Indilinga: African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems

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Indigenous Knowledge Applied to the Use of Clays for Cosmetic Purposes in Africa: An Overview

D M Matike, G I Ekosse, V M Ngole


The use of clay for cosmetic purposes in Africa is an age-old long-standing practice, which has been practiced through all regions of the continent. Red, white, yellow and their related shades of clays, in combination with other natural substances such as plant and animal extracts have over time been used by different indigenous African communities to meet their cosmetic needs. The purposes advanced for the cosmetic usage of these clays include cleansing the skin, protecting the skin against ultraviolet radiation, skin lightening, hiding of skin imperfections and accentuating the beauty of specific parts of the body. This paper provides an overview of the traditional usage of clays for cosmetic purposes in indigenous African communities. It identifies the types of cosmetic clays used traditionally in different African communities and the current reasons advanced for their application. It also sheds light on the historical use of cosmetic clays; thus emphasizing that knowledge about their applications is not new to the African community. Over time clays have been used to meet aesthetic demands including dermatological beautification.

Keywords: Clay, cosmetics, indigenous knowledge, beauty, Africa.

AJOL African Journals Online