One of the exciting/irritating things about moving to a new country is figuring out where to get or find an alternative for all the stuff of everyday life: dish soap, shampoo, groceries… While I must admit I’ve been frustrated more than once (ok, many, many times) about not being able to find something that I think I need, the things that I have found have been fantastic finds. My favorite? Moroccan skin care!
In her book Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood, Moroccan author Fatima Mernissi told the story of a little girl growing up in a domestic harem in Fez, Morocco in the 1940’s. The little girl, Fatima (based on the author herself), loved her mother’s and aunts’ beauty rituals; both at home and in the hammam (Moroccan baths). An interesting fact is that the hammam ritual is practiced by both women and men in Morocco. In the story, Fatima’s aunt explained that we experience the world through our skin, and so we should take care of it.
That image really struck me: we experience the world through our skin. After finishing the book, I scurried of to go find some savon noir and ghassoul clay!
Savon noir (Moroccan black soap) is an olive oil based soap that is integral to the hammam ritual in Morocco. In the hammam, savon noir is massaged into the skin, left on for several minutes, and then the skin is scrubbed with an exfoliating mitt called a kessa. It is a lovely all-purpose soap and is gentle enough to use as a face wash.
Ghassoul (sometimes spelled rhassoul) clay (featured image above) comes from the Atlas mountains. It can be purchased in powder form and has many applications: facial mask, hair mask, face scrub, full body mask, and treatment of skin conditions. I’m still on the fence about whether I prefer ghassoul clay or montmorillonite clay (which is also easy to find in Morocco). I’ve read that ghassoul is higher in silica, magnesium, and potassium. My feeling is that the montmorillonite clay is a bit gentler.
Rosewater is used for culinary purposes as well as for skin and hair. It is made by either distilling or simmering rose petals in water. I’ve used rosewater as a toner for years, and I’ve read that it can also be mixed with ghassoul clay instead of water when preparing a facial mask. Wellness Mama has good information on using ghassoul clay and rosewater.
Argan oil is a healing oil that comes from the kernels of the argan tree, which is native to Morocco. It is rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, antioxidants, Omega-6 fatty acids, and linoleic acid, making it both moisturizing and anti-inflammatory. In recent years, argan oil has become a trendy luxury item and is used in many high end skincare products. It is an excellent non-greasy moisturizer for both skin and hair.
“The magic of the hammam beauty treatments and ritual came not only from feeling that you had been reborn, but also from feeling that you had been the agent of that rebirth. ‘Beauty is within; you just have to bring it out,’ Aunt Habiba would say, posing like a queen in her room on the morning after the hammam.”
Dreams of Trespass is worth a read for so many reasons beyond the inspiring skincare rituals. It showed the strength of community, the function of tradition, the magic of stories, and the power of women with dreams.
“She also said that I should not worry for now, because I belonged to a long line of women with strong dreams. ‘Your Grandmother Yasmina’s dream was that she was a special creature,’ Aunt Habiba said, ‘and no one has ever been able to make her believe otherwise. She changed your grandfather, and he got in her dream and shared it with her. Your mother has wings inside, too, and your father flies with her whenever he can. You’ll be able to transform people, I’m sure of it.'”
To transformation and glowing from the inside out!