top of page

Exploring the Origins of Sun Protection and Beauty Rituals in Ancient African, Mexican, and Polynesian Traditions

Plant-based beauty and herbal apothecary have been used for centuries, and many modern beauty practices have roots in ancient African, Mexican, and Polynesian traditions.

Representation of Melanated Atlantic and Pacific sisters
Shea Butter and Coconut oil

There are a lot of self-care practices that people follow in the morning and at night. However, we often overlook the opportunity to care for ourselves throughout the day. We can meditate, journal, and move to enhance our self-care routine. By incorporating these practices, we can create our beauty lifestyle.

People have been asking me about hair oils and sunscreens as summer approaches. Despite two centuries of perfecting beauty products, there is room for improvement. The clean beauty movement is now becoming a standard rather than just an aesthetic, and many individuals are opting for homemade beauty products.

a mineral paste  to protect skin and hair from the harsh climate
Women of Namibia covered in otjize

In Namibia, the Himba tribe uses a clay-based paste called otjize to cover their skin and hair from the harsh climate (CNN). In central and west Africa, way before colonization, tribes from all over styled their hair based on a story of their status. In East Africa, it was customary to gift items from your land or home, such as herbs and flowers, but the hair was braided intricately for special occasions, especially Bridal styles. In North Africa, luxury emerged in Egypt. This is where the use of berries, bugs, and minerals comes into our world. The Egyptians are the creators of kohl makeup. Kohl makeup was designed to block the sun's rays, the same reason football players smear the kohl on their cheeks to block sun rays. (Nature)

In Mexico, aloe plants have many uses. Everyone should have one nearby to soothe the skin after a burn, especially sunburn. Aloe can also be used to rehydrate hair and skin. Cut it open, use the gel directly on the skin, or blend it in the blender to create a more spreadable, delicate gel. This can be used after sun exposure to hair and skin to soothe, revitalize, and hydrate. 

 (Nat. Geo. Medicinal Herbs, 193)

Never in my life have I ever thought about touching a cactus, but when I am out west, in the desert, I can't help but notice so many cacti grow wild. I had no idea of the various types of cacti, let alone how edible they were. People would sell cactus aqua Fresca, and I wanted to know the benefits. Drinking cactus juice is a superfood for your immune system, It helps it recover and turn and is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and free radicals caused by UV/UB rays(Everyday Health).

In the Polynesian islands, you’ll discover tropical plants, oils, and Noni juice that provide beauty from the inside out. One tropical plant that caught my eye over a decade ago was Awapuhi. It’s a ginger plant that, when ingested or used topically, provides antioxidants that help rehydrate hair and reduce inflammation on the skin after a long beach day (Byrdie). With the rise of more curly-friendly products, we passed around many different oils in conversation and use. Some of my sun-friendly favorites are Monoi oil, which softens hair and skin and is an excellent skin barrier to prevent sunburn and mosquito bites. The fast-acting Tamanu oil is amazing for protecting on beach days or harsh climates and is packed with antioxidants(Good mag).  Lastly, Noni juice has been a Polynesia medicine for years and grows in many other tropical islands like Jamaica. Many have juiced this fruit for its benefits in cell damage and immune health, which are vital to replenishing our bodies from hot summer days(HealthLine).

Sun Protection and Beauty Rituals, have many health benefits from nature right at our fingertips. I am glad to be alive in this time where research is abundant, but as we look into our cultures, we can find ancient hidden gems that can help protect us from the sun, harsh climates, and skin exposure. Our skin is the biggest organ in our body, and it's our first line of defense against internal damage. We should always be willing to nourish our bodies from the inside out and supplement our skin with the proper nutrients.

A list of my recommended oils and products for the summer… coming soon!

Works Cited

Barrie, Leslie. “Cactus Water: Is It Good for You?”, 6 July 2022,

Donerson, Sheryll. “Learn How Awapuhi Can Take Your Hair to the next Level.” Byrdie, 21 Nov. 2021,

Johnson, Rebecca L, et al. Guide to Medicinal Herbs : The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C., National Geographic, 2010, p. 193.

Magazine, Good. “Beauty Secrets from a Tropical Paradise.” Good Magazine, 30 Dec. 2021, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Zamarripa, Maria. “Noni Juice: Nutrition, Benefits, and Safety.” Healthline, 25 Mar. 2019,

9 views0 comments


bottom of page