Before the days of our enlightened knowledge about black hair, we thought we needed two things to take care of our strands—perms and grease. Grease seemed to be a catchall phrase for anything that wasn’t shampoo or oil. Brands liked to call them hairdressing or conditioner, but we don’t remember them being called anything but grease in our house.
Black hair is magical, and beautiful and labor intensive—we scooped up anything that promised to help with the process of keeping it looking good. We may not agree on everything, but we can all unite under this list of products that definitely touched our scalps (or the scalp of someone we love) at some point in our lives.
Shayna Watson is a freelance style and beauty writer who can be heard saying “Natural hair is a lifestyle” at least once a day. A Pittsburgh native, she currently lives in a shoe-box apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y.—which is fitting, since she really loves shoes. You can check out her personal style musings on A Nu Creature and follow her on Instagram.
This was the go-to comb-out product from SoftSheen-Carson for ’fros large and small back in the day. Apparently, it’s still pretty popular since most major retailers have it in stock. Between the spray for extra-dry strands and the rub-on conditioner cream, there was really no excuse for your Afro to look dusty.
We know we weren’t the only ones sent out of the house with streaks of white in our twisted ponytails from the large amounts of Liv slapped on in the mornings. We can still hear our mom rebutting our whining with the promise that the sun would melt it, which never came true until way after recess. Almost the whole school day, we were looking like Penelope Pussycat while squinting from grease in our eyes and shiny foreheads as the sun slid the cream right down our faces. Thanks, Mom.
Made with vegetable oils, bergamot, olive oil, castor oil and lanolin (a wax secreted from the glands of wool-bearing animals; makes sense why we would think to use it on our magical manes), Dax pomade was not playing around when it came to slicking down our strands and whipping those edges into place. They also made a petroleum-based wave pomade that we used to steal from our brother’s room during that period when he was obsessed with getting 360 waves.
Between this blue anti-breakage formula, the green bergamot hair-and-scalp conditioner, and the clear coconut oil formula, we don’t think we ever stepped outside without some version of Blue Magic on our hair. And even though the green version had us smelling like a tea bag, we were sure our hair would be a dry, broken mess without it. We have since learned that it doesn’t take so much product to hydrate our hair, but the memories of this product will stick with us.
Motions transports us right back to the hair salon. From the relaxer to the wash and shampoo, to the holding foam used for our wraps, to the fine oil-sheen spray, Motions was with us every single step of the way. Its products were known for feeling less oily than others while still providing a moisturized feel to our hair. We can’t remember if they did all of that, but we do remember the scent that made the whole salon smell like fruity body spray while we spent hours under the dryer.
Pink lotion was everything to black hair when we were growing up. When your hair felt dry, you just knew that Luster’s Pink lotion would whip it right back into shape. You didn’t even have to ask if your friends had any when staying over at their house—if they were black and had hair, they were using Luster’s.
We always loved that this was called “scalp special”—made us feel like we were using the top shelf of greases. When we saw this white-and-blue plastic jar come out, we knew the hot comb was not far behind. Dudley’s was put on our strands right after the blow dry so the mix of scent and hair smoke would be stuck in our nostrils all night. Man, the things we went through for this hair.
We are surprised that we have any hair left with all the products we slapped on back in the day. After the whole perm, rinse, condition, rinse, blow-dry process, we would reach for Razac (I mean, it says it’s perfect for perms) and slather that on our freshly washed hair to start the product fortress that our follicles were used to. We really were a sucker for these hairdressings that promised to be lightweight and make our perms last. That was the dream.
Oil-sheen sprays were aplenty in our product cabinets. Ors Olive Oil, Motions, Dudley’s—everyone made a version of this aerosol can with slick spray oil on the inside. Isoplus called this one a “hair doctor in a can,” which is hilarious considering that we aren’t quite sure what hair health benefit it actually had. We used it on top of all the other products we used, so it was less about real moisturizing and more about getting that fresh oily shine that we all wanted. Apparently it wasn’t a good hair day until we could see the glimmer of oil off our tresses.
We used a lot of pomades, y'all. Royal Crown Hair Dressing pomade promised to soothe split ends, included a blend of ingredients you loved and made a special formula exclusively for men. Unless you were a Murray’s family, you had (and probably still have) a few canisters of this in your bathrooms. Bust out that wooden brush, slather on some Royal Crown and smooth down those edges.