Beauty Out of Africa

Ghana’s shea nut butter, which has been moisturizing dry skin for years, has paved the way for a slew of African oils, herbs, fruits, and vegetables now appearing in a bevy of the latest beauty tonics. Here’s a sampling.
By Lindsey Galloway

Kigelia Africana. The “sausage tree,” named for the oblong shape of its fruit, has long been used by traditional healers to treat fungal infections and eczema, while the Tonga women of Zambia use the fruit to keep blemishes at bay. African Earthworks boasts a black soap filled with the cleansing extract. (

African Potato. A potato may not seem like a very glamorous ingredient, but inkomfe’s (its Zulu moniker) antioxidant sterols and sterolins sure work wonders repairing sun-damaged and sensitive skin. The creamy emulsion in Under the Sun’s African body butter ($15, 1.7 oz; makes a soothing winter moisturizer.

Moringa Oil. Often found as ritual offerings in tombs, this ancient Egyptian oil is rubbed on the bellies of pregnant women to keep the skin elastic. Try it in Paul Penders’ herbal skin toner ($26.50, 5.3 oz;

Rooibos (red tea). South African rooibos has collagen-building copper, vitamin C, and other potent antioxidants, making it ideal for antiaging products like Olé Henriksen’s Express the Truth wrinkle-resistance creme ($65, 1.7 oz;

Baobab Oil. Native to eastern and southern Africa, the baobab tree produces seeds rich in essential fatty acids. Global Goddess’s Serengeti eye shadow ($42, 7.9 grams; delivers the healing oil and color to delicate eyelid skin.

Cape Chamomile. While scented like tea-bound chamomile, this South African species has a fruitier top note, which has fragrance experts foreseeing its use in fine perfumes. Enjoy its uplifting properties in Molo Africa’s Kamo massage butter ($15.95, 3.5 oz;

Rhassoul Clay. Morocco’s Atlas Mountains contain this mineral-rich clay, which can be used on skin and hair to control oil. Mix the pure powder, available from Logona ($14.70, 250 grams;, with water for a completely natural cleanser.

Marula Oil. The women of Namibia have long known the skin-softening benefits of marula oil. Sharing their tradition with women around the world, a Namibian women’s co-op provides the oil The Body Shop uses in many of its cosmetics. ($8.50 to $22.50;