Could Afro and curly hair have a new hero ingredient on their hands? A key component in two-time Afro Hairdresser of the Year Charlotte Mensah’s new hair care collection, we caught up with the woman herself to find out more

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When it comes to hair products, few have cultivated the type of loyal following that coconut oil has. However, it seems there could be a new hero ingredient hot on its heels to give it a run for its money in the curly hair stakes; and its name is manketti oil.

What is manketti oil?

While it may be relatively ‘new’ when compared to coconut oil in terms of its use in modern hair products, manketti oil has a vast and impressive heritage having been used for generations in other parts of the world. “Manketti oil has been used in Africa for centuries and is one of the richest, most hydrating ingredients that nature has to offer,” says two-time Afro hairdresser of the year Charlotte Mensah. “Manketti oil is sourced from manketti nuts (also known as mongongo fruit, mongongo nut or nongongo) which are egg-shaped, velvety fruits that grow on mongongo trees in northern Namibia. They are a staple diet in some areas, most notably among the San Bushmen of northern Botswana and Namibia. Archaeological evidence has shown that they have been consumed by the San communities for over 7,000 years.” And it’s no wonder that they’ve stood the test of time thanks to their cocktail of health-boosting ingredients. “Manketti is loaded with vitamin E (around 563mg per 100g of shelled nuts) and a plethora of nutrients including calcium, magnesium, protein, zinc and copper.”

Why is it better than coconut oil?

The central component in Charlotte Mensah’s new Manketti hair care collection, it provides a coconut oil upgrade by offering many of the same multi-tasking benefits, plus some distinctive added extras to make it stand out as a hair hero in its own right. So in what ways is it better? “Coconut oil is very high in saturated fatty acids and when applied to hair it can drip all over your shoulders and is super runny which can leave the hair limp,” explains Charlotte. “In contrast, manketti oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which act as a barrier to help prevent moisture from escaping from the hair for longer. It also hydrates the hair without the greasy finish and provides weightless moisture to Afro and curly hair types.”

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How do you use it?

When it comes to application, a little goes a very long way. Which hair types suit it best? Think thick, brittle, dry or damaged very curly and Afro hair types, ranging from weaves to natural, relaxed to braided styles.

When I went to the launch of the range at Charlotte’s Hair Lounge salon on Portobello Road, it was the collection’s versatility that particularly stood out. Comprising of the Manketti Oil Shampoo , £18,  Manketti Oil Conditioner , £18 and Manketti Hair Oil , £36,  it proved highly effective when it came to both styling and deep conditioning. “The Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Conditioner is also light enough to wear as a leave-in conditioner,” says Charlotte. “Simply squeeze a small amount in your palms, emulsify with water and then apply. If your hair is damaged due to over exposure to the sun or from swimming in chlorinated water, this is an ideal remedy as it will slowly help to repair the hair by replenishing lost moisture.” It also works great for twist-outs when emulsified (just by mixing a 50p size amount with a glass of water) in a spray bottle to provide a helping hand in terms of hydration and can be used as a pre-shampoo treatment too when used with steam.

In terms of the Manketti Hair Oil, (the purest embodiment of the oil in the range), Charlotte recommends both small amounts and selective application: “After washing, drying and styling, rub a few drops into the palms of your hands then lightly work it into your hair.” However should your hair need a little extra nourishment, it can also be used as an overnight treatment. “Apply Manketti Oil at night and wash your hair the next morning. This can be repeated every week to help promote healthy, strong conditioned hair,” advises Charlotte.

Should you need some quick mane management when on-the-go though, the oil also acts as a great way to add definition and shape to curls. “We all know that curly frizzy hair can be a nightmare to handle, particularly as temperatures begin to rise,” says Charlotte (and don’t I know it!) “So to tame those spirals, use 2-3 drops of Manketti Oil, apply it to the ends of your hair et voila! Beautifully defined and hydrated curls will be yours!”

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Does it have any other uses?

It does indeed - dry skin and lips will benefit most from its moisture-boosting powers. “I always dab a tiny drop of my Manketti Oil around my cuticles before going to bed and find it delivers superb results when I wake in the morning,” says Charlotte. “I also like applying Manketti Oil on my lips instead of lip balm as it leaves them lovely and hydrated.”

A mega emollient boasting some effective multi-tasking prowess, it seems that coconut oil may have some exciting competition on its hands.

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