By ELIZABETH MEHERT-AB | 303magazine.com
Global beauty routines have changed the Western lexicon when it comes to hair and skin care. K-Beauty (products from South Korea), J-Beauty (from Japan) and other globally-inspired trends keep growing in popularity. On top of that, natural, organic and clean ingredients have become a priority for health-conscious beauty consumers pushing companies to think outside of the box.
Interestingly, many ingredients in these clean beauty products can actually be sourced back to the African continent, such as shea butter found in many Western cosmetic products. However, there hasn’t really been much acknowledgment of where these ingredients actually come from.
More recently, Morocco has made a particularly significant impact on the West’s perception of African beauty. Argan oil, prickly pear oil and black soap are just a few staples that have become favorites among many Western consumers.
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With that being said, the celebration of all African beauty should finally become common knowledge. After all, there are 54 vibrant countries in Africa with rich and diverse cultural beauty traditions that have plenty of wisdom to share.
This is exactly why Grace Kinda, chief mixer and owner of Denver-based Iber! Naturals, created her holistic African skin and hair care business in the summer of 2019.
Handcrafting “nature’s gifts” in small batches not only encourages individuals — here at home — to celebrate African beauty, but also alleviates the blatant issue of non-inclusivity in the beauty industry at-large.
“Since coming to the US, in 2008, it was almost impossible to find information and products that worked for my skin and hair. It was disorienting to see the beauty industry mainly catering to white hair and skin needs,” Kinda revealed.
Kinda told 303 Magazine that in her country of Kenya, the celebration and sharing of beauty wisdom is common across several cultures and tribes of the region. She’s even named her business iber — meaning “you are beautiful” — as a nod to the Luo language spoken around the shores of Lake Victoria.
For Kenyan women, wearing Swahili-inspired henna, adorning themselves in perfume from the Somali and clearing spots with the healing properties of neem and moringa trees are the norm, as Kinda recalled from her homeland.
Rather than an industry dictating the discourse of beauty, the knowledge of beauty practices are shared between women that are then passed down to daughters through oral tradition. Nowadays, the internet is an excellent source to learn more about plants and other ingredients traditionally used by Africans for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
After her own experimentation and research in her spare time — while pursuing a nine to five public health career — Kinda eventually discovered the missing pieces to her beauty dilemma. Natural oils and butters, like Jamaican black castor oil and shea butter, became her hair and skin antidotes — changing her relationship with her body for the better.
Iber! Naturals has become the literal representation of Kinda’s authenticity while empowering others through her hair and skincare products.“It is important to share the solutions I have found with others because I know just how much our hair and skin can impact our sense of pride and self-esteem. I wanted to celebrate that our African roots have the answers,” Kinda explained.
Exploring her Etsy shop, you can find a collection of products that are hand-mixed with African based ingredients. Iber!’s Black Gold Sugar Scrub with Osun and Cacao Bean gives your skin a unique exfoliating cleanse that imparts a fruity mango fragrance. Osun, African sandalwood, and raw cacao bean work together as powerful antioxidants by reportedly healing the skin from scars, acne and uneven skin tone.
Kinda shared that natural oils, butters, plants and scrubs should become staples for anyone looking to embrace an African beauty routine. She explained that “daily use of healthy nourishing oils bring elasticity to skin and protection from harmful rays. ‘Black don’t crack’ is not just a saying if you consider the many skin remedies African tribes boast.”
Interestingly, ash, clay and charcoal are optimal for maintaining a vibrant complexion and stimulating hair growth, she said. “Ash derived from plant material, like bananas, have been documented to help reduce the appearance of scars. Red ochre is a rich clay that has been used as a sunscreen for centuries by the Maasai and Himba people.”
The micronutrients of plant-based skincare not only encourages healing and long term nourishment, Kinda described, but can also emit natural fragrances that make synthetic fragrances pale in comparison.
For hair, the brand’s African Hair Mask with Chebe is an intricate plant-based concoction with key elements like fenugreek, lavender, moringa, neem and clove for strong hair. The star ingredient, chebe, is a powerful mix of Shébé seeds from the Croton zambesicus plant, mahllaba soubiane seeds, missic stone, cloves and samour resin used by the women of Chad and Senegal to grow and lengthen their hair. Kinda also spoke of aloe, rosemary and hibiscus as being top essentials for a well-rounded African hair care routine.
By now, it’s pretty easy to understand how ancient wisdom has continued to influence the premise of African beauty. Its holistic approach fuels the reasoning behind each and every ingredient used for both hair and skincare — fusing wellness and science as one. Celebrating African beauty further validates its people’s long list of vast contributions.
To Kinda, more needs to be done to support beauty creators that focus on naturally sourced sustainable products. She emphasized how African beauty recognizes that Black skin and hair have unique needs that will thrive if given the right information and tools to do so. This gives way to helping individuals reconnect with their history and culture. She mentioned that “there is something special using a product you know has been used and worked for centuries by people who look like you.”
Follow Iber! Naturals on Instagram for a peek behind the scenes of Kinda’s creations, and learn a thing or two about African beauty ingredients.