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Liha Beauty: Wildcrafted Africa-Inspired Skincare

Imagine how excited we were when we stumbled across Liha Beauty, a fellow Africa-inspired beauty brand who make a black soap using our favourite moringa superleaf. Founded by best friends Abi Oyepitan & Liha Okunniwa, the Liha Beauty range includes oils, soaps and lotions made with natural ingredients and Yoruba traditions. The pair pride themselves on creating cruelty free, vegan, natural beauty products that are homemade in small batches in Cheltenham and London. 

We caught up with the beauty duo to find out more about their moringa soap, what natural beauty means to them, and the social impact of Liha Beauty:

The recipes of your skincare range are based upon Yoruba traditions – who taught you how to create your own natural beauty products and what are these traditions?

Abi: I spent some of my early years in Nigeria where it was part of everyday life to see women and men making all sorts of products and concoctions. It was very normal seeing my mum whipping up her own natural beauty concoctions using everything from Shea butter to Palm oil - she was constantly cooking up skin recipes to help my older sister who suffered badly from eczema.

Liha: My mum is a herbalist and aromatherapist so it has always been natural to me to mix up my own things at home. I grew up above my parent’s shops where they sold a mixture of natural products, essential oils, crystals and African literature and jewellery. My paternal grandmother had a lot of skills she learned in Nigeria that she showed me.

Africa holds many beauty secrets & remedies which have been proven over centuries of use, from the moisturising power of raw shea butter to recipes for extracting flower essence into coconut oils. In the Yoruba tradition, making oils, soaps & lotions from the nuts, tree bark & plants is a skill that was traditionally learned by all young women. These recipes have been reworked over time but always rely on the natural bases that form the Liha range - coconut oil & shea butter.

Liha Okunniwa & Abi Oyepitan
Liha Okunniwa & Abi Oyepitan, founders of Liha Beauty 

You host regular Kitchen Beauty workshops to show people how to make skin and hair care recipes at home. How crucial do you think it is for people to choose beauty products with natural ingredients?

More than ever people are educating themselves not just about what they ingest but also what they put on their bodies. Your skin is the largest organ adsorbing a massive proportion of what you put on it including those nasty parabens, SLS which are essentially detergents used as pesticides to kill plants, petroleum… the list is endless. So if you wouldn’t eat those ingredients why would you put them on your skin?!
For us it is crucial to educate and inform people. That’s why we came up with the concept of ‘Kitchen Beauty’. Not only did we want to introduce the western market to the wonders of shea butter but also to show how easy it is to make natural body care choices. We know there are natural alternatives to most of the chemical ingredients we find in skincare products but those alternatives might not look and feel the way we are used to, so it’s really just an educational process. We are not saying that all products with chemical ingredients are a no go - some work amazingly - but knowing how to make healthy choices is important.

Why did you choose moringa as a key ingredient in your black soap?

Abi: My dad was the first to introduce me to moringa.  He started using it when he got diagnosed with prostrate cancer. That’s when I started to do my research, I found that as well as helping treat lots of ailments and conditions, it has great antioxidant properties on skin. It fast became the base of my facemask. So when we decided to start developing our Ose Gidi soap, moringa was a must as one of our main ingredients.

Black Moringa Soap
Handmade African Black Soap 'Ose Gidi' containing Moringa Superleaf 

Do you think having a simple beauty regime makes it easier to maintain?

Abi: Of course: the fewer products you use, the less you clog up your skin, allowing it to do what it does naturally and effectively and making it easier to maintain healthy skin.

Liha: I’ve never been a beauty junky but over the years I used various products that haven’t worked on my skin. I’ve always reverted back to the staples my mother used on me as a child. Now my own beauty routine is very simple and totally natural. I think people are so used to having so many steps in their beauty regime and don’t realise simplicity is the best way to maintain the health and lustre of your skin.

What is the social impact of Liha Beauty and how do you see the brand growing in the future?

Sustainability is vital to our business and us – long term we want to source ingredients from a variety of West African based cooperatives and local partners ensuring local producers are paid a fair price for their produce. We currently work with the Global Shea Alliance, who work to ensure sustainability industry wide. We are hoping to make more links with Nigerian communities that produce shea so we can help build community cooperatives there. The shea industry has transformed Ghana's economic climate and we want to do the same for Nigerian communities.

You can find out more about Abi & Liha, shop their beauty range or find your local Liha Beauty stockist on their website