While North America and Europe are experiencing winter, in West African countries, they are well into the Harmattan season. This dry season typically lasts from November until mid-March and is the result of the dry, dusty northeast winds that blow from the Sahara desert into West Africa. The winds are so dry and so much dust fills the air at times that there’s a visible haze in the sky.
As a result the dry air and hot sun, invariably affects the skin. Dry, flaky, scaly skin is a problem many deal with during this time. Extra care needs to be taken to keep your skin healthy.
1. Stay hydrated.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to keep your body hydrated. If you don’t like drinking plain water, add slices of fruit or cucumber to give it a little flavour and make it more enjoyable. Avoid too much caffeine (coffee, cola, tea) because it can actually cadehydrate you. Also eating more fruits, which naturally have water in them, also helps with your fluid intake.
Choose natural ways to exfoliate the dead skin cells to keep your skin looking fresh. Exfoliate your skin once or twice a week to keep it glowing throughout the season. This will reveal a fresh layer of skin once your scrub the dead cells off. There are quite a number of products available from cosmetic and beauty supply retailers to meet your needs.
One brand to watch is Hamamat African beauty. Created by Ghanaian model and former beauty queen Hamamat Montia, the product line is made with natural ingredients and combines traditional recipes the model learned from growing up in Northern Ghana. Try Hamamat’s Tongo Body Scrub to reveal a fresh layer of glowing skin.
If you don’t want to buy product, you can also make your own at home. Try mixing coconut oil with cane sugar or sea salt to make a natural scrub. In the extreme heat, coconut oil will be liquid so, it’s a good idea that you put the mix into a fridge to cool it. That way the grains of sugar or salt will remain intact (rather than dissolve).
Once it’s a semi-solid, continue to whip the mixture before spreading it all over your skin. Gently scrub off all the dead skin cells. You’ll immediately notice how fresh your layer of skin underneath is. Wash your body thoroughly so as not to leave any residue.
It’s so important to take extra care of your skin by adding the moisture it needs during this dry season. Avoid extremely hot showers because it can be more drying on the skin. Cool or lukewarm is less harsh. Put moisturizer on immediately after you finish bathing to lock in moisture. Don’t let your skin dry completely before you add the cream or lotion.
Organic raw shea butter is one of the best ways to keep your skin soft, subtle and guard it against the dry harsh Harmattan winds. I like to melt it and add my favourite essential oils for a nice soft fragrance.
My favourite go-to body lotion is Dark & Lovely Creme Oils. They’ve created a formula especially for African skin to glow and look its best. Another product I love, which, as far as I know isn’t sold in Africa, is Dream Cream by Lush. I buy this when I’m in Canada or the U.S. It’s so amazing, light and keeps my body soft. Others I like include Vaseline Total Moisture Cocoa Radiant Lotion.
Don’t forget about your lips. Because the skin on your lips is thinner than the rest of your body, the dryness can have painful effects, especially when they are so dry they crack. Using lip balms are the best way to keep them protected. I also like to moisturize my lips before I go to bed, keeping them soft and supple.
Although they look fantastic, matte lipsticks can be very drying on your lips. Avoid using them during this season or you can opt to moisturize your lips before you add colour your lips. I suggest adding moisture about an 30 minutes before you use the lipstick so it can absorb into the skin before you use a matte lipstick.
5. Hands & Feet
Your hands and feet truly suffer from dryness during this time. Make the effort to get regular pedicures and manicures to keep your skin looking good.
If you can’t afford to go to a salon to get this done, you can always make an extra effort at home to scrub your feet with a pumice stone. You can use the same body scrub for your body on your feet and hands to remove dead skin.
Pay extra attention to your cuticles because they can also become so dry they crack. Rubbing oils into your nail beds and cuticles can keep them moisturized.