5 Brilliant Beauty Ingredients from Africa

By Jessica Rubino, Delicious Living

Though local may be the current buzzword when it comes to natural foods, personal care and even supplements, beauty companies are increasingly turning to far-flung sources for ingredient inspiration.

Traditional African crops, rich in beautifying nutrients, are among the latest resources to be tapped for skin- and hair-care products. Unique physical benefits, plus fair trade and sustainable practices, make these five ingredients outstanding in the field.


What it is: This antioxidant-rich oil is uniquely lightweight, so normal and dry skin almost immediately soak it up without greasy residue. That quality also makes it an excellent ingredient for restoring shine to hair without weighing it down. Baobab’s vitamin A and essential fatty acids (linoleic and alpha-linoleic) renew skin cells to restore vibrancy, and vitamin E acts as a stellar antioxidant. Finally, baobab contains omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids, which restore moisture to severely dry skin and reduce eczema and psoriasis.

Find it in products for dry and damaged hair; moisturizers for normal-to-dry skin.


What it is: Long used in South Africa to moisturize and protect skin from the sun, the oil from the watermelon seed, known in Africa as kalahari, is being incorporated into modern sun-protection products and may help repair skin after UV-ray exposure. Its linoleic, oleic and palmitic essential fatty acids aid in retaining moisture too.

Find it in after-sun skin-care products.


What it is: Meet the next hot African butter to hit the natural skin-and hair-care scene. The mafura tree’s leaves, bark and seeds have traditionally been prescribed to treat stomach ailments, and the oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity because of the presence of limonoids such as Trichilin A. In cosmetics, mafura seed oil and butter are combined into one ingredient that contains abundant fatty acids.

Find it in skin moisturizers, hair conditioners.


What it is: Sourced from the fruit of the African marula tree, the oil from the seed kernel is ideal for moisturizing skin because of its 75 percent oleic acid content and high amounts of palmitic acid, which serve to lock in moisture and create a protective barrier on skin. Fun fact: The fruit is also used to make beer and liqueur.

Find it in skin-care products for normal to oily skin.


What it is: Cold-pressed oil from the mongongo nut contains high quantities of antiaging vitamin E, an antioxidant that regenerates skin and promotes a youthful look. Plus, a component called eleostearic acid forms a protective layer over hair fibers to maintain shiny, healthy locks. Bonus: Its zinc content makes mongongo a natural sun-care ingredient.

Find it in moisturizing lotions, pre-sun skin care, lip balms, shampoos, conditioners.



Jessica is Deputy Editor for Consumer and Digital at New Hope Natural Media, which monitors the healthy/natural lifestyle industry.