5 African-inspired beauty secrets

5 African-inspired beauty secrets

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Text: Fern Lee

Africa was referred to as the dark continent in the past, but till today many remain ignorant of the rich culture and traditions across the various African countries. Fern Lee takes a look at some of its most interesting beauty secrets

Traditional skin care remedies that have been used for centuries and have withstood the test of time have always intrigued me: Hazeline Snow, Cold Cream, pearl powder, and herbs that promise healthy skin. Before launching ANIA, I knew little about Africa and was excited and filled with curiosity when I planned my first visit to North Africa, Morocco. I returned from that trip awestruck by the majesty of the continent and it's amazingly kind people.

The African continent produces some of the world's most powerful natural ingredients for skin and haircare, but it's native ancient beauty traditions are largely unknown to the rest of the world. Ancient African tribes and civilisations were quite the beauty enthusiasts — men and women indulged in elaborate beauty rituals they believed not only enhanced the way they look, but also held magical and spiritual powers. Here's what I found out about how people kept themselves looking good for centuries in the cradle of mankind.

Moroccans have been using argan oil as a skin moisturiser and hair conditioner since ancient times. Phoenicians in as early as 600 B.C. have documented the use of argan oil by locals to heal and beautify their bodies. Today, even after 3,500 years, the Berber women of Southern Morocco are known for their stunning beauty. Their secret is applying this precious oil regularly to their faces, nails, hair and body. Their legendary beauty attracted the attention of the world to this 'luxurious oil' that these women have been using for centuries. Testing this oil, scientists discovered that it is packed with fatty acids, rejuvenating vitamin E and other agents that add glow, youth and beauty to skin, hair and nails. You can check out ANIA's 100 per cent pure and organic Argan Oil.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Cleopatra — the one name that comes to mind whenever we think of an Egyptian beauty. She was described by the Roman historian Cassius Dio as "a woman of surpassing beauty", and was portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor as a glamorous seductress in the Hollywood version.

One beauty treatment she was well known for was Henna. Henna can do much more than just beautiful skin detailing. The Egyptians used henna to naturally dye their fingernails yellow and orange. Researchers found that henna was also used as a herbal treatment to condition their nails as well. 

Marula fruit extraction

Marula oil has gained a lot of attention lately in the beauty industry. Native South Africans have long used it on their skin and hair as a moisturiser, but when a women's cooperative in Namibia started to produce the oil for the cosmetic industry, word of the new beauty oil spread around the globe. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about what this 'rare' oil can do for your skin. Marula oil contains powerful antioxidants, high concentrations of nutrients and essential fatty acids that help reverse photo-damage, boost cellular activity and hydrate the skin at the deepest levels.

Girl with qasil on her face in Ethiopia
Ethiopian woman are renowned for their beauty and while most of it is genetic, natural skincare from plants plays a major role in preserving their lovely looks. Qasil — a leaf powder used as a cleansing and exfoliating face mask by Ethiopian women. It's also used as a weekly hair treatment to condition the hair and combat dandruff. The leaves are collected from the gob tree and crushed into Qasil, which helps to restore and control moisture and ensure a balanced complexion of your skin. Qasil is reported to soothe and moisturise dry skin, smoothen wrinkles, and remove dry spots including some pimples and other skin conditions. It will also help to relieve clogging of the pores of your skin due to heat and dust, leaving the skin refreshed and restored.

Sudan emerged from some of the world's oldest civilizations and served as a crossroad for others — namely ancient Egypt, Christian and Islamic civilizations. Its history extends further back than 7000 B.C. Due to its geographical position, Sudan was an extraordinarily prosperous empire ruled by a series of powerful kings and very quickly established itself very successfully as a middleman between sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt that controlled the flow of trade in luxury goods to Egyptian Pharaohs, which included gold, ivory, precious woods, wild animals, slaves and of especial interest to us, aromatics.

One of the most popular Sudanese beauty treatments is the dukhan. Before a wedding, it is the tradition for a bride to sit in a smoke bath of burning perfumed acacia wood called dukhan, which means smoke in arabic, twice a day for six weeks. During that period, the bride would not take a bath. Over time her body would be covered with aromatic oils and a thick layer will slowly cover her skin. On the last day of the dukhan process, the thick sooty layer would be peeled off to reveal glowing skin underneath. Do you have your own traditional skincare secret or tip to share? Leave a comment below — we would love to hear more.

Fern Lee was born and bred in Singapore and is always on the lookout for new experiences. Lee began her exploration of natural ingredients and traditional remedies as a way of passing time when she was living in Melbourne. Her curiosity lead to a full time interest and played a pivotal role in her co-founding of ANIA, a skincare company with a focus on bringing the highest quality natural and organic formulations from Africa.