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Tsubaki Abra (Camellia Oil)

I grew up hating my hair. I really did. My formative years were in the 1980’s, which were pretty disastrous for everyone’s hair I suppose – but every time I think back to those days or see pictures of myself sporting that old Nobi ‘bowl’ style cut, I truly cringe.  Straight and floppy, limp and lifeless, and uniformly cut around, I think even now it would put every other Asian bowl haircut to shame.  And no – you don’t get to see it.

Now that I’m a mature, stylin’ (too cool for the ‘g’), vain adult, I am always looking for the next best thing to try for my luxurious, Japanese hair, that I like to think is the envy of all pre-teen, future Nobis.  From gels to sprays to crèmes to pomade, I have tried everything in order to determine what works best for me.  And while I can safely say that I have never tried any women’s hair product in my hair (at least not on a regular basis) I have recently been treated to an incredible Japanese follicle experience called the Tsubaki Abura (Camellia Oil).

Tsubaki Abura is exactly what it claims to be – oil from Camellia seeds.  Derived from the Camellia Japonica, a small bush that sports red, pink, or white flowers, the cultivated seeds are cold-pressed through a traditional technique in order to acquire the oil.  It turns out, Tsubaki Abura is comparable to healthy oils like Olive oil, and is low in saturated fats and full of antioxidants and Vitamin E.   It also has a very high smoking point, so you can use it to cook dishes that utilize very high heat, from stir-fry to deep-frying (yes, it’s time to upgrade that tempura recipe).  People also use it for all sorts of applications that oil is useful for, from protecting metal from rust, to making soap.

And this brings us back to hair, as Tsubaki Abura has been used for it for centuries in Japan, where it is mainly produced in the islands around Tokyo and Nagasaki.  From sumo wrestlers to homemakers, this has been a much-relied on source to strengthen, texturize, and give a healthy sheen to any hairstyle.  There’s even a new trend that has recently revitalized the use of Tsubaki Abura among young people, as it has properties that promote healthy hair and skin.  The high content of Oleic acid (packed with Omega 9 for you Omega buffs) makes the oil very compatible with human skin, making it one of the best moisturizers too.

The moment I took out the bottle, I remembered watching my mom use Tsubaki Abura while I was growing up.  The feminine packaging didn’t help either.  But you know what? I think it’s totally fine for men to use it.  The consistency is a lot like olive oil, and while it may feel weird to put it in your hair at first, you’ll appreciate the fact that it’s completely natural.  Just don’t offer anyone that you’ll grease their pan with the top of your head, and you should be good to go.

Pick up pure, 100% Tsubaki Abura at any Japanese grocery store, like I did at Katagiri – the $16.10 bottle by Oshima Tsubaki should last you quite a while.  But also keep an eye out for shampoos and conditioners containing Tsubaki Abura wherever you shop for Japanese products.


—– Reported by Nobi Nakanishi


Every bottle of Tsubaki Abura has a simple spout on the end
which keeps you from pouring out too much at once.
I usually say – don’t drink it!  But since this is 100% natural… you actually can.

Want silky and shiny results like this?  You can join the Nobi Hair Club
which meets once a week in a super secret location (password required),
or just go buy some and save yourself the hassle.