Three African Beauty “Secrets” I LOVE
by Janice Caceres
For several years, my “routine” has been to cleanse with a mild, preferably organic, shea butter based cleanser (Dr. Wood’s), tone with a homemade toner, and moisturize with olive oil or jojoba oil. Exfoliation with ground oatmeal and sugar and a clay mask once in awhile completed my “beauty” routine. Recently, however, I decided to try black soap, renowned in western Africa for its exfoliating, clarifying, and cleansing properties. I first tried Dr. Woods Pure Black Soap, which I discussed in a previous review.
Dr. Wood’s Pure Black Soap is a VERY popular item here in upstate New York, so when I tried to replenish my stock, the only store in which I could find it was completely OUT. Since I loved the way it made my skin feel, I didn’t want to give it up. Off I go to the local “health” food store to try my luck there.
They carry a lot of soap, black and otherwise, but the one I chose was by “Out of Africa”. They make a Lavender/Shea Butter, a Vanilla/Shea Butter, an Apricot/Shea Butter, and African Black/Shea Butter soaps, as well as many other shea butter products, which I intend to try sometime in the future. Although tempted to try something different (this is why I try to stay out of stores!), I bought what I came in for: The Organic Shea Butter Soap: African Black.
I love it even more than the Dr. Wood’s, at least for my face!! Rich and creamy, with a wonderful natural clean smell, this soap contains 20% organic shea butter. A portion of the purchase is donated to educate children in Benin, and the soap is hand made in Benin. Nothing artificial is added to the basic ingredients, which are as follows:
Organic Shea Butter, palm kernel oil, olive oil, plantain skins, essential oil, and purified water (See my Dr. Wood’s review for how traditional black soap is made).
It is completely biodegradable and neither the soap nor the ingredients they use in the soap are tested on animals. After cleansing, my skin feels soft and clean, not taut or dry, even before toning and moisturizing. I’m a permanent customer of this line of products. (Soap: $3.59 for a 4 oz. bar, but prices vary online).
Feeling a bit adventurous (I budgeted a certain amount for this trip), I also purchased Alaffia’s Rooibos and Shea Butter Antioxidant Face Cream. Already a fan of their shea butter (it truly is the REAL thing), and aware of the exfoliating and antioxidant properties of Rooibos (Red Bush) tea (South Africa), I chose, from the several in their collection, the above. Although I still use pure shea butter as a night cream, this light anti-aging product is perfect for my combination/dry skin during the day. Never greasy, it absorbs quickly. I will purchase this product again, as well as their shea butter and other creams ($12.95 locally, prices are comparable online). The ingredients are as follows:
Aloe Vera infused with organic Rooibus, handcrafted shea butter, virgin coconut oil, kpangnan butter, African wild honey, vegetable emulsifying wax, palm stearic acid, vanilla extract, potassium sorbate, rosemary extract, ylang ylang essential oil, limoneme (from essential oil) and ascorbate acid.
EWG does not have ratings for Alaffia’s products at this time. I used their “product rating” tool, and this particular facial cream rated at a “1”. However, they have no data on rooibos, kpangnan butter, african wild honey, or limoneme. I would consider this product safe for all those NOT affected by essential oils, which can be tricky for sensitive skins. Those allergic to honey should probably not use this product.
Alaffia is a fair trade company.
I have used shea butter as a night cream for quite awhile. Shea butter is one of those products one must take care in purchasing, as there are many creams that try to “pass” themselves off as “pure” shea butter products, and many that contain hexane. I have used Alaffia’s Handcrafted Shea Butter ($11.00 for 2 oz. http://www.alaffia.com) and recently tried NOW’s 100% natural Shea Butter (guaranteed hexane free, no animal testing approx. $10.00 for 7 oz.). I prefer the consistency of the NOW; however, repeated attempts to find out from the company if they use “fair trade” shea butter have been unsuccessful, so I will go back to Alaffia when I run out again. Pure shea butter is wonderful for dry skin, but it does feel heavy until it absorbs. That feeling is worth it, however, because those “fine dry lines” just are not there anymore. I use it during the day as a lip balm, and have mixed it with my Aubrey or mineral blushes as a lip gloss or cream blush with very good results.
So, there they are--three basic African “beauty” secrets I have tried thus far: Shea Butter (Alaffia $11.00 2 oz. or NOW apx. $10.00 7 oz.), Rooibos Tea (I make my own toner from the tea, which I also drink) and Black Soap (Out of Africa or Dr. Wood’s). I am very pleased with the results of all of these products and will try other variations in the future. Look for updates!