Traditional Beauty Secrets of Sub-Saharan Africa
In Sub-Saharan Africa, each community has healers who use plants. This traditional medicine is rarely recognized and is sometimes assimilated to magico-religious rites, yet the ingredients that are most frequently used in beauty rituals in Sub-Saharan Africa are inherited from this traditional pharmacopoeia.
Beauty recipes and secrets are transmitted from mother to daughter. The principle of “What is good never dies” dictates this heritage and beauty rituals, even if reviewed, are transmitted at the constitutive moments that mark a woman’s life.
Although the Sub-Saharan region is vast and climates differ from one area to another, its main natural and traditional ingredients are always both mineral and plant-based. Shea butter, the most used ingredient, is extracted from the nuts of “The sacred tree of the savannah.” The butter is rich in moisturising properties and is used for both hair and skin care. It protects and repairs skin that is exposed to sun, helps prevent dehydration and flaking due to dry climates, adds shine to hair and facilitates braiding.
Aloe Vera, or aloe, also has a central role in African beauty culture. Its light pulp is extracted from green leaves and is valued as a healing agent for both internal and external use. It is also referred to as the “Miracle plant.” Aloe’s properties are often appreciated for both healing and enhancing skin.
Ingredients can be used pure or combined as in a balm from Mozambique that requires 25 items including: argan oil, coconut oil, evening primrose oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, jojoba seed and oil, rosehip oil, safflower, shea butter, tea and coffee extracts, powdered African peach pits, raisin seeds, borage, royal jelly and bees wax, among others. The ingredients are ground and mixed for hours to obtain a creamy mixture that is used to cover new-born babies or as a daily massage ointment.
Sub-Saharan Africa holds a large reservoir of raw materials for hair and body care that includes fine oils extracted from plants (sesame, avocado, argan, baobab, ganache, etc.), vegetable butter (almond, mango, cocoa, etc.), and even minerals such as kaolin or coal.