Jamaican Beauty Secrets I Learned From My Grandma

Photo: The Travel Library/REX USA.
The island of Jamaica is known for its beauty: tropical beaches, gorgeous people, and its lush, relaxing resorts. But, did you know it’s home to some of the best kept, natural beauty secrets?
Born in the USA myself, I learned second-hand from my Jamaican-born grandmother — Nana, as we call her — all of her suggested beauty regimens throughout the years. They were regimens passed on from my great-grandmother, a woman who learned to make do with what little she had early in life because of the country’s political turmoil and economics.
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“In Jamaica, we used what we had, what was around us,” Nana says about the tips she’s amassed over the years.
At one time, though, I had chalked up the pointers she’s passed down as simply advice from an older woman not willing to let go of her culture. But, seeing as she was a woman with long, silky hair and seemingly ageless skin and had a tip for every beauty occasion, I was eventually eager to learn her “magical ways.”
The following bits of wisdom are my Nana’s, and I have come to find that they’ve kept my own hair and skin healthy over the years. Click through to find out what my Nana suggests for facials, hair treatments, and more. Does Grandma know best? She does for me.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walmart.
Nana Says: “Use an egg as a face mask to smooth out your skin.”

What To Use: Olive oil and an egg.

How It Works: Separate the egg into two bowls, placing the egg white in one and the yolk in the other. Next, dampen your face with warm water. Using a spoon or whisk, beat the egg white until it becomes frothy. Next, wet your fingertips with the egg white, and massage into your face in a circular motion. Wait 15 minutes for it to dry. Then, wipe away the dried egg from your face with a warm, damp cloth. Repeat this process using the egg yolk, letting it dry for 15 minutes. Then, splash and massage your face with cold water to wipe away the yolk. Pat your face dry.

Why It’s Great: After trying out this inexpensive, simple tip, I found my skin is tighter and smoother with repeated use. This may be due to the protein within eggs, but Nana will say she “just knew what works and what didn’t.”

Sunny Farms Grade A Fresh Large Eggs, available in-store at Walmart.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walmart.
Nana Says: “Drinking aloe helps to prevent breakouts.” What To Use: To make your own, you’ll need the aloe barbadensis plant, a blender, and orange (or grapefruit) juice. If you’d prefer to buy aloe juice from a store, purchase from a drugstore or mass retailer, where it generally runs for under $10.

How It Works: First, break off the leaves from the plant and peel the leaves away. Using a knife, cut away the rind from the leaves and discard. Then, peel away the yellow layer under the rind until you’re only left with clear aloe gel on the cutting board. Measure two tablespoons of aloe gel, and place it into a blender with one cup of squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. Blend for two minutes to mix your drink, and then pour a glass and enjoy.

Why It’s Great: According to Nana, the aloe plant has several properties that help to cleanse the blood system, which, in turn, she says prevents breakouts. While there also isn’t any specific science to support this, Nana always swore drinking aloe can help reduce dead skin cells and replenish them with new, radiant, healthy ones. After repeated use with smoother, clearer skin, I’d say Nana might’ve been on to something.

Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Juice, $4.73, available at Walmart.
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Nana Says: “Aloe can be used to treat hair loss, makes for a great shampoo and conditioner, and eliminates dandruff.”

What To Use: Aloe plant gel and coconut and jojoba oils.

How It Works: You can mix aloe gel from the plant with oils like coconut and jojoba oil to make a shampoo and conditioner. You can also clean oily hair by mixing aloe vera juice with lemon juices, and apply the mixture to a shaft of hair. The acid and nutrients from the lemon mixed with aloe gel works to fight oils in your hair.

Why It’s Great: The aloe vera plant is not called the “miracle” plant for nothing. It has several uses, from skin care to hair care, because of its unique properties and the fact it contains vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes that Nana says promote hair growth by getting rid of dead skin cells. Aloe vera’s anti-pruritic properties also serve to alleviate itching, dryness, and any dandruff.

Nature's Life Aloe Vera Gel, $6.49, available at iHerb.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sally Beauty.
Nana Says: “Jamaican black castor oil is said to help stimulate hair growth.”

What To Use: Jamaican castor oil, which runs for under $10 at your local pharmacy.

How It Works: Apply small amounts of Jamaican black castor oil to your roots and scalp. Next, using your fingertips, massage the oil throughout your scalp. For best results, it helps to leave the treatment in overnight (wrapping your hair with a headscarf), or you can go under a hairdryer for 15 to 30 minutes. Then, using your preferred shampoo, you can wash out the JBCO and style your hair.

Why It's Great: The properties within JBCO, such as omega-9 fatty acids, work with diverse hair types to reportedly stimulate hair growth as well as alleviate dryness and prevent hair loss. Nana also claims this treatment could prevent gray hair — though we’re going to have to call her bluff on that one.

Jamaican Mango and Lime Black Castor Oil, $6.99, available at Sally Beauty.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walmart.
Nana Says: “Drinking goat’s milk will rejuvenate your skin and make it tighter.”

What To Use: Goat’s milk, which you can find online or from most health-food stores for less than $10.

How It Works: What a simple treatment! All you need is to be open to drinking it (it tastes similar to cow’s milk), take a swig, and voilà.

Why It's Great: Of course, this one may sound weird to non-islanders, but my grandmother swears by drinking goat’s milk. For years, I often teased her for this tip, but after throwing back the stuff for a few days, I noticed smoother skin and I even looked less tired. Which makes sense: Goat’s milk contains vitamin A, an important vitamin for keeping skin healthy and looking youthful. Plus, when applied topically, the fatty acids and triglycerides work to moisturize your skin.

Meyenberg Goat Milk, available in-store at Walmart.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walmart.
Nana Says: “The drink made from sorrel, a version of the hibiscus plant, is great for maintaining healthy skin.”

What To Use: Sorrel, which you can purchase online or at a local health-food store for less than $10.

How It Works: Just tip one back.

Why It's Great: The drink, popular at holiday parties, is one of few treatments that both tastes great and offers beauty benefits, which includes rejuvenated skin thanks to the antioxidants and vitamin C in the drink.

Grace Tropical Rhythms Sorrel Ginger Juice, available in-store at Walmart.
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Photo: Courtesy of FreshDirect.
Nana Says: “The papaya fruit can be used to diminish the effects of UV damage, thus making your skin smoother.” (Remember, though: Nothing keeps UV damage away better than sunscreen.)

What To Use: Organic papaya, which you can purchase from a store that sells organic fruits, such as Whole Foods.

How It Works: You can use papaya in a mask by massaging the fruit’s peel on your face. Let it sit for about five minutes, and then rinse your face with cold water.

Why It’s Great: The vitamin A within papaya works as an antioxidant, and the fruit also contains papain, which breaks down inactive protein cells, thus removing dead skin cells. Furthermore, the alpha-hydroxy acids within the peel are essential for anti-aging. Nana also says the low sodium level of the fruit means it retains more water, thus hydrating your skin. But, the best part? After preparing the mask, you get to enjoy a great tasting fruit, which contains vitamins that are said to be healthy for your digestive system.

FreshDirect Hawaiian Kapoho Papaya, $3.99, available at FreshDirect.
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Photo: Pachd.
Nana Says: “Use a banana as a facial treatment.”

What To Use: Banana and olive oil

How It Works: Peel the banana, and massage the inner part of the peels on your face and neck. Then, after crushing the banana pulp and adding a few drops of olive oil to it, massage the mask onto your face. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash the mask away with cold water.

Why It's Great: Like the papaya facial treatment, the banana facial mask is simple, but it also hydrates your skin, makes it feel and appear smoother, and helps it glow.
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