Greening The Skin Care in The Mahgrib

Update at the bottom.

OK. Let’s talk about some seemingly superficial stuffs. Anyone who knows me well may note that I never talk about these things as they speak to my vanities and I am so vain that I am careful to hide such vanities. But in the interest of the betterment of societies—and my internal organs—let’s talk skincare products.

Raw Black Soap

One of those hidden blessings of moving to Morocco is having to rethink my bee-u-tee products, such as facial moisturizer, exfoliates, shampoos and so on. I am fairly low maintenance, don’t use any styling stuffs at all, though I like to use Good products on myself. By ‘good’ I mean natural, environmentally friendly and the like. At various times in my life I have brushed my teeth exclusively with baking soda and used castile soap to clean everything else. At other times I have used the full line of expensive face products or others from conscientious companies. Currently I haven’t used a face wash in nearly ten years, but I do exfoliate a couple times a week and use moisturizer at least twice a day—still trying to use my products responsibly. Well, that’s a bit harder here in Morocco where the most toxic product makers have a firm hand on the market. And I insist that I don’t want to have to rely on stuffs from back home. I want to live here wholly.  You know, buy local blah, blah, blah.

So. It’s kind of stupid how I have gone about this, but here is my winded story about going green in Morocco with my personal products. When we first got here we tried to find a “natural” or “gentle” shampoo to share with the kids. I brought a little bottle of Dr.Bronner’s for the baby’s needs. Well. We didn’t really find anything. “Natural” bar soap is available but it doesn’t list the ingredients (one of which is definitely fragrance) and man do I hate soap scum. So we made do with some Spanish-labeled (meaning European made) “suave” shampoo for babies/kids. To be clear to folks who maybe haven’t read or thought about this stuff and wonder why we didn’t just get baby shampoo: Johnson and Johnson was offered to us at a few places where we asked for “natural” or “gentle for babies” shampoo and J&J is toxic, nice marketing work though. Most shampoos have toxic stuffs in them, even baby shampoos. So, a couple days ago, this is several months that we have been using it, I compared the label of our “gentle for babies” shampoo to another regular big name shampoo we have and the ingredients are THE SAME except the “gentle” one has chamomile extract in it. I stopped using shampoo that day, again. I have tried to quit shampoo a few times in my life, but we will get to that in a minute.

Hair and Body

About a month into Morocco and our search for natural products, the husband brought home some black soap shavings and some hair stuff called Souplesse Shampooing Crème or Ghassoul Moussant.

Souplesse looks like-well--mud and smells like roses. So- natural? I dunno.

I haven’t worked with the raw black soap other than letting the kids carve it. I started using the Souplesse exclusively, but continued to use shampoo as body wash and on the kids. That was really dumb. The kids and their porous lil bodies should be my primary concern, but I felt that I was guinea piggy myself to see if it would work. Anyway. This new system basically meant that I was quitting shampoo, but using a deep conditioner though I didn’t know that was what Souplesse is, and actually I am still not clear about what it is because we have interpreter/translation complications.  So with this quasi-shampoo-free system, as so many people have testified before, my hair adjusted to my natural pH level (or whatever, let’s not get too technical here) and was gorgeous within about a week. I mean super model thick and lustrous and gorgeous, masha Allah.

But. Psychologically I couldn’t handle it. And this is where I always get hung-up when I try to quit shampoo. To a lesser degree I worry about my face breaking out from all the natural oils in my hair, but that doesn’t happen. What I am really hung up on is being indoctrinated to believe that my hair is not clean. I must use shampoo and therefore conditioner which is just dumb, dumb, dumb as well as bad for my skin, organs and the environment. Even though my hair was looking great, I hadn’t adjusted to the different feel of both my scalp and hair. I caved and used shampoo.

So, here we go again. I cut off a few inches of my long hair, (all by myself and I did a pretty good job, this being the fourth time I have done so) and now it really is at its healthiest best and again I am going shampoo-free. I just hope I can stop being a dastard (not a typo) and go through with it this time. I may look into making a vinegar rinse if I get too freaked out. I also want to quit using it on the kids and use only the “natural” bar soap on their bodies as well as mine. I guess this means a quick scrub and rinse off after they play in the tub for a while. When did I become such a fussy old lady, stuck in her ways?

Love these cute little bottles of vinegar!


As for my face products I have been down to just exfoliating a couple times a week and moisturizing twice daily for about nine years. At times I have attempted to add onto that regime, like using straight vitamin E on some dry areas during the sub-arctic winters, but that’s the daily routine. So those are products which I brought a little extra of until I could find new ones here. I have searched the beauty suppliers—upscale and common—and you basically have two options here for buying cosmetics and beauty products 1) affordable toxin-filled big name stuffs or 2) expensive toxin-filled fancy name stuffs. Then there is natural. Really natural, like olive or argan oil. There is a whole line of natural oils available at the common shops and I hope to look at those more closely in the next few months. For now I found an argan-based moisturizer that is working really well, though I am not completely satisfied with the ambiguous label. Being able to use 100% pure oil on my face is the ultimate goal. Whew, “oil on my face” sounds exactly what I have been trying to get rid of for years, so that’s one to work towards.

I am extremely pleased with my little industrious self for finding a new exfoliating regime. My good friend Iman, started cleaning here face here in Morocco with baking soda and avocado after she nearly killed herself (exaggeration, but it hurt!) by accidentally inhaling Nivea when she sneezed in the shower. This burned her throat, led to infection and got her on anti-biotics–an abrupt shove down the path to natural! Now, I can’t use baking soda on my sensitive skin, but avocado sounded very tempting. Too tempting, I kept eating the avocados before I could get them into the bathroom! So, I thought about all the other “natural” ingredients that I have used in store bought products. I considered pineapple, oatmeal, apricots, and rice. Rice! A friend of mine once had some very high-brow “Japenese rice skin polishing powder” or something like that and it occurred to me, hmmm. A couple weeks ago I started making The Bebeh her very own custom, handcrafted babyfood. Using a coffee grinder I finely grind rice into a powder before cooking. Viola! I add a little water to make a paste and now have a fabulous exfoliating mask. I have only used it twice (I have to stop myself from exfoliating no more than twice weekly!!) and it has really done a great job. My skin is smooth and lovely.


Handcrafted *giggle* rice powder for exfoliating.

So, the plan is: Commit to quitting shampoo. Investigate those pure oils at the shops and try to find a purer moisturizer. Experiment with the black soap shavings. Include the kids. Go Moroccan Green!

**Update: A few friends have tried the rice polishing thing and are very happy with it. It seems the starch tightens up the pores and draws out yuckiness while it also sloughs off dead skin. It does feel like when I used to get facials. I’m loving the suggestions in the comments. Thanks all


11 thoughts on “Greening The Skin Care in The Mahgrib

  1. salaams.

    WOW… just WOW…

    you know, i just read somewhere that using olive oil (a small amount) works against oily skin. and i got some tulsi (basil) powder for face cleaning, which i guess is an ancient aryuvedic remedy for acne (yes, i still have serious acne problems) and is a natural antiseptic/anti-infection treatment. now, i just saw somewhere that it is also good against dandruff? so i guess it’s like an all-around awesome thing that every woman should have! i don’t know if that is something you can get there?

    and i am gonna try the rice powder for exfoliating, inshaAllah! i only really eat brown rice now, or a mix of brown & white just to use the white i have sitting here, so this is another way i can use up my white rice, iA. in fact, i am off to go grind some up in my coffee grinder right now and get it bagged up for use so i have no excuse for not doing it later!

  2. Salams

    lol-grind it fine!!! Mine needs a little more grinding. I didn’t know that about olive oil. We have plenty sitting around the steps.

    Hmm. My mil grows basil like it’s a rose garden. I wonder if it has to be a specific kind because this stuff isn’t so yummy and they don’t generally eat it. I would never know you have an acne problem, I still get zits. I think I feel a poultice in the works. 😛

  3. Rice water. When you rinse your rice, save the water and use it as a rinse for face and skin. I learned about this years ago when I was much more green in my lifestyle. Rinse the rice water off with fresh water to avoid sticky face. It is supposed to leave the face with the right amount of oils and pH balance…ah, I can’t remember why it is so good anymore but I do know I used it on Nusy a lot as a newborn and infant and I still use it on me when my skin needs calming.

    Exfoliate with honey and sesame seeds lightly ground, use more like a mask than scrub. Steam body with a bit of lemon grass in the steam source. Treat blemishes with bergamot (sp?). Dandelion stem juice for stings from other plants…like stinging nettle. Rosemary and mint “tea” for a rinse if head flakes are a problem…not a cure for all causes of dandruff or itchy scalp but very good for cold weather caused kinds. Sugar (not salt) in oil for body exfoliation is easy but not as wonderful as honey and more of a mess. These things I have tried and liked.

    Not tried by me…Rose petals rubbed on nails is supposed to give a natural tinting and moisturize cuticles. (Like henna does but not so obvious in color.) Ground appricot and peach pits for facials.

    1. Salams Aneesa –
      I shoulda known about you and food on the face! The rice water rinse sounds really good for people with sensitive skin especially, going to recommend a friend try it. I am getting a little antsy to do something with honey–keep hearing interesting face recipes for it–though yours sounds very yummy. 😛 And I LOVE lemongrass, but they don’t have it here–pretty sure.

      Thanks for all the pointers!

  4. Have you seen the body scubber cloth that goes over your hand? It is the shape of a rectangle then has elastic around one end of it. You just slide it over your hand like a glove and wash your body with it. It is an abrasive cloth that you use over our whole body when you shower.
    The reason I ask is because I have one of these that I use on my face and it works well. I don’t have to Exfoliate, I just use that.
    Also, argan oil is the best. Argan trees are ONLY in Morocco. They make a lot of argan oil in the south. My in-laws mailed some to the US for us. I LOVED it. My husband told me that people just use it straight on their skin but even just eating it makes your skin look healthy. They use it on dry patches.
    I’ve been looking online to buy argan oil and now I notice that the color has changed. So they must be adding things in with Argan because it is so expensive. You will know the oil is pure if it is more of an amber color.
    Some of the stuff they are selling online is yellow *blah*.
    As far as the hair is concerned, I too have really been thinking hard about losing the shampoo. It can’t be healthy for your hair to use soap on it every day and it REALLY dries out my scalp.
    I know another woman that uses lemon and sugar to cleanse her hair. She has done that for years and her hair looks healthy. I just need to find something simple and that will make my hair look fresh and smooth without making it frizzy.

    1. Salams Leila –
      I can’t use the scrubber on my face, it’s way to abrasive but I use it elsewhere and it’s really fab. There seems to be a great argan drought spreading. It is being exported now and used in fancy beauty products and also I hear that wild boars have been introduced to some southern regions for tourist sport and they are ruining the production. It’s really unfortunate that you are getting the refined stuff. We are so spoiled on fresh, natural olive oil here–and previously argan, but have been out of it for a couple months. I hope we find a new supplier soon–its’ 200 dirhams per liter at the souks!

  5. assalam alaikum.

    I have used straight almond oil for all my skin moisturizing needs. I started using it when i developed eczema years ago. it seems greasy at first, but once you’re used to it, you’ll love it. almonds grow in morocco, right?

  6. Bismillah,

    What kind of rice do you use to make the bebeh her food and you exfoliant? basmati?

    1. Salams sis,
      I bought some bulk sticky rice, but I’m going to try to find some jasmin cuz I hear that is available here, iA. Basmati is cruelly expensive 😦

  7. Salam Alaikum,
    I was reading this and wondering about the no shampoo method on the hair. My kids have different hair and one keeps getting dry patches on the scalp.. my no likey.. but recently I started rubbing argon oil in her hair and leaving it in for a day then washing her hair… and the next week doing olive oil. So far when we put the oil in her hair it absorbs it and looks so beautiful, and curly. But the other child it makes her hair look stringy and dirty. So one gets oiled and the other just washed. I did try argon oil with sugar as a face exfoliant, and have also do the olive oil with sugar..but that was fairly abrasive. I like argon oil on the face after hot shower… yes it is a bit expensive… but so worth it when you can get it. Can you explain the no shampoo stuff? Do you still do this or have you gone back to shampoo of sorts?

    1. Walaikum Asalam,

      I’ve been meaning to write a follow up to this–sigh, insha Allah. I think I have found my groove–for this season at least! Right now I am using the shampooing creme a couple of times a week. I’m curious as to what is in it. Hear it is black soap and fragrance–but what’s THAT? Still, me and my hairs are very happy with it. There are different scents in the souks too, but my personal shopper keeps bringing home the “rose” one.
      I LOVE argan. It is truly awesome, and very unfortunate that it is now being exported. I use it on the baby’s butt, the dry-skin boy and occasionally myself. I also use a “made” moisturizer on my face that has argan in it. I would like to try just plain ole argan on my face and will try to get some non-food grade quality just as soon as my moisturizer runs out. The Hub uses straight olive oil on dry areas, as does his mom–but–it really does stain a greenish hue over prolonged use, so uh, rather have a honey-stain ala argan if that’s how it has to be. 😉
      And yes, I have different hair and skin types on the kids and experiment on them too! 😀

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