Does Chebe Powder Really Grow Hair?

In the pursuit of stronger, healthier, longer hair, you’ve probably come across some pretty convincing ~testimonials~ for hair-growth treatments, including DIY options (lookin’ at you, castor oil), to in-store products, like biotin and hair supplements. But one ingredient you may not know that much about? Chébé powder, a natural treatment that’s been used for centuries to help support healthy hair.

And if you’ve been curious about all things chébé powder (and whether or not it actually works, from a medical perspective), I chatted with Salwa Petersen, founder of her eponymous chébé-based beauty line, as well as board-certified dermatologist Uchenna Okereke, MD, below. Keep reading to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this little powder.

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What is chébé power?

Chébé powder is a blend of indigenous herbs named for its main ingredient, the croton gratissimus grain, which is called “chébé” in Chad. The ingredient also inspired the name of a chébé beauty ritual performed by the women of the nomadic tribes of Chad, who famously have long, healthy hair. “Chébé powder is a millenia-old ancient haircare ritual from my home country, Chad,” says Peterson.

Though some people swear by its ability to grow hair, others primarily use chébé powder to protect against damage and keep their hair strong. Peterson believes all hair types could benefit from chébé, including “curly, dry, damaged, and over-processed hair that’s prone to breakage,” she says.

What is chébé powder made of?

To make the powder (which, by the way, smells like a beautiful blend of spices), Petersen says that the chébé grains are first roasted and then powdered. Just like with any recipe, the way that chébé powder is made can vary, but generally, the chébé is mixed with other indigenous herbs and botanicals, such as cloves, vegetable oil, fragrance, as described in the below video.

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Does chébé powder grow hair?

First, a word on hair growth vs. hair-length retention. “When dermatologists talk about hair growth, we’re talking about hair that’s growing from the little bulb beneath your scalp,” says Dr. Okereke. And despite all your hopes and dreams, there’s nothing you can do at home to speed up the process of how quickly that strand of hair grows and emerges from your scalp. That’s determined by your hormones, your DNA, and maybe your dermatologist (with some prescription and in-office treatments).

But—but!—you can control your retention, meaning “how you can maintain the length of your hair and prevent breakage and hair loss,” says Dr. Okereke. Loss of hair length can be caused by anything from dry, brittle hair that breaks, to brushing through your hair too hard, to using too many heat and chemical treatments, to even really bad dandruff. And because you don’t necessarily notice your hair breaking as it happens, Dr. Okereke says this hair loss can give the appearance that your hair isn’t growing, when the real issue is that the growth isn’t being retained.

Salwa Petersen Chébé du Tchad Hair Cream

As for chébé, Petersen says Chadian women primarily use it for length retention, not growth. Despite what some people may say, Peterson agrees that “chébé does not grow hair.” Instead, the beauty ritual is meant to keep hair strands beautiful, strong, and healthier-looking over time, while acting as a shield against hair breakage and damage.

How do you use chébé powder on hair?

Traditionally, chébé is applied to the hair by alternating layers of chébé powder with layers of water, natural oils, and butters (like sesame oil and shea butter), and the process is repeated until all the hair is covered. “It’s a very labor- and time-intensive ritual,” say Petersen. “For women with the longest hair, the application can easily last several hours in one setting.” The ritual is repeated a couple of times a week, and usually left in the hair, not rinsed out.

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Taking into account how inconvenient this traditional application can be for modern living (chébé can stain, and the oils can leave a residue on clothing), not to mention how difficult it can be to find high-quality ingredients, Petersen launched her own chébé-infused product to make it a little easier: a leave-in hair cream formula that mixes chébé extract with a bunch of other hair-loving ingredients, like African shea butter, and a blend of oils (read: castor, sweet almond, sesame, avocado, and sea buckthorn oils).

Though, of course, there are a ton of other chébé options you can find in the depths of Amazon, Ebay, some hair forum, they’re not exactly regulated and are often filled with sketchy ingredients (so I shan’t be linking to any here, sry). Make sure to read reviews, watch YouTube videos, and patch test if you do decide to try a random bag of powder from the internet, k?

The final takeaway:

Chébé powder might benefit your hair in other ways, but it’s not going to solve all of your hair growth problems. If that’s your main concern, Dr. Okereke stresses the importance of seeing someone (hi, a dermatologist or a trichologist) who understands hair loss, hair growth, and hair restoration to help you correct your hair loss at the source.

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