The origins of skincare: Africa, Part 1


Image of a Xhosa woman with clay on her face. Image is not my property, sourced from google.

The skin care industry often claims to be innovative with its research; it may be true to some degree but not so  to a greater degree. The use of natural herbs and elements to maintain and protect the skin has been a norm within the African culture. I have decided to explore and share with you the different “skin care phenomenons” that have been practiced by Africans AWARE of the benefits that the natural remedies with deliver. In this first post I will share about the use of Ingceke or Umemezi by the Xhosa tribe.


Ingceke is used by Xhosa women for cosmetic purposes and protection from the external environment when working outside, and by the young men/men when they go through their initiation. My focus will be on its cosmetic use by the women. The women mix white clay along with Umemezi and apply it on to their faces, it was used to protect them from sunburn and the harsh weather; also said to have the benefits of minimizing pigmentation! It was also used as “makeup” regarded as a symbol of beauty by the women.


Image of a Xhosa woman at the sea with clay on her face

The clay is collected from the river banks along with the Umemezi which is a red bark from the Mangrove tree, this is where the source of sun protection comes from. The bark is crushed and mixed with the white clay on a flat stone then applied on their faces. In our times most of the women use calamine instead which has astringent and healing properties. However I feel like the old school way was way better!


Now, I bet some of you didn’t know this, it is also a great and interesting discover for me. I need to ask some of my Xhosa relatives to hook me up with this skin care remedy, I would love to try it on as a mask; as soon as I get hold of it I will share my experience with you!

PK