Africa’s ancient beauty secrets are finally coming into the fore. Even though the continent produces some of the world’s most beneficial & unrivaled organic and natural ingredients for natural skin and hair care, its own ancient tribal traditions have been largely ignored. Until now.

Ghana And Nigeria

The most well known beauty secret from West Africa is the popular Shea Butter used increasingly in organic and natural skincare. Shea butter originates from the Karite Nut tree, also called the Mangifolia tree, found in the semi-arid savannahs of West and Central Africa. The women of West Africa have been using shea butter for centuries. The Karite Nut tree, which can live for 300 years, is often dubbed the “tree of life” by African women who make this precious butter by hand. Almost all parts of the tree have some practical use. The bark is an ingredient in traditional medicines against certain childhood illnesses and minor scrapes and cuts. The shell of the nuts can repel mosquitoes. Above all, because it is completely non-toxic and gentle, the fruity part of the nut, when crushed, yields a vegetable oil that can be used in soap-making, cooking, and skin and hair care.

The process of making shea butter, or karite, is long and arduous for the women of Africa. They awake early and trek up to 15 km (9 mi) to collect the fruits of the Karite Nut tree. With up to 40 kg (88 lbs) of fruits upon their heads, the women and children head back to the village to begin the process of extracting the butter from the kernel of the fruit. The pits are first removed from the fruit, boiled, sun-dried and finally roasted. When the pits have been completely dehydrated, they are handcrushed. This laborious work takes an average of 20 hours to produce 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of shea butter. Shea butter is now becoming one of the best selling and highly recommended skin care products around.

A trip to specialist beauty shops provides all the evidence that karite has become a beauty must-have, with shelves fully stocked with a range of hair, face and body products containing shea oil or shea butter. Because of its softening, anti-drying and protective effects, shea butter is a choice ingredient in soap, shampoos, lip balms, sun care products, hand creams, body massage products and anti-wrinkle creams. Shea butter is one of nature’s greatest moisturizers and has a vast number of proven healing properties. Because of its amazing properties, shea butter is an excellent ingredient for soaps, lotions and creams. The high level of vegetable fats found in shea butter contribute to its ability to heal burns and wounds and to promote cell regeneration and capillary circulation. It is commonly used in the treatment of eczema, rashes and severely dry skin.

This all-natural product also contains cinnamic acid, which provides natural protection against the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. The daily use of shea butter on the body and face reduces sun exposure, which can delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and help prevent skin cancer. It also acts as a natural barrier against the elements of cigarette smoke, and harmful chemical pollutants and smog in the atmosphere. While Western women discover the endless beautifying qualities of shea butter, the women of Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and elsewhere who make this product by hand, also benefit. Unrefined shea butter is a valuable natural resource for Africa, and its harvest is strengthening and building women’s economic security in the region.

Each year approximately 100,000 tons of shea butter and shea oil are exported from these African nations. By purchasing shea butter products, the lives of entire rural communities in West Africa are improved with better housing, medical care, food and fresh water. Most importantly, this extra income allows African women to give their children, particularly their daughters, the chance to go to school.

Other West African beauty secrets include Sesame Oil. When used directly on the skin after a shower, sesame oil is a light body oil especially good for grounding and soothing dry skin. It also makes a non-sticky massage oil that isn’t as likely to stain the sheets. Sesame is a good carrier oil and is often used as a base for essential oils that will be used directly on the skin. It is very gentle and appropriate for skin that has been sun-damaged and exposed to harsh environments.

Neem Oil is another West African secret. The neem tree is a natural insect replant for mosquitos, so using neem oil mixed into shea butter and applied directly on the skin can keep away mosquitos, although we like our “Citronella Insect Repellent” more. Traditionally, neem oil is used directly on ringworm, skin fungus and other strange skin issues.

Orange Oil is yet another secret. The one thing you need to know about using any citrus essential oil is that, for some people, it causes photo-sensitivity, which means you’re more likely to get sun-burned in the few hours after you use it. Orange oil and other citrus oils are best used in the evening for this reason, as the photo-sensitivity is short-lived. Orange and citrus oils are lovely pick-me-ups, so please don’t let this discourage you from using them!Made from the pressed skin of ripe oranges, orange essential oil is a natural mood-lifter and an excellent addition to shea butter as an evening body treatment. Used directly on the skin, buffered with a little sesame carrier oil, is is a sunny pick-me-up and a simple aromatherapy treatment.

CONGO AND CAMEROON

Congo produces a large percentage of the world’s sugar. What’s not well known is that sugar cane is also super popular in the beauty department, especially as an exfoliator. The alpha hydroxy acids found in sugar cane fight acne, reduce blemishes, prevent ageing and help in keeping the skin hydrated. One of the most effective alpha hydroxy acids is glycolic acid and sugarcane, is one of its few natural sources. Just apply sugar cane juice to your skin and let it dry. Use it regularly to see the effect. Want to rock velvet smooth skin? Try a 100% raw cane sugar scrub.

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