East Africa: The Ethiopian tribes of the Afar, Bofana, Hamer, and Karrayyu have a unique tradition of styling their hair—they use butter as an integral part of their haircare routine. The Afar tribe, known for their distinctive ‘asdago’ afro styles and elaborately curled ‘dayta’ hairdos, cover their locks in butter, giving them a slightly ashy appearance while offering protection from the sun and keeping their hair supple.

Not limited to the Afar tribe, the Bofana and Hamer tribes also embrace the use of dairy products, particularly ghee mixed with red ochre, to create stunning and visually captivating hairstyles. The Karrayyu tribe takes this practice to another level by allowing the butter to drip through their hair, resulting in a great look.


All four tribes have a long-standing tradition of cattle herding and handcrafting the butter they use for their hair. While many people in the region use shea butter, the Afar and Hamer tribes specifically adhere to the traditional use of real butter for their haircare rituals.

Photographer Eric Lafforgue, who captured these incredible hairstyles, describes how the butter helps keep the intricate curls in place, likening the resulting appearance to Victorian ladies or Rastas. The liberal use of butter holds the curls for days and provides moisture, nourishment, and protection for the hair and scalp from the sun.

The Afar tribe, living in unique mini-kingdoms with their sultans, has faced persecution but has managed to preserve their talent for hairdressing. Similarly, the Karrayyu tribe, an ancient nomadic group residing in the Awash Valley, has also faced challenges due to persecution and changes in their traditional lifestyle.

These tribes’ unique haircare practices showcase their creativity and cultural heritage and reflect the threats they face from modernity and encroachment on their traditional ways of life. Despite these challenges, their excellent use of butter in hairstyling continues to captivate and inspire, offering a glimpse into the rich diversity and traditions of Ethiopia’s tribes.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here