Creams, oils, foams, gels, conditioners, leave-in conditioner and butters. What do these have in common? They are products found in our shelves, marketed to us as the magic fix for healthy black hair. Like many generations before us, coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter and the likes have always been a staple in our  hair. My mother oiling my scalp with me between her legs is a ritual I would never forget like many people who look like me. Gradually, there’s a resounding message in the media we consume telling us that what we know and cherish about our hair and caring for it is not quite true.

no oils no butter poster with black woman and curly hair

Featured: taelorthein

The meaning of the phrase is confusing in itself but no need to worry, today, we’ll be doing a deep dive on the ‘no oil, no butter’ movement. The phrase literally means phasing out raw oils and butters from your routine. This means that the oils and butters on your hair should be from highly processed products. The ‘no oil, no butter’  movement has been on our ‘things we’re curious about’ list so we’ll be going over what it is, where it came from, why it’s such a popular trend and whether or not you should join the movement to remove oils and butters from your hair routine.

Where did it all start? 

The movement to remove raw oils and butters from your regular hair care routine has been around for a while. We can trace the movement as far back as 2013 where Jennifer Rose, a New York based salon owner went viral. She warned against using oils and butters because they were too heavy and are not as effective in sealing moisture. Her advice was to have a three step routine:

  1. Wash your hair regularly with a sulfate free shampoo.

  2. Condition your hair with one conditioner.

  3. Use one styling product such as a gel or foam to define your curls or coils.

The #30dayhairdetox is a challenge that was started to echo these sentiments. Aishia and Aeleise, creators of Black Curl Magic, started the hashtag as a mind shift and lifestyle change where you are challenged to go 30 days without raw shea butter, raw coconut oil, Jojoba oil,  Eco Styler and products that include them in the top 5 ingredients. 

Recently, a curly hair and loc educator who teaches how to simplify their hair routine went viral in 2021 when her TikTok video claimed “oil and butters are making your hair more thirsty”. In her video, she was wetting her clients hair. While doing this, she emphasized that water is the source of hydration, oil and water do not mix… the hair repels the water which leads to dehydrated hair. 

Why is it even a thing?

There are many reasons this movement is making waves from the plain fact that a lot of Black people, especially naturals are tired of the idea of buying so much product and spending so much time on hair. 

As Black people, we have come a long way to loving and embracing our hair. However, we’ve come to the realization that we would love to cut wash day into wash hour. The three-step method seems like an easy fix to maintain healthy hair as well as save time and cost significantly. 

The ‘no oil,no butter’ movement has met a lot of pushback. Watching youtubers and vloggers like Jenn Jackson, Camille Janae, Laila Washington and Star Puppy  had very mixed reactions on the trend. A lot of the criticism stemmed from the idea that scrapping oils and butters does not really work for tightly coiled hair. However, the people that love it, love it!

If you find that some things need to change with your routine and the no oil or butter trend will help you get your hair to its healthiest. Here are a few tips that might help: 

  • According to Camille Janae, the three step hair routine is recommended for wash and gos. 

  • Use a sulfate free clarifying shampoo to wash your hair every wash day to get rid of all the build up.

  • Use a conditioner where the first five ingredients are not oils or butters.

  • Regularly trim your hair to get rid of split ends.

It’s best to do the 30 day hair detox and see how your hair reacts to it before completely committing to it. A curly hair stylist, Chloe Elliot advises that while you’re doing this detox, “Keep your shampoo the same, keep your conditioner the same, keep how you style your hair the same and then try that oil that you want to try. Give yourself a few weeks, say three wash days  to see how your hair feels before you try something else. Don’t be the person that throws everything out and starts again. Because you’ll never know whether it’s the shampoo, the conditioner, the leave-in, or whatever that made the difference.”

My personal takeaway is- I know what works for me already. I have curated a simplified routine that works well for me and grease, oils, leave-in conditioners and creams are a huge part of that routine. As an African, I have a cultural connection to using oils and butters, they don’t weigh my hair down or make my hair dehydrated to the best of my knowledge so oils and butters are staying. 

The bottom line is that hair care is very versatile. As we always say, there’s no one size fit all approach to haircare, what works for others might not work perfectly for you. Don’t be quick to throw away your creams and oils because of what you heard. If your hair doesn’t suffer damage like breakage, dryness or hair loss, then don’t switch things up too quickly. 

Our parting question is-how important are oils and butters in your hair care routine? Let’s have a conversation in the comments section!

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