Traditional beauty treatments that are popular in South Africa

Aloe Vera can be used as hair shampoo. Picture: Pexels.

Aloe Vera can be used as hair shampoo. Picture: Pexels.

Published Sep 22, 2023


Beauty has existed long before the current, modified products we see piled up on the shelves.

For many generations people have relied on nature to make beauty products, which worked wonders on their skin and hair. That is why we nowadays see many beauty brands going back to those methods because people are no longer ignorant.

They are aware of the power of nature, hence the shift to organic products.

As we celebrate Heritage Month, we look at some of the traditional hair and beauty treatments popular in South Africa.

Ibomvu as sunscreen

Also known as red clay, ibomvu is one of the most famous natural sunscreens in KwaZulu-Natal. It is a natural clay found in low-altitude areas. It has many benefits for the skin, including brightening skin tone, fighting breakouts and pimples, and fading scars, blemishes and pigmentation.

“Red clay helps thoroughly cleanse the skin and promotes cell regeneration. It is highly recommended as a cleaner and scrub, both for the body and face.

“It helps combat stretch marks and cellulite by simply applying masks in the area. It can also be used as a mask for oily hair, as it helps regulate excess sebum in the hair roots.

“However, because it tends to stain, I wouldn't recommend it on blonde or light-coloured hair. In general, red clay brings vitality and tones the skin deeply,” reports

Red Clay. Picture: Facebook.

Aloe Vera as a hair shampoo

Growing up, I always knew aloe vera as a bitter plant that helps with stomach bugs, little did I know there is more to it. This plant is widely used as a hair shampoo, especially by people with 4C-type hair.

It helps calm the itchy scalp, and because it contains vitamins A, C, and E, this plant helps strengthen hair strands. And for people who may have forgotten to apply ibomvu as a sunscreen, aloe vera can always came to the rescue because of its high collagen content and cooling properties, which help calm the skin after sun exposure.

Aloe vera. Picture: File.

Face paintings

You’ve probably seen Xhosa women with a face painting of white or yellow dots, which once again proves that you cannot separate Africans from art.

Known as umchokozo, those dots painted over the eyebrows, the bridge of the noses, and cheeks are part of the Xhosa heritage.

However, there is no specific design or pattern that one has to follow, it’s really up to your creativity. It is more like make-up that women wear when they don their traditional attire, also known as Umbhaco.

They do those face paintings when attending umgidi (traditional ceremonies), weddings or some sort of celebratory event.

Epic multi-award-winning muso, Thandiswa Mazwai rocking her Xhosa face paintings. Picture: File.

Turmeric face mask

I’ve always wondered why most Indians have gorgeous skin and lux hair, well, it’s because their beauty tricks are passed on from generation to generation.

A turmeric face mask is one of the most popular beauty treatments in the Indian community. Due to its antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, the turmeric face mask helps treat several skin conditions, including acne, wounds and atopic dermatitis.

“Tumeric face masks leave the skin glowing, clear acne, and get rid of dark spots. They are literally magical. To my mask, I mixed a little bit of honey, yoghurt and turmeric.

“The use of turmeric actually dates back 4000 years ago, and today, India is the largest producer of turmeric, which explains my jar.

“Keep the mask on for ten minutes, and once you wash it make sure you dry your face with a napkin, otherwise you will stain your towel,” says famous skincare influencer Just Jully.

Tumeric can be used as a face mask. Picture: Pexels.

Sunlight green bar as roll-on/toothpaste

People may call this poverty spec, but the Sunlight Green Bar has fought so many battles, including getting rid of odour for those who cannot afford toothpaste or roll-on.

This multi-purpose soap has been used widely as a roll or toothpaste. It is the secret of many poor people who found creative ways to be hygienic irrespective of their situations at home.

That is why many households in South Africa invest in it because it is an all-in-one multi-purpose soap.

Before trying any of these treatments, make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients mentioned.

Happy Heritage Month.