Beauty Treatments from the Motherland: Quarantine Edition

Quarantine life is marked by returning to the archives, back to our childhood homes, 90s R&B classics, comforting recipes, and of course, the most comfortable hoodie in your closet.

As strange as this quarantine period may feel, in many cultures the practice of staying indoors for long periods of time goes back generations and, in some cases, is still practiced today.

In Eritrea, newlyweds quarantine in the groom’s parents house for 30-45 days after their wedding in a tradition called “Hitsinot,” which roughly translates to "Honeymoon." During Hitsinot, the newlyweds unwind from the long wedding celebration and welcome friends and family who often traveled from faraway villages to congratulate the new couple.

Quarantine 2020 is obviously subject to very different circumstances, but similar to Hitsinot, this time in the home - at its best -  can provide the stillness to reflect & the time to try every beauty treatment under the sun.

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One of the first things many of us did when coming to terms with our new lifestyle, was overhaul our skincare routine. Personally, I‘ve purchased new serums, a retexturizing mask and a fancy exfoliator, and started incorporating facial massages every night. Deciem, the brand behind fan-favorite The Ordinary, has also started offering free skincare consultations from home.

While we have access to all the Hyaluronic acids, Vitamin Cs and enzyme masks at the tip of our fingertips, there’s something comforting and magical about incorporating heirloom beauty routines passed down generations. We can’t afford to act brand new and forget all the potions that took hundreds of years to perfect! For a couple hours a week, we can share time and space with generations past simply by performing some of the same practices on our skin and hair. Plus, the debut of outside will appreciate you for it.

Here are a few favorite Eritrean beauty practices for the skin and hair, including a recipe at the end.

Share with us other heirloom beauty treatments you’re enjoying at home!

<3, Mama

Onion Juice for Hair Growth:

I personally had never heard of using onion juice for hair growth until I came home for Christmas last year and my cousin’s hair had grown INCHES. After all those years crying from onions, who knew she actually was looking out. “Onion juice works,” she rapped.

Apparently the sulfur in onion juice is found to stimulate hair follicles and can increase the growing phase of the hair.

To make onion juice for hair,

  • Roughly chop 1/2 onion and blend (yellow is best because it contains the highest amount of sulfur)
  • Using pantyhose or cheesecloth, strain juice  into a glass container.
  • To temper the smell, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. I like eucalyptus & lavender.
  • Half an onion will yield enough onion juice for about 2-3 treatments. You can refrigerate & reuse the solution for up to 10 days.
  • Put the discarded onion into a ice cube tray and  use these cute onion pods for your next lasagna!

When applying, you may want to use gloves because while the scent of the onion washes off the hair, it can linger in the skin. Apply onion juice to scalp and leave the solution in for at least an hour. FInish by washing hair with shampoo & conditioner.

Tish Spa Treatment:

Gubtish aka “Tish” (known as “Dukhan” in Sudan) is a spa treatment similar to a sauna, in which branches and leaves from various healing plants are placed over a fire in the ground, creating steam. Women sit on a stool above the fire (no fear) and are wrapped in several blankets to prevent the steam from escaping and maximize sweating. 

The Tish process detoxifies the skin and adds an orange-ish glow that resembles a spray tan (due to the acacia wood). Yes, our ancestors invented the spray tan lol. Many women also find relief in the Tish treatment while they are menstruating as it reduces bloating & cramps, and alleviates feelings of lethargy. Tish is also known to regulate irregular menstrual cycles, treat fungus infections and soothe joint pain. 

Plants used for Tish vary, but usually include branches from the Olive Tree (Awle) for its moisturizing qualities, leaves of the Sand Olive (Tehses) for wound healing, Acaia Wood for the cute orange tint it leaves, and bark from the Terminalia brownii plant (Weiba) for its antibacterial qualities and promotion of overall pussy health.

While sitting over the fire, women are given a fibrous beverage called Tihni to boost iron and rehydrate from all the sweat leaving the body. Usually the treatment lasts for 45 min - 1 hour, depending on one’s stamina.


Henna is typically reserved for celebratory occasions like weddings and baby showers, but I mean, the rush of a semi-permanent tattoo can add a lot of spice to a typical quarantine day.

Unless you’re a pro, I suggest you stick to applying henna in lines or dots. It can start to get messy once you start trying to make paislies outchea.

Since we’re not visiting the nail shop in a while, try spicing up those quarantoes with some henna love.

Don't be afraid, go crazy! Check this IG page for contemporary henna inspiration.

Likay for Deep Conditioning Moisture Treatment:

Likay (aka Shoruba) is a hair treatment made from cow’s milk butter that provides hydration and smoothness, adds curl definition, and promotes length retention. A similar hair butter treatment is traditionally done in India using a slightly different clarified butter called Ghee. 

While many use Likay as a hair mask and wash it out after 1-2 hours, several ethnic groups in Eritrea and Ethiopia leave the butter on the hair as a styler and protectant from the outside elements. Yes, it does smell, but who cares if your hair is poppin and/or if you're inside the house all day.

The butter used for Likay is made in a different process than butter used for food. Since we don’t have access to fresh cow’s milk, nor the time to jostle, curdle & strain, we can make a close version of Likay by clarifying unsalted butter.

Follow the below steps to make  your own DIY Likay! Repeat once a week for defined curls and lasting moisture. Let us know how your hair feels afterwards!

  • Melt unsalted cow’s milk butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • After melting, the butter will separate into three layers. This should take only a few minutes. Foam will appear on the top layer, the milk solids will migrate to the bottom of the pan, and the liquid gold that we want will float between the two.
  • Use a spoon intermittently to check if the 3 layers have separated. Once layers have separated, turn off the heat, skim off the top layer of foam and throw away.
  • Allow butter to settle for a minute or so and pour the golden central layer into a clean glass jar, leaving the milk solids at the bottom of the pan.
  • Wait until the liquid gold is room temperature and apply to damp hair, concentrating on the scalp and ends.
  • Optional:
    • Add other moisturizing oils like jojoba oil & almond oil.
    • Enhance absorption of the butter by  steaming the hair, or covering your hair with a shower cap and sitting under the dryer for 15-20 mins.
      Further Reading:

      Share with us other heirloom beauty secrets you’re enjoying at home!


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