Beauty

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.

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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. 

Thank you Ojon!

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.

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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.

  • Learn to make a detoxifying Castor Pack for the elimination of toxins and also to stimulate circulation.
  • Here there is more talk of making a Castor Pack and also a list of benefits – including reducing flatulence and relieving pain. It also lists conditions that Castor Oil can help to improve.  
  • A balanced view of Castor Oil (including side effects) written by a popular physician.
  • Another doctor writes a detailed article about using Castor Oil to boost your immunity
  • Last, but not least. An article specifically for hair and skin. It contains a lot of links so there is a lot of information.

After reading through these articles, it will become clear that a bottle of Castor Oil is an important and powerful tool to have in the house. Nature is truly wonderful.

Interestingly, Castor Oil (Jamaican Black Castor Oil brand as well as our cheaper NN version) is our number one selling Natural Oil in our Ahia.

P.S: Please do not ingest anything without speaking to your doctor first.

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.

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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.

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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.

References:

J. Serb. Chem. Soc. 75 (3) 343–348 (2010) 

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.

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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. 

References:

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.

 

Neem leaves

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…

Cocoa butter is a hard butter which can be used for many different uses – in food products,  hair care products and skin care products. It is even used in making black soap among other soaps.

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Let’s look at what cocoa butter contains. That will help us understand the hullaballoo.

  • Rich in anti-oxidants which are good for fighting wrinkles. Anti-oxidants also help to protect your skin from the ravaging effects of the elements.
  • High Vitamin E content which leaves the skin feeling soft.
  • Rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper and iron.

Like other natural butters, when applied to the skin it acts as a protective seal which slows down the amount of water that is lost to the atmosphere from our skin. This is called being occlusive, which means that we can retain more moisture in our skin – leading to skin that remains supple for longer.  Data has shown that that cocoa butter is more occlusive than Shea butter. It is also quite emollient.

This occlusive property also works when cocoa butter is used on hair. You lose less moisture to the atmosphere and retain whatever moisture you are trying to seal in.  It is a good lubricant for the hair as well.

Cocoa butter and stretch marks

There are several testimonies online about how cocoa butter has been used to prevent or remove stretch marks. However, I have found no scientific evidence that cocoa butter can do this. Sorry, wish I could say that I have but I really haven’t. If anything, there is evidence that cocoa butter does not remove or prevent stretch marks. I have referenced the study at the end of this post.

However there are tons of testimonies on the internet about how cocoa butter prevents and removes stretch marks. Perhaps they are on to something.

A bit more about cocoa butter:

  • It smells like a dream. It will leave your formulations smelling fresh.
  • It absorbs easily into the skin.
  • It is comedogonic so it is NOT to be used on the face.

How can I use cocoa butter?

  • When you draw your bath for a relaxing soak, you can add some cocoa butter as well essential oils to it.
  • Use it in your whipped butter recipes – you will love the smell.
  • Use it on your skin.
  • Use it on your hair.

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology; Volume 115, Issue 9, pages 1138–1142, August 2008

 

Buy Cocoa Butter Sell NigerianIf you have been on Nat Mane‘s blog or my twitter account (@naturalnigerian) recently, you may have read that I now offer cocoa butter for sale. 

The day I finally got my order in, I was as excited as a kid. You see, I had never ever ever seen or used raw cocoa butter before. My experience with it has been limited to finding it in imported creams and lotions. 

First of all, cocoa butter smells divine – like chocolate. I had done my research and knew it was a hard butter but was still surprised at just how hard it was. If you thought that Shea butter was difficult to spread, wait till you experience raw cocoa butter. Anway, I made a quick basic whipped butter with it (and Shea Butter and coconut oil) and used it on my daughter – from head to toe. She declared that she would smell delicious all day! Of course spreadability was no longer an issue…

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The cocoa butter I carry is export quality – y’all know I don’t play with standards – and I am happy to say it is quite affordable. I have not settled on a unit of measurement for final sale but 1kg comes to about N1,500. It will most probably be sold in smaller quantities though. 

I have heard people say that Cocoa butter makes them dark. My question to them is – were you using just cocoa butter or cocoa butter mixed with other things? I am fair complexioned, have been using my whipped butters for about 2 weeks and haven’t noticed a change. Anyway, if you decide not to use it for your skin, by all means use it on your hair. 

I won’t go into all the details about what Cocoa butter is all about in this post – a post dedicated to that will come soon.

Special thanks to Nat. Mane for putting the word out there!

To order. please 

 

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Have you made your resolutions for the year? If you haven’t, here’s a cheat sheet you may want to use. I don’t mean to go all preachy on y’all, just sharing what has worked (and is still working) for me. Feel free to click on the texts in blue – they are linked to other posts which will provide context.

Hair

  • Your hair is part of you. Treat it right. Don’t give precedence to weaves, add-ons and extensions. What I mean by this is that you should challenge some of the things that seem normale.g. 
    • Applying relaxer to a small section of your hair or dying it just so that your weave looks nice.
    • Allowing your hair braider pre-dispose you to traction alopecia (by overweighting your hair with add-ons or braiding too tight) because you want your braids to be popping!
  • If you have natural hair, Moisture! Moisture!! Moisture!!! I can’t say that enough.
  • If your hair is relaxed, consider spacing out your touch-ups. The benefits speak for themselves.

Health

  • Drink enough water per day. It helps with everything. Your bodily functions, your skin, your hair…everything. Here’s a guide  that will help you know via your urine when you are dehydrated. Yep, I said the U word!  😆  
  • Eat your greens and fruits. Introduce a splash of color into your diet (carrots, tomatoes, green leaves).  The brown of baked goods and most processed foods isn’t a splash of color.
  • Try the green smoothie at least once. It is not expensive and the benefits are amazing.  

Skin

  • Try to lay less emphasis on topical applications of creams and products. Instead, nourish your skin from the inside. Products should support your effort. They shouldn’t be your only effort.
  • Learn to read ingredient labels. It makes you a more discerning customer and eventually saves you money.
  • Remember that there are no magic potions. No silver bullets. You won’t be disappointed if you bear this in mind.

Self and others

  • Love yourself. Really. No matter what is going on, give yourself a break.
  • Do amazing things for others. Help someone with a heavy load, speak up when things just aren’t right, volunteer at a school. Just smile at someone.
  • Challenge status quo.
  • Read. You will discover many wonderful things.
  • Live consciously. My cousin said this to me in May 2011 and it completely changed the way I looked at things. I leave it up to you to interpret for yourself.

Natural

  • Consider being even more natural than you are now. Baby steps will lead to taking leaps one day.

Nigerian

  • Preserve your culture. It is a beautiful thing.
  • See Nigeria. I went on a road trip last year with a few friends….I would definitely do it again.
  • My fellow Nigerians, I make a conscious effort not to talk about Nigeria’s problems and politics on this blog (you know there is no stopping us when we start). I will say this though…pray for Nigeria. Y’all know she needs it.

 Now this is the most important of all….if you do nothing else, I highly recommend you do this: “Love your neighbor as yourself”

 Be peaceful.

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