Thursday, August 23, 2012

African skin care

This photo has nothing to do with this post, but it's too cute not to share. This was L's favorite "hiding spot". 

Ethiopian skin evolved, from Lucy on down, in a low humidity, sunny, mild climate.  Ethiopia's tourist bureau is filled with posters advertising their "13 Months of Sunshine!", and it's pretty much true. The temperature ranges from 50 to 80 degrees all year.

So, my children's African skin finds our North American climate, with its wild swings in temperature and humidity (not to mention air conditioning and central heating) very very harsh! They are both prone to heat rash, dry skin, and sunburn. (Yes, sunburn. Brown skin gets darker in the sun, just like white skin.)  Lily has had some terrible episodes of diaper rash.

Here a few things I've learned about keeping their skin healthy:

1. They need moisturizers every time they have a bath or shower.  We always bathe after swimming, as salt and chlorine are very harsh and drying. Cerave is the best moisturizer we've found. It's not greasy, but it coats and protects their skin beautifully.

2. We cover up in the sun. Rash guards for beach days or sprinkler time were a must. Daniel is actually allergic to sunscreen, so we simply stay covered up or in the shade on sunny days.  (Thanks to the wonderful "Orphan Doctor", Dr. Jane Aronson, for diagnosing this.  Sunscreen, even "sensitive skin" types give him a red, itchy rash.)

3. We use a thick paste-like diaper cream for Lily, every time. Diaper rash can be a huge issue for children in orphanages or care centers.  Ointments and creams that we take for granted will be in every corner store here can be hard to optain in Africa. When we went to Addis Ababa the first time, we took an entire suitcase full of creams and ointments for the care center! We are very lucky that Lily was rash free when she came home, but it can flair up overnight.

 4. Aquaphor or some other thick moisture cream goes on their hands, knees and elbows, and a little on their faces, especially in winter.

5. Finally, we rub coconut oil into their hair and scalp about once a week.  This oil is wonderful in that it keeps their hair and skin healthy (and smells delicious!).


  1. I am allergic to sunscreen too! Big time rashes. Even allergic most baby sensitive skin kinds. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin is one of the only ones I can use. Fallene Cotz is good too (mine's tinted tho- not sure about the rest of the line). Also hear great things about Vanicream an plan to try that eventually. The key is titanium dioxide based.

  2. Hi Becky

    We where at the guest house with you and your husband on your first trip and we where picking up our Ali (Almaz). The coconut oil that up put on thier head is it a soild or a liquid? Ali has some dry spots on her little head she scratches them like crazy she comes to me with her head bent down and says "mommie itchy scratch" poor little thing. We have some pure coconut oil that we got when she first came. I only wash her hair once a week. But make her hair wet just about every morning I have a hard time with leaving in her braids or piggys cuz if I don't then their is no way I'm going to get a pick or anything threw it.

    Traci Knopik

    1. hi, I wondered onto your blog looking for an Injera recipe. But I love your page!! I'm 23 and I was born in Egypt but I am Ugandan. I've been living in the US since I was 5. Anyway, the best thing for African skin(or any skin in general), I've found, is coconut oil. Pure organic Extra Virgin Coconut oil. It works great!! It does a good job at moisturizing the skin but not making it greasy or clogging the pore. It helps the skin maintain its natural balance of sebum. But please, contact me if you want details on anything and I'll be more than happy to help... especially in the hair department(i'm a hairdresser and an elementary education teacher)


Add your comment here. Don't worry about logging in... you can just use your name, and leave the "URL" box blank. Thank you! -Becky