Photo credit: Ian Kiragu
Iman. Waris Dirie. Liya Kebede. Alek Wek. Agbani Darego. Fatima Siad. African women have been revered for their beauty for hundreds of years. What are their secrets for caring for their skin while living on a continent that gets the hottest summer climates and the highest sunshine duration (translation: extreme UV exposure)? Throughout history, African women have cared for their skin with natural ingredients, like plants and fruits, provided by the environment.
For centuries, radiant skin was a sign of health, so moisturizing was a vital factor in African women’s skincare. That belief still holds true today. Although the women of the various regions (north, south, east, and west) of Africa rely on different skincare ingredients and regimens, one thing remains true; they use indigenous herbs, flowers, spices, butters, and oils. Africa is home to some of the world’s most beneficial organic and natural ingredients for natural skin. Let’s take a trip across the continent and examine some of these ingredients.
- Marula Seed Oil (South Africa) – contains antioxidants, essential fatty acids (omega-9, omega-6). It protects the skin and hair from the harsh weather conditions.
- Sesame Oil (West Africa) – contains vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. It’s a natural sunscreen, moisturizer, slows skin aging, and anti-inflammatory.
- Baobab Oil (South Africa) – packed with vitamins A, D, E, and F, omega fatty acids, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant. It moisturizes, protects skin from extreme heat and cold temperatures, and promotes rejuvenation of skin cells.
- Avocado Oil (East Africa) – contains essential fatty acids, vitamin E, potassium, and antioxidants. It moisturizes skin, increases collagen production, treats skin conditions (eczema and psoriasis), facilitates wound healing and burns.
- Shea Butter (West Africa) - a nut from the Karité Nut tree, or “Tree of Life,” contains vitamins A, E, F, and essential fatty acids. It protects against the wind, sun, pollution, cold, UV rays, slows signs of fine lines and wrinkles, and aids collagen production.
- Cane Sugar (West Africa) – natural source of the alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid. It’s used for exfoliation, fights acne, provides skin hydration, and prevents aging.
- Rhassoul Clay (West Africa) – rich in magnesium, silica, potassium, and calcium. It absorbs excess dirt, oil, and impurities from your skin.
- Honey (East Africa) – has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and natural enzymes. Its humectant properties attract moisture to your skin. It’s anti-aging, anti-bacterial to help fight acne, and anti-inflammatory to calm eczema.
- Rooibos Tea (South Africa) – rich in antioxidants, zinc, vitamins C and D, and the anti-aging enzyme superoxide dismutase. When rubbed on skin, it fights acne, skin allergies and eczema, heals and soothes skin, increases collagen production, and helps prevent wrinkle formation.
- Milk (North Africa) – contains the alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, to exfoliate and soften skin, reduces wrinkles, boosts collagen, and brightens skin. It’s used in milk and honey baths with oils and aromatic flowers.
Now that you know the secret to beautiful skin, embrace natural, botanical ingredients. These beauty rituals have stood the test of time. Develop your regimen and be diligent about it. Before you know it, you’ll unlock the mystery of your beautiful skin.