I keep getting asked about skin care tips, especially for glowing skin, brighter skin and even....gasp....lighter skin. As we all know, I am not a dermatologist so my knowledge of these things are limited. However, I am fair complexioned and when you are fair complexioned and live in the tropics, it is doubly essential to take extra care of your skin. Dark complexioned as well, of course.
So I have compiled a few tips to getting clearer skin. Naturally, topical applications can only do so much. To get good results one needs to have a good diet, drink lots of water and stay out of the sun (after 10p.m, there is no more Vitamin D to be had). Exercising is also quite beneficial as the sweat that ensues helps to flush pores.
Here are my tips. The natural ingredients are easy to find in any market/shop around you. You can use limes or lemons. I used limes as lemons can be challenging to find in Nigeria. I have deliberately left to your discretion your choice of moisturizer and sunscreen. Sunscreen is a must by the way, not just because using limes will leave skin photosensitive but also because I consider it good practice.
Try this for at least a month. I hope that you can benefit one way or another but please do not expect any miracles. Your spots will not disappear, for example. Let me know how it goes.
As you may have guessed by my throwing it in your face so very often , I am a big proponent of all things Natural. How much so, I haven't even begun to share on this blog. I am also quite sensible about most things including my inclination for all things natural. I do not ever assume that an item is good for me just because it is natural.
As an example, we know that it is not all plants that are fit for human consumption - even for touching - as it may lead to a severe reaction. Good examples are poison ivy and inedible mushroom. Another point is that what works for one will not necessarily work for all. With factors like
different body chemistry
levels of activity
and much more, it stands to reason that this theory is correct.
Also, I find that there sometimes appears to be no restraint in terms of quantity in consumption or use of Natural products. Even if something is good for you, a lot of it will certainly be bad for you. A book I once read said that water is good for our consumption but even drinking too much of it is bad for us.
So what am I trying to say here?
Be Natural, try things with an open mind but always keep a log of how you react to things (especially if this reaction is adverse) so that you do not endanger your health, skin or hair.
Start small and then scale up when using a new natural product. Don't be shy to scale down or completely stop using the product if you feel uncomfortable.
Read the experiences of others that have used these natural products but do not assume that your experience will be definitely be the same.
If you have any health issue, you will still need to get advice from your doctor before you ingest or use natural products.
In case you are confused as to why I am dedicating a post to this, the answer is simple: I have heard way too many stories. I will share the highlights of a few with you.
Folks drinking Apple Cider Vinegar neat or barely diluted because they want to get the full effect ( I won't even comment on this one).
A reader wanted to get the full effect of her essential oil (to guard against hair breakage) and used it barely diluted in a carrier oil and at a point, neat. Her hair has fallen off, the poor dear. Essential oils are potent - to be used sparingly.
Reader reading/hearing that Henna was a good "conditioner" and doing a Henna treatment without following it up with a deep conditioning treatment. This led to dry hair and ultimately hair breakage.
Using a preservative free skin care product which unfortunately was hosting microbial growth. This led to skin irritation. ( I would advice if it is a DIY, make and use small batches at a time and if the recipe calls for water, use purified water)
Natural products are generally good for you but do not automatically assume that they are benign products that cannot do you harm.
A clean face is the first step towards clearer complexion and ultimately smoother skin. A Clarisonic claims to clean the face 6 times better than when hands are used. After owning this product for about six months, we can state that it does what it promises and more. For one thing, you will find that you will use less product on your face. This is primarily due to the fact that your face is so clean, the products don't have to combat a layer of dirt before sinking in to do its job.
Price wise, it can be described as a good deal. The Clarisonic (which starts at ~$80) can last years - all you need to do is to change the brush head every 3 months. At about $13 for one brush head, that does not work out badly at all.
Nigeria has certain staple foods. Bread is an important one. However, most of the bread sold in the shops can be described as "foodless food" as they are not at all nutritious.
If you are trying to practice a healthier life style and are unready to give up bread, making your own is the next best thing. Imagine making real wholewheat bread or using almond flour to come up with a healthier bread? Yes, we know that you can bake in your oven but this machine handles the mixing, kneading, resting and baking of bread leaving you free to do other things.
This Philips bread maker costs about N15,000 in Nigeria.
Despite owning it for over 2 years now, we still absolutely love this machine. The Vitamix is a useful tool for all who wish to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diets. The 2 Horse Power engine ensures that vegetables and fruits are blended down to enzymatic levels which is where it is most nutritious and thus beneficial for human beings. It can be used for making hot soups and healthy, cold ice-cream as well as any smoothie your mind can conjure. Use it for making peanut butter which contains only peanuts. No sugar or the other additives you get in the store bought version.
Throw in the Vitamix Dry blender jug and you will be able to grind your nuts and grains for baking. An amazing investment indeed.
Meat Grinder - Actually part of a food processor
Nigerians are meat lovers and usually find it very difficult to give up meat.
What?!! You mean no more spaghetti and meat balls? Sacre Bleu!
Luckily this machine which also has a juice extractor attachment and dry blender also has the ability to grind meat. That means one can buy skinless chicken - or better yet prep some by taking the skin off chicken - and then with their own choice of spices and condiments, mince it.
Its name is Tamashi and it costs ~N6,500 at the Park and Shop on Adeola Odeku. Please note that this was purchased a few years ago and so this particular machine may be out of stock. You should be able to find a substitute though. This was actually advertised as a meat grinder amongst other things.
Natural hair loves moisture. It penetrates better under higher-than-normal temperatures. Steaming provides a "wet" heat rather than a dry heat which a lot of Naturalistas avoid (with good reason). The Huetiful Steamer is portable and can be packed away after use which works for those of us that lack space. Price wise, it may not seem like a steal but when you compute the cost of monthly salon steam treatments, you will realize that this is a pretty good deal.
What equipment do you find that have made your natural lifestyle a bit easier?
A reader left a comment on this post about how an American company (Ojon) based its product line on Palm Oil because they have discovered that it is really beneficial to hair and skin. My interested was piqued and I wanted to find out more.
I went over to the Ojon website and was a bit confused when I started reading about a "golden elixir" "500 year old tradition". They described the indigenes of the place where this elixir was made this way: "They all had remarkably healthy, shiny hair." It made their "skin ... radiant, smooth and supple".
The process for making this elixir was described here and as I read it, I realized what it really was. Apparently, despite recognizing its benefits even Ojon hasn't named it right. It is Palm Kernel Oil and not Palm Oil.
I have processed Palm Oil from Palm Nuts for my local homemade Ofe Akwu (Palm Nut Soup). I have also had the pleasure of cracking palm kernel nuts (we ate them as a snack) in my grandma’s village house when I was much younger so I know what is what. What Ojon has in its products is not Palm Oil. I have explained the difference before in this post.
Reading how they described Palm Kernel oil, making it sound uber exotic highlighted the fact that we really need to sit up and start valuing what we have in this country. Now that Ojon has caught on to the fact that Palm Kernel Oil is really good for hair and skin, the rest of the world will begin to look into it.
That is what happened with Shea Butter. We have had it locally available for eons but at a point started overlooking its importance until foreigners pointed it out to us. Now everyone is back to using Shea Butter and extolling its many benefits.
I have often said that Palm Kernel Oil is similar to Coconut Oil. The Beauty Brains summarizes it as: The fatty acid distribution of oil obtained from palm nuts is very similar to coconut oil and can be used in place of it with virtually no difference in chemistry.
What more can one say? Use Palm Kernel oil in your hair and skin care. You may benefit greatly from it. Also, if you know the guys at Ojon, please let them know that they can get Palm Kernel Oil for cheap in Nigeria. I can even point them to the sources for free. Lord knows our economy needs it!
As my people would say: Wetin dey for Sokoto, e dey for Shokoto. (What we are looking for far away is actually in our backyard).
Just had to mention: We have had Palm Kernel Oil available in the Ahia for months but most folks don't even ask for it (maybe because of its nutty smell). It is the cheapest oil we have and yet very much overlooked. Hopefully, it won't be for much longer.
Castor Oil is well known among the ladies for its anecdotal use of thickening hair and salvaging edges. I say anecdotal because from a scientific point of view, these claims remain unproven - sorry, it is what it is.
Anyhow, so that we do not have a one-dimensional view of this wonder oil and miss out on its other uses and benefits, I thought I would mention that apart from hair applications (there is totally a pun there), castor oil has- for several centuries- been used for other purposes. My first experience with Castor Oil was when I was given a small quantity to ingest by my gynecologist a day before my delivery due date. I firmly believe that it catalyzed things and ensured that the baby made an appearance when she was due to.
Lots of other uses are well explained and demonstrated on some websites I have come across, so rather than doing any research and re-inventing the wheel, I am just going to direct you over to those blogs to learn more.
Getting on my Soap Box today...is this mic working?
Being female, I am acutely aware of what the world expects me to look like: Long shiny hair, clear complexion, perfectly made up face and perfect attires on a body that will draw cat calls from construction workers.
I admit that I bought into some of that while growing up but consistently found that I couldn't reach the ideal that had been set for me. The older I grew, the more I came to accept that not only could I not reach it, I really didn't care to - I have instead reached a comfortable place that I am pleased with and which describes who I am, currently. That can change without apologies to anyone. Like most people, I am still evolving.
While I am not trying to suggest that females the world over should let themselves go and not look tidy and well put together, I am stating that we should know our limits. One should also not embark on anything that is dangerous to ones’ self because someone has stated that it is the way to go. A good example would be my Igbo brothers who typically like their girls 'Fair and Fine' This has led to a spate of skin bleaching with dangerous topical applications to achieve that Fair complexioned look. Years later, a lot of those females have had to deal with severe hyper pigmentation, if they are lucky, or aliments brought about by mercury poisoning if they are not.
I have been lucky enough to come across a video (see above) that describes how I feel about the way women are objectified and made to go through hoops in order to become an ideal. It is stated in the video that: "Failure is inevitable because the ideal is based on absolute flawlessness." It goes on to comment on a picture of the ideal woman and states "It cannot be achieved. No-one looks like this, including her". Does that sound familiar?
I think Tracee is beautiful. However, even she will not meet the criteria for some people.
At NITC2, one of the speakers that we had was the very beautiful Ifeoma Williams who is an image stylist. Someone asked me what an image stylist was doing talking at a natural hair meet up - we all found out really soon. As it turned out, her presentation and the talk she gave not only lifted the spirits of those present, they left the meet up thinking that it was possible for them - despite their choice of having the much-misunderstood-in-Nigeria Natural hair, despite that pouch on their lower belly, despite the cellulite on their thighs - to be happy with their lot. They also learned ways to accentuate their best features (everyone has one).
The other day on twitter, someone was giving out tips on how to get a man and stated "Make an effort. Try to look nice. Work out. Guys like babes. Get that Don King hair done, stop forming "Oh Naturale” To me, he demonstrated clearly that he liked certain look - which is fine - but to want to impose that on girls the world over?
Something else that struck me when I went to look at this person’s twitter account was the fact that his voice is louder than mine. I have approximately 350 followers on twitter while he has over 26,000 so he is able to reach more people with his 'advice'. That tweet also got 137 re-tweets (perhaps not all positive) from females and males which means that even more people are walking around thinking that having natural hair is not an ideal. That is how the media works. How conditioning begins and takes root.
What I would like to see is folks, not just making an effort with their appearance just for the sake of pleasing others, but taking a healthy world view to beauty and what it entails. Respecting the fact that that view differs for each individual and that it can also be altered depending on what phase that person is on in their development would also make things easier. For example, prior to having natural hair, I wore my relaxed hair bone straight. That for me was the interpretation of beauty. Now displaying my textured natural hair is. I am still the same person. I have just developed/evolved. I am shying away from using the word ‘matured” as I am not certain it has much to do with maturity.
Fix what you can - by all means go the gym not just to get into those size 4 jeans but also to get fit and healthier. Wear make-up if it lifts your spirit or don't wear it if you cannot bear to have it on your face for extended periods of time. Respect that people have off-days and periods where they do go "Oh Naturale" (yes, I have seen the pictures of Tyra Banks out jogging and I think the world has gone mad for highlighting that picture because she did not go jogging all made up, wearing a body con dress and high heels – what, she's not allowed to puff and sweat?).
Always remember, if you cannot love yourself, how can you teach your child(ren) to do so? How do you influence your community positively in that regard? The cycle then goes on and on and on.
P.S: Please when leaving a comment, don't slag off the author of the tweet I quoted. I truly believe that if he knew better, he would do better.
NITC3 was proud to host Dr. Vivian Oputa who is a dermatologist (listen to her introduce herself and tell me you are not impressed). She spoke on several things, including Eating Yourself Gorgeous. A reminder that what we put in our bodies has a profound effect on the quality of our skin and even hair.
Again, I don't have a lot of footage but here's what I got.
I think we really need to look into getting a dedicated person to record the presentations at NITC meet ups.
Even the newest kid on the natural hair block has been told about how bad Mineral Oil is for our hair. I have been asked in the past why Manufacturers still put it in products. The simple answers are:
1. It is cheap. 2. It is non-greasy. 3. It is predictable.
I bet you understand the first 2 reasons so let me spend sometime explaining the last reason.
Mineral Oil all over the world can be made to a certain specification. However, natural oils aren't. They simply cannot be. The quality of soil, geography, cultivation method means that the very same Oil (say Castor Oil) may vary in property from one country to another. In fact, it may vary from one area to another within the same country.
A good example is our local Udala fruit (Igbo). It is also known as Agbalumo (Yoruba). If you eat the one from nearby Republique Du Benin it is almost always sweet. However, the same fruit grown in Nigeria may either be slightly sweet or remarkably sour.
From a manufacturing point of view, this means that a product made with natural products may not always turn out exactly the same. To reduce some of that variability which consumers do not like, manufacturers will stick to something like Mineral Oil which gives exactly the same result every time.
As you may well know, I get really excited about discovering natural local products.
Last Christmas, my sister gifted me with some oil that she had bought in Jos, Plateau state. It is called Atili oil and is regarded as the local Olive Oil. It is a greenish oil and as thick as castor oil.
It is derived from this fruit here which looks and tastes similar to pear called Ube (the local pear).
The major difference I think is that where the Ube’s seed is smooth, the Atili’s seed is fluted. The fruit is boiled or otherwise softened with hot water and then the pulp is eaten. It is from this pulp that Atili oil is derived.
Unfortunately the greenish color isn't properly captured here
There is limited research done on it (which is frustrating) but here is what I was able to garner.
It is used
in frying food and has been found to be more nutritious and flavorful than ordinary cooking Oil
as an ointment for healing wounds
It contains pigments, moisture, trace elements [metal], pro-vitamins, vitamins, naturally occurring antioxidants and enzymes which would make it a valuable addition to facial and skin creams. The antioxidants in the oil make it an ideal addition in anti-aging facial creams. It also makes a good protector from the elements and pollution because it is a free radical scavenger.
It would also make a good addition to oil based hair care products.
Atili Oil is a stable oil and thus has a long shelf life.
African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 6 (20), pp. 2319-2323, 18 October 2007. Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of Canarium schweinfurthii Engl. Essential oil from Central African Republic.
Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 7 (1): 27-30, 2008. Quality Characteristics of Crude and Refined Atili Oils.
This is a neat method for extracting or drawing the quality of herbs into any oils of your choice. You only need two ingredients for this: Your herb (you can use more than one at a time if you like) and some oil. Several oils sold in the market are made from using a part of a plant and an oil. E,g Amla Oil. Amla a.k.a gooseberry is a fruit and on its own doesn't yield any oil. A decoction (this method involves using heat) is made in order to get Amla oil.
For my herbal infusion, I have chosen to use: Neem leaves and Premium Palm Kernel Oil. Why did I choose these two? Well, Neem has a lot of benefits (anti-fungal, antibacterial, disinfectant, good for maintaining scalp health and addressing scalp issues like itchiness and dandruff and even the symptoms of psoriasis, lice inhibitor, gives hair a nice sheen, can act as an insect repellent -bye bye mosquitoes e.t.c) that I would like to enjoy. Palm Kernel oil because it is cheap and on its own is great for hair and skin. To me, it is comparable to coconut oil.
Prepare a clean glass jar. I used a canning jar.
Palm Kernel Oil
Put the Neem leaves in the jar.
Fill up the jar with oil. The oil should cover the leaves completely
Close the jar.
Shake like this.
Store in cool, dark place. Keep it there for about 3 weeks, taking it out every 3 days or so to shake the jar as shown above. At the end of 3 weeks, put your mix through a sieve. The resulting oil would have extracted the properties of the neem leaves giving you a rich herbal oil infusion which can be used on your skin and hair. A few drops of essential oil will take it to the next level.
I bought some Fenugreek leaves from the Indian shop. I think I should go make a herbal oil infusion with that too...