Ghee Is the Naturally Hydrating Ingredient Your Post-Winter Hair and Skin Need

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Ghee—a form of clarified butter that's been slowly melted to remove its water content and milk solids—has been a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine for centuries and a go-to ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine for just as long. Hailed as a healthier alternative to butter, ghee can also be used to nourish the body from the outside in: Experts say you can reach for ghee to moisturize dry skin and cuticles, repair parched lips and even breathe new life into your hair.

“It's got a number of lipids, glycerides, fatty acids, and even vitamins like A, D, and E,” says Sejal Shah, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “So it's got hydrating properties and nourishing properties.” Keep scrolling to find out how you can reap these benefits.

Experts In This Article
  • Lisa Mattam, Lisa Mattam is the founder of the Ayurvedic-inspired skincare line Sahajan
  • Sejal Shah, MD, FAAD, Dr. Sejal Shah is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

How to use ghee for your skin

Lisa Mattam, founder of the Ayurvedic-inspired skincare line Sahajan, sings ghee’s praises as a head-to-toe moisturizer. “Because it's a solid turned to an oil, it's really nice on the cuticles, on the elbows, even on the bottom of the feet—you could put ghee on your feet and put some socks on,” she says. She adds that it's also great for dry, cracked lips, and its waxy, solid oil texture makes it feel like an ultra-nourishing lip balm. "I would really consider it more for stubborn dry areas,” says Dr. Shah.

Ghee has an edge over other natural fats that are commonly used as moisturizers, like coconut and olive oils, because it's packed with glycerides, which function as humectants. This means that ghee attracts moisture into your skin and locks it underneath the surface to keep your complexion hydrated for longer. What's more, because ghee is rich in fatty acids, it allows it to absorb quickly into the skin.  That said, it has the potential to clog pores, so it should be used with caution on oily skin.

You can use ghee on its own as a moisturizer, or combine it with other ingredients to make a mask that targets particular skin concerns. “You can certainly make a turmeric-ghee mask, which can be great for skin brightening,” says Dr. Shah. “You can mix ghee and a little bit of milk, which has lactic acid in it so you might get a bit of light exfoliation. Or, you can mix it with honey for a brightening, anti-aging mask because we know that honey has several healing, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties."

How to use ghee for your hair

Those who use ghee in their hair claim that it helps with everything from growth to softness, and while there's no medical literature to back up these claims, they could very well be legit.

Ghee is rich in vitamin E, which delivers intense moisture to the scalp and strands and protects against free-radical damage. While studies confirm that you have to ingest vitamin E for it to stimulate hair growth, applying it topically can help create a more optimal environment for hair to grow from.

Your best bet for reaping these benefits is to use ghee as a deep-conditioning mask, which Indian beauty blogger Arshia Moorjani “swears by” for keeping her hair soft and dry scalp nourished. You can use it on its own, mix it with your favorite conditioner, or mix it with olive oil, then slather it on your strands leave it on anywhere from 2-3 hours to overnight (in this case, just be sure you're using a pillowcase that you don't mind ruining). When it comes time to rinse it out, Moorjani recommends shampooing twice so that you aren't left with any excess oil in your hair.

Where to buy ghee

Ghee is easy to make at home,  but no one would judge you if you opted to cut corners and pick up a jar of the pre-made stuff. Shop it below.

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