Our skin is our largest organ, yet it is often overlooked and under-cared for. I believe its importance in helping to maintain our general health should not be underestimated, especially since its the organ that both absorbs and releases a large amount of toxins in our body.
I love that Uganda has a plethora of natural skin-care options and I'm always amazed at how accessible and cheap I can find great things in Uganda that I would otherwise have to find in a natural health store in America or order online. Three of my favorite natural skin-care products found here are pumice stones, natural loofahs, and shea butter.
A quick look on Amazon brought up a natural loofah for $6.25 and a natural pumice stone will run you around $5, but I can find both in Uganda on the roadside or at almost any market for a mere 20 to 40 cents!
The pumice stones come from volcanic rock, which I assume is found in the western part of Uganda. Living here somehow leads to feet that are constantly dirty, so I like to give my them some extra attention once in a while with a soak and a pumice stone scrub. I'm always amazed at just how clean and soft my feet can get with a little attention! Pumice stones are also great to use on tough and calloused hands.
The loofahs in Uganda come from a vegetable called the luffa cylidrica, or the vegetable sponge gourd. The plant is actually a vine and is considered an invasive species in Uganda, which I'm sure explains their abundance. They are a fantastic choice for dry brushing your skin before showers, a simple practice with tons of health benefits. Besides simple exfoliation, dry brushing is said to clean toxins from your lymphatic system, help digestion and improve circulation, among so many other things. Find tips on dry-brushing here.
After dry brushing and bathing, I give my skin the ultimate treat by slathering on pure shea butter. Most of the shea butter in Uganda comes from the north, where the shea tree grows and women harvest the nuts to make the butter and oil, which, as a vitamin-rich fatty acid, is wonderful for skin and hair. It truly is the best moisturizer I've ever used. I hesitate to admit that I imagine myself as a sun-kissed goddess every time I use it!
Shea butter has an endless number of uses - besides a skin moisturizer, it's a great natural moisturizer for hair and the oil can be used for anything from cooking to massages. Women often use shea butter to get rid of stretch marks and Ugandans sometimes swallow a spoonful of warm shea butter to soothe a sore throat or they chew the shea leaves to ease stomach pain. It seems that Africans have used shea butter for centuries, especially for mother and child care, but also to relieve sore muscles for athletes. It helps restore skin, so is said to be good for eczema, psoriasis, and other skin rashes. There are so many other benefits of shea butter and you can learn more about how it is made in this article.
For those of you in America, you can purchase Ugandan shea butter on Amazon if you can't find it at a health food store. In Europe, the organization Bead For Life is working on bringing shea butter your way, and in Uganda, you can easily find it on the top floor of Oasis shopping mall or at the Saturday farmers' market at Prunes.