Harmattan is a season in West Africa that occurs between November and March. It is characterized by a dry dusty wind and cold temperatures in the morning. Harmattan gives most people a break from the heat of sub-Saharan Africa, but brings with it a dryness that chaps the lips, weathers the skin and dulls the hair.
Known as the African winter, this season is loved for creating night time temperatures that are guaranteed to give sweet sleep. This is all well and good until you wake up to itchy dry skin and impossible hair which has lost all hydration. This post will address harmattan skin care and hair care to keep you glowing all year round.
What are the effects of Harmattan on the body?
Harmattan season typically sees a drop in humidity, sometimes to as low as 15%. As ideal levels fall between 40% and 60%, this drop really takes a toll on the body, and the skin in particular, reducing moisture levels drastically, resulting in dry, itchy and even scaly skin.
Because the soft pliable nature of skin is dependent on its water content, a drop in moisture levels can lead to dry, tight uncomfortable skin which could crack in severe cases, leaving the body susceptible to infections and illness. In people with chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, Harmattan can bring a lot of discomfort and even pain.
The hair, lips, heels and even nails are not left out from the ravages of low humidity during Harmattan. They become dull, prone to breakage and difficult to manage. The effect is felt most heavily on the lips due to their soft nature, and because of the passage of air during talking and breathing which dries them further.
How to protect the skin during Harmattan?
- Hydration; It is important to drink as much water as possible during harmattan. The recommended daily intake is 8 glasses of water, so a little more than this; say 10 glasses would be needed to keep your body hydrated enough to balance the dryness of the environment.
- Skin; It is important to use a moisturizer that will infuse the skin with moisture. If it contains a humectant, it is even better. Of course we advocate the use of natural oils and butters which we have in abundance like Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, etc. If you on’t know where to get good ones, or don’t want the stress of mixing, either one of our Cocoa Body Butter our Mango Body Butter are a fantastic option for you to use as they are easily absorbed into the skin, imparting it with moisture from within while drawing moisture from the external to ensure soft, smooth skin all day.
- Hair; It is important to keep the hair strands protected and strengthened during Harmattan to prevent breakage and outright hair loss. We recommend protective hairstyles like braids, and regular Deep Conditioning (steaming) as well as application of a good leave-in conditioner every few days.
- Lips; The skin on this part of the body is very thin, and is therefore more delicate, which means that it needs a little more attention. A good quality lip balm will help protect from inside and outside, without just coating the lips with petroleum jelly which is a common ingredient in store bought lip balms as opposed to handmade lip balms which are made with Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Jojoba and some other rich Oils and Butters which lovingly nourish the skin.
- Cleansing; Due to the dust and dryness, it is important to step up on cleanliness. A rich moisturizing soap bar is important to harmattan kin care as it will help take the skin through this harsh weather. Soaps with exfoliants will ensure that dead skin cells are sloughed off leaving you looking radiant. For those who want to take it a notch higher a nourishing body scrub is advisable.
Harmattan Skin Care; Nourishment
Low humidity during Harmattan causes a loss of hydration from the entire body, and the skin being the largest organ in the body as well as the first line of defense for the body gets the worst of it. It is important to support the structures in their bid to gain and retain as much moisture as possible.
Homemade masks and packs will also help the skin stay above the dryness, below is a simple one for you to try;
Papaya Face Pack
This is a soothing and nourishing face pack rich with the antioxidant and anti-aging powers of Papaya and Bananas. Honey is a rich moisturizer making this an amazing way part of a harmattan skin care regime.
- A piece of ripe papaya
- A banana
- 2 tablespoons honey
How to Apply
1. Mash the papaya and banana so that no lumps remain.
2. Add the honey and mix well.
3. Apply this paste on your face and other dry areas on your body.
With proper tending, your skin and hair can thrive all year round. What other measures do you take for harmattan skin care? Please share your tips in the comments section.