While other parts of the world are suffering from the winter cold, some African countries like Ghana are suffering from the Harmattan season. This season brings dry and dusty winds that come from the Sahara and make its way through the continent over the Gulf of Guinea. During this time humidity levels drop significantly lower and the air is much cooler. The last few days the dust and haze caused by the Harmattan season has caused such poor visibility that flights have been cancelled or delayed in Accra, Ghana.
I usually make sure to wear sunglasses all the time to keep the dust out of my eyes. For those who are sensitive to sneezing or allergies you might even want to cover your nose when walking outside to avoid particles in the nose causing catarrh (build up of mucus in nose and sinuses).
With so much dust in the air this is definitely going to have an effect on your hair and skin. It’s important to take extra care during this season if you live in or are travelling to West African countries. The following are some tips you can follow to take care of your skin and hair during the Harmattan.
1. Cleanse Daily
Washing your face may seem like basic knowledge, but there are people who go to sleep without doing it. I wash every morning and I never go to bed without continuing my daily skin regimen, which includes cleansing and moisturizing*. Washing your face with a mild soap gets rid of the heavy layer of grime on your face that has settled in your pores through the day. Also avoid harsh soaps with detergents in them because they will only strip natural oils and make your face more dry.
Hydrating your skin is an important part of your daily regimen. Especially during the dry season when your skin is exposed to the elements of wind and dust. I’ve already noticed my skin feeling drier than normal, especially my legs.
One of my favourite body lotions is Dark & Lovely Creme Oils. It’s a perfect blend that keeps the skin on my body soft and hydrated. I usually mix it with raw shea butter during the harsh months of Harmattan (or winter when in Canada) to keep my skin hydrated, reduce itch and keep my skin from getting cracked and flaky.
On my face I’ve been using Neutrogena Visibly Even for over 10 years, but when I’m in Ghana I’ve also used the Dark & Lovely Creme oils on my face. At night I use BioOil or some shea butter. Experiment with different products to find what works best for your skin type.
3. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera grows in Ghana which means getting it is not difficult. Using aloe vera in your skin routine is also a great way to protect it from the harsh elements of the season. It’s known to be a healing agent and a good skin protector.
4. Cover Your Hair
This is a simple solution to avoiding all the dust that will sit in your hair every day. Many women decide to do what’s known as ‘protective styling’; wearing braids, weaves or wigs. This makes things easy on a daily basis. You can just get up and go without worrying about your hair, but that doesn’t mean the dust doesn’t settle just because you have a protective style. An extra effort is needed to gently get the dust out of the added hair on your head.
Another option is to cover your hair completely with a headwrap. Personally I love wearing headwraps because they are so easy and you can have an array of colours to match whatever you wear. Typically I add moisture to my hair by using a leave-in conditioning cream before I put the headwrap on my hair. This way I can keep the moisture in while rocking a cool headwrap.
5. Wash & Condition Hair Regularly
If you choose to keep your hair out, you will feel the effects of this dry and dusty season. It’s important to choose shampoos that not only cleanse but also condition your hair. Since you might want to wash your hair more frequently because of the feeling of dirt and dust in your hair, it’s a good idea to start using co-wash products that don’t strip the hair of its natural oils as much as regular shampoos do.
5. Protect Your Lips
Using natural products like raw shea butter, coconut oil and honey on the lips will relieve you of the uncomfortable feeling of dry, chapped lips that often come during the season.
*Spellings are US/Canada