taken from the motherland. Grease had to have been used back home too or it was a good substitute for what was used. Thanks for posting.

Asphedal
Guest

This is true. But you guys forget that Africans ALSO wear scarves and have been doing so for centuries. The conclusion is, that the slaves continued many of their ways when they were brought to the real world.

Natural curlz
Guest
for all of you that are going on about Egyptians. I live in Egypt, Egyptians do not like African American blacks, even tho they are black they wont c laim it. They will try to claim white and everything else but black. Now while I will not use grease in the African American community this was all we had, There was no such thing as internet, The world has come along way and there are better products out there for our hair. Now with that said. The Egyptians I know will claim they are white and instead of saying they… Read more »
Apple
Guest

You are absolutely wrong. Of course their were neck Egyptians. Nubians were there before and around the time Arabs made their way to Egypt. A good portion of modern Egyptians LOOK like are part nubian.

Missy Julien-Thelemarque
Guest
Missy Julien-Thelemarque

The type of lice in a colder climate(America, Europe and so on) would not necessarily survive in our hair. But in warmer climates(Africa…) dif. Species of lice will.

button
Guest

It not that blacks can’t get lice but we do not carry that like white people do our hair is to dry that is why we have to put the oil in our hair and white people have to wash their hair every day we don’t we can go weeks without washing our and it won’t smell our hair is strong and beautiful like we are.

thenameischoco
Guest

*sighs* The part about the frequency of washing in not true. People with straight hair need to wash with shampoo frequently to rid their hair of excess oil. Those of us with super curly hair (Africans) need to wash our hair frequently for moisture! This myth that we don’t need to wash our hair often is why it breaks. Notice that I did not mention shampoo. Afro-textured hair thrives when it gets so little as plain water on a daily or every-other day basis. Oil travels down straight hair too quickly, while *moisture* leaves our hair too quickly.

fay_jay
Guest

You don’t have to wash your hair for moisture. You have to wet it or add moisture to it. Buttons statement still stands that we can go weeks (I will add months) without washing our hair and it won’t smell. That is true.

Lena C.
Guest

Don’t believe that lie! I live in Michigan, and found out in December that I had head lice! I don’t know how (but I have my suspicions). Black people in America can definitely get lice!

mmmdot
Guest
It is playing white people’s racial game to concede that Egyptians are white or Asian if they don’t look like a Eurocentric version of a West African.[Meaning the 15th century white supremacist chattel slavery archetype of “the Black” or “the Negro”.] Egypt is apparently the ONLY country in Africa that apparently never had Africans. How convenient. Especially since very dark brown skin is a later evolution in Africa. It is more than likely that the general skin pigmentation of the FIRST Africans [located in East Africa around modern day Ethiopia] was much lighter than it is today and closer to… Read more »
Cakes
Guest

@Mmmdot, that was very Insightful and good to know. I appreciated that.

Tomeka
Guest

I don’t know about all this history crap. What I do know is the scalp is like the rest of the skin on the body except it grows alot of hair on it. My scalp needs lubricating after a wash or else it’ll get too dry, flake-up and itch because of lack of moisture. I got that nappy, brittle hair, which doesn’t naturally produce it’s own oil like those who have naturally, fine, bone-straight hair.

Oratilwe
Guest

Before colonialism, a large majority of African groups were nomadic so it may be that the group from which the tradition came currently is found in North Africa

Lisa Wesley Burkhalter
Guest
Lisa Wesley Burkhalter

It is to keep the hair moist , and our scalps need it(the moisture for growth. If you don’t know what you are talking about, just don’t say anything at all.

Pennylane22
Guest

Agree!

Ryan Air
Guest

Did you even read what she said she is talking about putting all that unnecessary grease in your hair she didn’t say anything about not moisturizing it.

Jazz
Guest

Oil is necesary. Grease is not.

OhMy
Guest

Our scalp produce natural oils and don’t require grease. Maybe you should “just don’t say anything”. Moisture is for our hair, not our scalp. She wrote this about the proposed history that she was informed of. Not to debate opinions.

thenameischoco
Guest

Grease does not add moisture to your hair. This is a myth that the natural hair movement tries desperately to dispel.

Reshanded
Guest

No it doesn’t but it can seal in moisture

thenameischoco
Guest

But it cannot seal in what is not there, which is what the original post seems to imply. Our scalps definitely do not “need it” for growth.

Mrs. Harris
Guest
I have three daughters that’s natural and heading they hair is not a must.…IF, they wash they hair regularly, comb and brush it out with the right brush, tie they hair down every night, and eat right. The foods you ingest and the foods some lack to ingest play a roll in your hair health. The types of shampoos and conditioners matter too. All shampoos and conditioners is not meant for all African American/black people just because it say it on the bottle. I went without a perm for a year and a half and you could tell unless I… Read more »
hassia
Guest

You comment is driving me crazy, I hope English is your second language.

Mrs. Harris
Guest

I hope shutting the f*#% up is your first…

hassia
Guest

So it is not your first language, thought as much. “To each it’s own,”.

hassia
Guest

May I add that I am glad that made sense to you.

tweety bird
Guest

I have exzema and If i don’t oil my hair every 3 days it will burst out into soars. So i have to oil it. even my skin will start to scratch n turn into rashes. Lotion never helped my dry skin, only purlene jelly can help my scalp n skin. No lotion is every moist enough for me. My skin would look as if it was never lotion from the day i was born.lol

Courtney B.
Guest
While I’m all for looking into the history of black hair practices if you are claiming you’ve done some kind of historical research then you have to get things right. I’m a stickler about that as a historian. Well it’s very likely that putting “grease” on the hair was to reply lice (they definitely don’t like that) it probably was also for moisture. The thing is you classmate is probably not right about the petroleum jelly part. It wasn’t even discovered till the late 1800s (towards the end of slavery) and was used on machinery. Vaseline, the brand, wasn’t such… Read more »
Reshanded
Guest

Yes I was waiting for the sources! I hate how blacks make claims about slavery as if it’s fact with no actual evidence. Also, “greasing” the scalp basically involves rubbing the scalp which is great and braiding the hair/caring for it before bed. I used to do this as a child and although I don any more (too greasy) I wouldn’t say there’s no benefit.

Courtney B.
Guest

Well I wasn’t attacking “blacks”. I am one. I was simply critiquing the very common practice seen across the internet of historical claims (on a variety of topics) without reputable primary or secondary sources. I would like to see evidence which this person may have if they really did research. It’s simply a historian’s pet peeve.

Rachel Evans Jenkins
Guest

The scalp does not need to be moisturized with grease or oil but our hair does!! Covering your hair at night also locks in moisture (my hair gets VERY dry) and I need to hold on to all the moisture I can get.

Kyla G
Guest

We can get them, but it rarely occurs because of the grease and oils we put in our hair. It makes it harder for the lice to attach /grip. Those who use little to no product tend to get them when exposed.

foereal
Guest

I oil my scalp and hair often and bun it up daily to protect it from breakage because letting the hair hang loosley damages the hair while rubbing against the clothing

Jazz
Guest

The texture of your hair has nothing to do with the natural oils it produces. Brushing with a baby hair brush from scalp to tip will oil your hair nicely. Oil is necesary Greece is not.

Kina
Guest

The texture of your hair doesn’t have anything to do with how much oil it produced but it does have a lot to do with how oil travels on the hair. Oil moves easier on straight to slightly curly hair. It is very hard for oil to move on kinky hair. Which is why we have to keep our hair moisturized. We can do this with GREASE or OIL it’s all about what works for your hair.

Josephine
Guest

Dry hair will get lice that is why white people get it so much you don’t find it as much in black people as you do with them also back then to grease your hair were to help keep the hair from drying out while in the sunshine all day and in winter as well both are bad on our hair

Greece
Guest

Greece is a country.

gmm0446
Guest

I am a 68 yo Black female and I grew up “greasing my scalp.” If I didn’t grease it I developed dandruff. Big, big pieces of flaky dandruff. I can’t recall when I stopped this ritual, but I no longer have a dandruff problem .

Patricia Baldwin-Dennis
Guest
Patricia Baldwin-Dennis

Growing up my mom had explained to me and my siblings that the reason black people did not get lice when there was an outbreak at school, was because the grease on our scalps would not allow lice to live in our hair.

Agi Princess Ada
Guest
Well I am African and I always grease my hair. In African almost everyone grease their hair and there is no slavery issue attached to it we grease our scalp to protect from drying out and breakage and it also enhances beauty maybe u should do your research on this. And as for the satin part not everyone tie their hair on satin I don’t. and not only black people tie hair on satin.… like nothing related to slavery. And do you think slaves had all the choices to cover their hair and grease their scalp? They suffered they he’d… Read more »
OhMy
Guest
I don’t grease my scalp at all. The reasons that you have cited are not true for all. The author of this story has a more plausible reason for the origin of greasing the scalp. I use satin caps because I noticed early in my natural hair Journey that when I sleep on synthetic fibers, my hair would snag on my pillows. I tie my hair to stop this from happening. We all have our reasons for why we do what we do, but these reasons-unless proven otherwise, should never be stated for all. For my natural hair regimen I… Read more »
Kitty
Guest

The slaves in slavery came from Africa, yes.. She also did say that they possibly did it for those reasons back then but it evolved to be because of different reasons now.. Don’t be so quick to negate an article.. Make sure you open your mind and actually read first..

Tamara
Guest
Agi — with all due respect grease (the ingredients in grease) dries out our hair…this forum is about our hair so regarding what others do (tying their hair) is not really the issue. I personally use a silk scarf since I was very young because it locked in the Natural oils of our my hair — eliminating the process of ‘greasing’ the scalp if you will. You may find that cleansing your scalp w/ baking soda & vinegar will help to bring it back to a healthy pH balance and using oils (NOT GREASE) such as Almond, Unrefined Coconut, Grapeseed,… Read more »
Shaniqua L.
Guest

Evaporation and improper moisturizing dries hair, not grease. Just like any other oil, it’s a sealant and can be used to keep the hair moisturized when applied the correct way. Also, the petroleum/petrolatum in grease has been refined to cosmetic grade, so it does not clog pores. Lack of regular cleansing is what allows enough buildup to to accumulate and clog pores. I literally add grease to my hair daily after spritzing with water and I don’t have any issues. My hair is currently waist length and I’m growing it to my hips.

Dick Richard
Guest

Are you the Shaniqua that always gave $20 blowjobs ?

Shaniqua L.
Guest

I think you should go take your meds.

Pass The Deutschy
Guest

So did black people not do these things before slavery then?

Hughes
Guest
We as blacks have always cared for our hair. In Africa a woman’s hair was her crown. They did elaborate and ornate styles using combs, gems, and fabrics. These things were incorporated into the hair styles itself. When we were taken as slaves the first thing the white man did was forbid us to use combs ( no styling of the hair). Knowing how we felt about our hair as black women this tactic was used to degrade us. (Forbid combing, then talk about our hair being nappy and tangled). Just one of the many things done to try and… Read more »
Rishona Campbell
Guest

There are Black Jews Tamara (I’m one). But Ava sounds more like a Hebrew Israelite. Similar words and terminology; but completely different message than Judaism!

Troy D. Davidson
Guest

It does relate to the free Blacks in America. The laying the hair close to the scalp with parts and grease, was what allowed some to be determined a free Negro, versus a slave. I agree not everything relates to slavery; however, this actually does.

Troy D. Davidson
Guest

It does relate to the free Blacks in America. The laying the hair close to the scalp with parts and grease, was what allowed some to be determined a free Negro, versus a slave. I agree not everything relates to slavery; however, this actually does.

Camay Krazyeightyeights Moore
Guest
Camay Krazyeightyeights Moore

There were also laws that prohibited newly freed slaves from displaying their hair and arousing blue eyed men.

Momof3
Guest

Yes blacks can get lice but its unusual and uncommon. My grade school class would be infested when i was a child and I along with a handful of other blacks never got it. That is fact and this was the case more than once.

Black girls rock
Guest

I’m black, and so is my family and most of my friends. In all of my 33years of living, I have never seen or heard of a black person with lice. I have seen biracial people get it, but never black…

Lexi Cogdell
Guest

This was a pretty good read very informative. Since being natural I never grease my scalp at all either and even though I tend to have a dry scalp during certain seasons grease never really did much for me. I eventually learned oils helpd grease was just a mess.

Djphoenix
Guest

Grease is a solid form of oil so it’s the same practice being discussed. Also some of this information does not add up. Black women started the practice of wearing silk hair bonnets during slavery? How do we explain there widespread use by White women? Also, there is no mention of the women’s status as Muslims, nor of African religious and cultural practices related to tying, oiling and adorning our hair — practices that pre-date slavery.

Robinson Kyeshia
Guest

Although I find the article enlightening, I think it is a little misleading (somewhat) Ethiopians coat their hair in butter/ animal fat to protect it.. wrapping the hair is an obvious African tradition that crosses many cultures through out the continent egyptians, muslims, african weddings, etc. also practice this tradition. So, yes these traditions may have evolved into slavery but they surely did not begin there.… ijs

triceespice
Guest

Exactly..

FromTokyo
Guest

I use a satin pillowcase because I’m fancy. 🙂

pammy
Guest

How does this account for African women wearing colorful head scarfs for centuries?? Also I was told by a Ghanian woman that did my hair that they used oil on their scalp to keep moisture locked into their hair.…

Niki
Guest

You might want to look further back than slavery. There are depictions of women on Egyptian walls with small mounds of fat/grease on their heads that they allowed to melt. It wast also done to moisturizer the scalp. Oils and fats were often used in African rituals…remember being anointed with oil? Always start from our origin. Never just stop at slavery. That was not our beginning. Peace

DME
Guest

KABOOM!

Noor
Guest

Great comment

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[…] The Surprising History Behind Why Black Women Grease Their Scalps and Cover Their Hair | Black Girl … […]

ThrivingGirl
Guest

Very interesting. I remember being a little girl and while my friends of no color had lice, my mom never worried about it because of all the freeze in my hair. LOL Good article.

Dick Richard
Guest
my northern European heritage afforded me the ability to grow long thick shiny hair with zero effort and I would never muck up my hair with any type of grease or oil .I can sweep it back into a “man bun” or leave it flow down my shoulders . Several women of color have remarked that they wish their hair would grow as well as mine. As I mature into my 40s , I have some gray but no thinning in fact, it seems to grow just as thick and quick . I get a crew cut after about 2… Read more »
Shaniqua L.
Guest

…So why exactly are you perusing a site called Black Girl Long Hair if you care nothing about our hair and hair care practices?

Dick Richard
Guest

i clicked on it because of the heading and was directed to the site. Seemed interesting. I have had many black women tell me they wish their hair grew like mine and i never understood why they put blue magic , vaseline and other cheap pomades on their hair. Never made sense to me .

Dana Brown
Guest
Jesus be an idiot filter. Are you a troll, Dick Dick? Black women use petroleum based cosmetics on their head for a multitude of reasons. None of them concern you, and your subtle attempt at a humble-brag was not missed. You know why our hair is “a big deal”. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t be refuting it so confidently. Although, I guess it’s entirely possible that you’re the type of idiot that pretends to know all about things they know nothing about. But that’s okay, our hair is better. It grows long and has character. It doesn’t look the… Read more »
Dick Richard
Guest

seems like theres a big market for wigs and extensions , jus sayin .…..

Dana Brown
Guest

Umm, yeah. Because White Supremacy told us that our hair is unacceptable for centuries, and/or some women want to change their hairstyle every once in a while. What exactly is your point?

You won’t find any women on this site that are jealous of White hair. Why are you even here? Go back to Stormfront, scum.

BlueCornMoon
Guest

At least weaves,wigs & extentions…which lOTS of white women also use.…. WILL NOT KILL YOU.

Just sayin’

Dick Richard
Guest

Will not kill you” .…huh? So are you referring to tanning beds? Whatever, I look waaaay young for my age . Black dont crack huh? I dont know. Rihanna closing in on Eartha Kitt territory , FAST! Bobby Brown? Flavor Flav? PLENTY of cracks. I just read one of Retta’s Tweets saying she MUST have straightened hair. Who is MAKING her do that? Me?

Dick Richard
Guest

seems like your demographic comprises the bulk of the demand for wigs and extensions .

Dominique Jeter
Guest

Wow! This is cool. I remember learning about the true effects of greasing the scalp in cosmetology school but never knew the origin of it. Thank you!
http://www.realdominoj.com/

triceespice
Guest
Petroleum jelly was not even thought about until 1859 and slavery ended 1865. Please do your research before spreading hearsay.…The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, United States, on some of the country’s first oil rigs. Workers disliked the paraffin-like material forming on rigs because it caused them to malfunction, but they used it on cuts and burns because they believed it hastened healing. In the first part of the twentieth century, petroleum jelly, either pure or as an ingredient, was also popular as a hair pomade. When used in a 50/50 mixture with… Read more »
Maceo Pierson
Guest
Wow! Are you people serious? You are ruining a half decent article about a few bits of info that she decided to share with the world, be it right, wrong or so far gone. My mother would grease my scalp as a kid and my four sisters as well and for good reason too. It helped for all kinds of reasons so all you history buffs and historians can back off. Here are a few FACTS and a little RESEARCH for you. Firstly we really don’t give a damn about when petroleum jelly was thought about when, where or why.… Read more »
triceespice
Guest
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, “Firstly we really don’t give a damn about when petroleum jelly was thought about when, where or why.” Ok, but your point is.….….…. The article states: “Girl, I heard (hearsay) that we (Black women) traditionally grease our scalps because the slaves used to do it, but not to help grow their hair. They would put petroleum jelly on their scalps to prevent fleas and ticks from feeding on their scalps.” (I find that statement offensive.…) “Blue Magic hair CONDITIONER its not grease people read the… Read more »
Moira
Guest

You find the fact that flees and ticks plagued slaves offensive? Do you really think slaves were concerned with the health and growth of their hair at the time? It makes more sense that women who wanted to maintain their hair were more concerned with the functional benifits of grease and head wraps.

Dick Richard
Guest

ok greasy scalp. Try changing that stuff now and then it stinks! Whew!

Varah Potter
Guest

So interesting! I haven’t really looked into the history of black hair but this article makes me want too. The lice part was interesting, I remember getting it in the fourth grade, sucked! I use grease on my hair all the time, blue magic is my hair’s bff! I’ve tried every oil, mixtures, products, and nothing works as well as Blue Coconut Conditioner if used with my LOC method as a sealant. Works wonders.

Dick Richard
Guest

Nah I’ll hang around

Shaniqua L.
Guest

So you ARE trolling. Okay then. Get a life.

Dick Richard
Guest

kiss my narrow lily ass , apegash

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disqus_c5MxS8tWHt
Guest
???, sorry..some of these replies made me laugh a bit…I had also read about “grease” keeping ticks and such off the scalp..My grandfather told me that “grease” was good for my scalp to keep bugs away…his mother was a slave.…ijs..as I got older I stopped using it because I felt it weighed down my hair…I’ve been “natural” for about 4 years now, I wear my hair curly, wavy, straight…I’ve had braids and weave.…whatever works for your hair, keep doing it…don’t down people because of it. I use what people call products for “white” girls in my hair, it works for… Read more »
BlueCornMoon
Guest
Seems like your demographic comprises the bulk of the demand for tanning beds & places to lie in the sun, exposing yourself to getting malignant melanoma trying to get what people of color have naturally. You say your hair makes you look younger. There’s more to looking younger than just hair. My siblings,pals & I went to high school & college with lots of white kids & at reunions WE ARE ALWAYS THE YOUNGEST LOOKING ONES BECAUSE OF THE MELANIN IN OUR SKIN. Even if some of us are gray haired & bald, there are very few wrinkles, crows feet,… Read more »
Dick Richard
Guest

Lil Kim, Nikki Minaj, Oprah , No facelifts? Ok.

BlueCornMoon
Guest

/Plastic surgery to conform to false ideas of beauty, imagined imperfections & lack of self acceptance not because they NEEDED IT. Lil Kim’s face has been a horror show. Most black & white celebs who have butt & breast lifts,face implants & other nonsense don’t really need it. Society puts too much emphasis on what people look like,how much they weigh & a false idea of the perfect face & body

Catherine Edmends
Guest

just as an aside most melanomas occur on skin that isn’t exposed to the sun — but i get your point

Terri Clawson Swift
Guest

Hi. Petroleum jelly wasn’t invented until 1859 and it wasn’t manufactured until 1870. I wonder if the slaves used some other sort of grease or animal fat instead?

Nita
Guest

Bear Grease

sharon Childs
Guest

I have been natural hair wearing girl since 2000 or 1999 I try my chemicals in my hair when I was in my teens but they just made my hair fall out. I brought my daughter up on natural hair wash grease scalp brush braid and go. The first chance she got after turning 19 she permuted and dye her hair one year later she had to cut it all off so badly damaged. To me natural hair I say” Chemical and product free” hair is just easier

mambocat
Guest

I didn’t know that about petroleum jelly, Terri! Lard would have been plentiful on any plantation and in any household. About the same consistency as petroleum jelly. Perhaps, later on, field hands after abolition used petroleum jelly? I have white friends with very curly hair who use black hair products because they usually work better than all that “designer” stuff.

Elementary Teacher
Guest

Hello, I Just stumbled onto this website and the topic intrigue me. As a schoolteacher of elementary students, I find that parents who grease the scalps of their children are less likely to have lice. One of the cures to having lice, besides the delouse shampoo, is to oil the scalp to prevent the nits from remaining in the head. And yes, this is where the term nit picker originated.

Mfundi Vundla
Guest

Growing up in Johannedburg Africans used Vaseline and whites used Brylcream. Vaseline in hair made it easy to get a comb through the hair. Uncombed hair was considered uncivilized or in Christian.

Years later African women discovered the hot comb which traveling through greased nappy hair morphed into straight hair. That wasprogress!

My daughter who thank God still has her natural hair informs me dry hair among people of the African species breaks unless treated with grease. “That’s white propke have lice in their hair and we don’t. “ so let’s give credit to African-American women ancestors. Hallelujah!

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