Traditional beauty secrets of North African Berber women

It is no secret that Berber women have an age-old tradition of using natural beauty remedies

Najla Kaddour
Najla Kaddour - Special to Al Arabiya English
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It is no secret that Berber women have an age-old tradition of using natural beauty remedies. Whether from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia or Libya, the best beauty secrets come from the indigenous Amazigh people of North Africa, also known as the Berber tribes.

Argan oil: Nourishes hair and nails

Today, many beauty brands are incorporating Argan oil into hair and skincare products but it all started in North Africa. Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the Argan tree, which is mostly grown in Morocco. Dubbed a miracle oil, Argan oil is used in both culinary and beauty products. The oil is high in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids, offering restorative and age defying effects, it’s packed with antioxidants, which are good for your skin, hair and nails. This miracle oil has taken the beauty scene by storm and it’s no surprise as it’s very effective in strengthening and nourishing the hair.


Rose water: An effective skin toner

This beauty secret has been used by Berber women for decades and has also influenced many women across the world to use pure rose water as a natural skin toner. Pure rosewater is effective almost immediately and it benefits the skin in many different ways and can be used as an after sun product, toner, make-up remover, moisturizer and a balm for eczema, dandruff and acne. It also helps to reduce blemishes and scars.


Garlic: Stimulates hair growth

This is one of the many beauty secrets I was taught by my Algerian grandmother. Whenever your hair is feeling dull, thin or you’re suffering from hair loss, use garlic! As a child, my grandmother used to rub the pulp of a garlic clove onto my scalp right before bedtime, this helped stimulate my hair growth. It’s very effective and results can show within a few weeks. For a quicker result, peel a few garlic cloves, cut in half and rub the inside of the garlic onto your entire scalp, tie your hair and wrap it in cling foil before going to bed. This will allow the juice of the garlic to absorb into your scalp for the entire night. Wash your hair the next day and your hair will feel soft and silky. Benefits include strengthening hair roots, boosting hair growth and nourishing the scalp and hair.

It is advisable to test a patch of skin overnight before applying garlic to your entire scalp as it has been known to cause a light burn or rash on some skin types.


Hammam: Exfoliating and softening

Many people are already familiar with the hammam ritual and it’s a very important key to beauty that is still being used in North Africa on a daily basis. It’s an important purification ritual as well as an opportunity for women to bond and catch up.

Exfoliation and skin softening are a huge part of the hammam ritual; women cover themselves with Beldi soap, a gel-like formula made from olive or Argan oil. The purpose of the soap is almost like a full-body mask while steaming; this helps the soap to absorb into the pores of your entire body. Then, the body is exfoliated with a “Kessa” which is an exfoliating mitt. This helps to clean out the pores and removes all the dead skin from your body.

These are only a few of the many benefits of the Hammam ritual:

– Removes the dead skin layer
– Gets rid of any rashes from the body
– Cleans and softens the skin
– Hydrates the skin
– Removes ingrown hairs
– Boosts the blood circulation in your body
– Helps to relax the nerves and muscles
– Reduces stress and anxiety


Sabon Beldi: Exfoliating black soap

Moroccan black soap, also known as beldi soap, is the core of a traditional North African hammam ritual. Its exfoliating, nourishing and moisturizing properties make it a favorite skin-enhancing beauty product. Pair it with the Kessa glove to get the most out of this soap.


Kessa: An effective body exfoliator

Get rid of your dead and dull skin by using the Kessa mitt (an exfoliating glove). The Kessa is the second most important element in the hammam ritual, it should be combined with black soap (sabon beldi) during a hammam ritual for effective results.

Kohl: The perfect smoky eye make-up

As a youngster, the only form of make-up I was allowed to wear was Kohl. I loved how it gave me that smoky eye effect and best of all, I was allowed to wear it! Little did I know the health benefits of Kohl until my mother explained them to me. Nowadays, kohl is used in many beauty campaigns as the perfect product to create smoky eyes but little do many people know that Kohl, an ancient eye cosmetic, is beneficial for the eyes as it is said to cleanse the eye surface and stimulates eyelash growth.


Henna: Perfect for the hair

Henna is a beauty treatment that can be traced across millennia and cultures including ancient Egypt, India, the Middle East and North Africa, where it’s traditionally applied to the soles and sides of the feet and on the palms of the hands. Henna is made out of dried plants that produce various shades of dye. Beautiful henna body art is mainly used during weddings and celebrations. Henna also has great health benefits for the hair. Berber women dye their hair regularly using henna. It promotes hair growth, helps maintain the natural sheen of the hair and it strengthens hairs from the root.



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