Some of the most popular products on the market that lighten us, tighten us, lift saggy parts and protect us from the elements are made with ingredients from African plants and trees. Beauty and cosmetic brands and retailers such as Clarins, Jergens, Lush and Ulta, boast ingredients from Africa, so you’ve probably used more of them than you realize. Here are some beauty ingredients from Africa that you didn’t know you use.

1. Baobab (Madagascar, South Africa)
Baobab oil is very lightweight so it’s ideal in moisturizers for those with oily skin, or hair products for those with greasy hair. Baobab oil also contains vitamin A, vitamin E, and several fatty acids that can treat psoriasis, eczema and severely dry skin. Find it in face masks, body creams and face lotions.
2. Kalahari melon (South Africa)
Kalahari is the name of a desert, and the oil that comes from a watermelon seed. South Africans have used the oil for ages to protect against the sun, and now you see it more in after sun-protection products. Kalahari melon contains linoleic, oleic and palmitic essential fatty acids that help the skin retain moisture. Find it in body oil, hair oil, and face oil.
3. Marula (Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe)
Marula is a fruit that grows in Africa that’s showing up more and more in alcoholic beverages, desserts and skin care products. The oil from the fruit’s seed kernels is 75-percent oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that has several health effects but also helps trap moisture in the skin. You’ll find it in skin-care products for those with oily to normal skin.
4. Mafura (Mozambique)
Several parts of the mafura tree are used in beauty products. Some parts are used to produce oil and others, butter. The oil has anti-inflammatory properties, making it great for puffy or red skin. The butter has tons of essential fatty acids. You’ll find it often in skin moisturizers and hair conditioners.
5. Mongongo (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
The mongongo tree provides anti-aging oil that is rich in vitamin E. Mongongo has a type of acid that locks moisture into hair and it contains zinc, a natural skin-care ingredient. You’ll find mongongo in moisturizers, pre-sun skin care, lip balms, shampoos and conditioners.
6. Argan (Morocco)
Argan oil comes from the fruit of the Moroccan argan. Argan oil is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, making it a great moisturizer. It’s also loaded with anti-oxidants, making it ideal for anti-aging. You’ll find it in hair conditioner, lotion, hair styling products and acne products.
7. Moringa
Moringa oil comes from the Moringa tree, otherwise known as the “miracle tree.” The oil has anti-inflammatory properties that are great for fighting skin damage, Vitamin C which fights wrinkles and lines, and a special hormone that promotes skin cell growth. You’ll find it in lotions, balms and body scrubs.
8. Rooibos (South Africa)
Rooibos tea has been a part of South African medicine for ages. With alpha hydroxyl acid and zinc, it is great for treating sunburn, acne, eczema and other types of skin damage. You’ll find it in moisturizers and facial toners.
9. Katafray (Madagascar)
The katafray tree is found in Madagascar. An extract from the tree’s bark helps skin naturally hydrate itself, and retain moisture. Clarins recently had an extract developed just for the company to put in its Double Serum.
10. Prickly pear oil (Morocco)
Prickly pear oil from Morocco contains antioxidants that promote glowing skin. It has fatty acids and protein for shiny hair, and Vitamin E which serves as a conditioner. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and can reduce the appearance of blemishes. You’ll find it in hair treatment oil, skin oil and soap.
11. Yangu (Kenya)
The Maasai people of Kenya use yangu oil on their skin, and are known for having few wrinkles. The oil is rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids and can offer UV protection against the sun. You can buy it at Ulta, according to the website.
12. Shea butter (sub-Saharan Africa)
The shea tree grows throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The butter comes from the seeds of the fruit. Shea butter has fatty acids, several compounds that reduce inflammation and acids that prevent wrinkles, making it a great moisturizer. You’ll find it in body lotions, body scrubs, hair masks and face lotions.

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