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Skin Secrets of an African Princess | Manolo for the Big Girl

Skin Secrets of an African Princess

One of my closest friend in college was a princess.

I don’t mean a princess in the “it’s true because it says so in rhinestones” sense but an actual no-foolin’ African princess. At the time I knew her she was on the royal lam, trying to prolong her time in America before she had to return to a life that didn’t involve late night pizza delivery and complete anonymity.

She also had the most beautiful skin of any woman I’d ever met.

I’d say it was the most beautiful skin of any person I’d ever met, but that award goes to the dean of Canterbury Cathedral, whose name I forget but whose distractingly silken handshake in 2006 remains unsullied by time and the fact I passed out knee-wobbling drunk on a quarter of a pint of farmhouse cider in a nunnery four hours later.

I don’t know the dean’s secret to flawless skin, but I do know Jo’s (I’ve changed her name, since as far as I know, she’s still on the lam).

Every night she would rub her wet hands on this burnished lump of dark brown soap. She’d lather, rinse and then rub beige butter into her skin until it shone.

That’s it.

A few months ago, I was perusing Coastal Scents when I came across their Project Ghanaian initiative that helps provide an income opportunity and health care to rural Ghanian women. I recognized Jo’s brown lump as African black soap. Makes sense, since she was Ghanaian, so I ordered the Out Of Africa pack, which included a pound of natural African black soap, unfiltered shea butter, plus big bottles of raw virgin coconut oil (does that sound unpleasant to anyone else?) and African wild honey (which sounds like a blaxsplotation flick in which the outstanding Pam Grier and her equally fantastic wigs fight evil to a Bootsy Collins soundtrack.)

Black Soap

Ingredients: Coconut oil, raw shea butter, cocoa pod ash, water and palm kernel oil.

This is definitely the stuff Jo used, and it’s great. I’ve heard a lot about how it’s supposed to clear acne, soften lines, do your taxes and make your mother understand the reason you don’t want kids isn’t because you’re selfish and want to deny her the joy of her old age. I’m not sure about all that, but it’s a great, natural, inexpensive product that’s as good or better than any other cleanser I’ve tried.

Unrefined Shea Butter

I don’t know whether Jo used cocoa or shea butter to get her skin to glow, but I’m never going without a tub of this stuff again. It’s like the rooster sauce of beauty products: it makes EVERYTHING better. I use it as an after-shower moisturizer, a hot oil treatment (melted with a bit of coconut oil), cuticle cream, lip balm, frizz tamer, heel softener, and even slick a little on my legs to get that shiny but not goopy look. It’s also the only facial moisturizer I use now.

Coconut Oil:

I’m not a fan of the smell, which is a little acrid. Still, this is a whizbang makeup remover and massage oil and I’ve heard if you melt equal parts shea butter and coconut oil, then let it set up and whip it, you get a nice body butter. I might try it, and I’ll definitely add a few drops of a strong essential oil –rosemary or lavender I think– for massage duty, but otherwise I’ll stick to the shea butter which smells better and is less likely to stain my sheets.

African Wild Honey:

Uh. You probably shouldn’t eat this since the words EXTERNAL USE ONLY are featured prominently on the bottle. In unrelated news, it tastes like molasses. I don’t really know what to do with this yet. I’ve heard it makes a nice face mask, but I’ve got half a liter of the stuff so suggest away!

13 Responses to “Skin Secrets of an African Princess”

  1. Sarahbyrdd September 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    I’ve seen honey on its own or mixed with yogurt used as a mask, mixed with a little oil as a cleanser, and mixed with a little salt or sugar for a scrub.

  2. Astra September 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Does the shea butter smell at all? The last time I used a nut butter I couldn’t stand smelling like a cookie all day.

  3. Miss Plumcake September 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    @Astra: there’s a very very almost non-extant scent, but when I put it on, the scent totally disappears.

  4. Bethany September 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    That’s awesome! I love the picture of the ladies in front of the Shea Butter Village. Did you get the unscented soap?

  5. KESW September 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Sounds like a great set of stuff, especially the coconut oil and honey. Check out the website Crunchy Betty or just google coconut oil or honey for beauty and you’ll come up with TONS of ideas. Honey is a good face wash, for example.

  6. marvel September 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    I think shea butter was the active ingredient in the anti-stretch mark cream that actually worked when I was pregnant.

  7. abdabs September 20, 2012 at 1:53 am #

    Sounds fantastic. Unfortunately, picking 15oz of soap and 1lb shea butter (total cost $21.44) will cost more than $25 to ship to Australia. :(

    (Even the soap alone, $12.95, will cost $16.30 to ship.) Phooey.

  8. megaera September 20, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    You can always crush up asprin and mix it with the honey for a de-oiling mask. I like to leave some of the asprin a little less crushed and then exfoliate it off.

  9. ChaChaHeels September 21, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Honey makes a great moisturizer, used alone as a face mask or just on the skin before getting into a bath. Coconut oil has a million excellent uses, and if this really is extra virgin coconut oil that’s free of all the pesticides used in most commercial coconut crops, it should be edible. There are all kinds of reasons to eat coconut oil–among them: great for eliminating joint pain; improving over all metabolism, especially of thyroid function (and it will help with weight loss, if that’s your thing, particularly of the fat that accumulates on the belly and abdomen) and it’s an excellent anti-fungal, which fights candida albicans especially well even though that yeast has become anti-biotic resistant.
    Topically, though: fantastic skin treatment that even helps with severe skin difficulties, such as eczema; wonderful dry hair treatment that also nourishes the scalp; and it does aid with skin elasticity (so if you combine it with shea butter and use it to prevent and smoothe stretch marks, you should do very well).

    It’s also wonderful that buying these products will help to make women independent–and that means they’ll improve the lives of everyone they touch. Sometimes the simplest ingredients are the hardest working ones, bringing the greatest results.

  10. Colleen September 22, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    In a pinch, cocoa butter and shea butter are both very good leather conditioners. Just be careful with light colours.

  11. Jeanine September 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Was that a combo type pack that you ordered? I’ve search their site,but I only find the a la carte items.

    Thank you!

  12. Miss Plumcake September 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    @Jeanine: I ordered the Out of Africa pack, available here.

  13. jeanine September 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Thank you! A much better deal than a la carte or the native gentleman at the flea market. More authentic also, I’d wager.