November is Native American Heritage Month, and at Avari Beauty, we are taking this month — and every month — as an opportunity to educate and recognize the culture, teachings, and history of Native peoples. As a native-owned brand, Avari Beauty is dedicated to honoring the resilience, grace, and tradition of those indigenous to this land. Just as elders pass down native culture and traditions through ceremony and storytelling, Avari Beauty’s founder and CEO Kari Tribble wishes to honor her Native American heritage by celebrating the connection between the indigenous community and the natural world.
Hattie Tom, Apache, 1898
(Owned by Boston Public Library)
For centuries Indigenous women have utilized ancient wisdom and their connection to botanicals to create healing and nourishing salves for skin and hair. This week in honor of Native American Heritage Month, we’re taking a look at some indigenous beauty secrets that laid the foundation for modern skincare cosmetics and hairstyling.
Native Americans first pioneered many botanicals used in modern beauty products. With intimate knowledge passed down by native elders, the healing benefits of plants and minerals have been harnessed to create soothing and nourishing natural cosmetics for hundreds of years. From the hydrating properties of Aloe Vera to the anti-inflammatory benefits of Prickly Pear, here are some amazing offerings of nature discovered and used by indigenous people.
Juniper Root for Luscious Locks
Juniper (also known as creeping cedar) is the most widely distributed native conifer in North America. Due to their high antioxidants level, Indigenous people would stew Juniper berries into a tea and use it to treat skin problems. Juniper wash works to repair and strengthen the skin’s outer layer, helping it to defend itself from impurities and premature aging.
As well as Juniper berries, indigenous tribes soaked Juniper roots in water and used the solution to wash their horses, making their coats glossy and lustrous. Modern hair care products use juniper root to give hair lots of shine and decongest the scalp.
Aloe Vera for Hydrating Skin
The soothing and healing properties of Aloe Vera are one of the most effective ways to protect skin from extreme climates such as hot and dry deserts. Native Americans also used aloe vera as an insect repellent to protect them from pesky bites. In fact, as one of the most versatile plants, indigenous people found many uses for aloe vera — from treating sunburn to creating soap and even protecting wooden furniture from invasive pests. In modern cosmetics, aloe vera is used for its skin-soothing properties and is popular in sun cream and aftersun formulas.
Rose Hips For Skincare
Wild rose hips contain a significant amount of vitamin A and B, making them an important vitamin source for indigenous people during the winter months. In fact, Native Americans used rose hips in many different ways. For instance, Pueblo Native Americans created a salve out of rose hips to treat mouth sores. Many modern beauty bloggers revere rosehip seed oil as a wonder product, able to reduce redness, fight signs of aging, calm acne, and hydrate the skin. Even Avari Beauty’s very own Kari utilizes Rosehip seed oil as her go-to facial oil.
“Rosehip seed oil is my favorite facial oil. It feels very sacred to me...like a kiss from the earth! From evening out my skin to creating a healthy looking tone, this oil heals not only my skin, but also my heart.”
— Kari Tribble | Avari Beauty Founder & CEO
Bearberry to Relieve the Itch
Indigenous tribes used this evergreen shrub as an effective relief for itchy scalps. A poultice made from the Bearberry shrub’s infused leaves has been used as a salve to treat skin rashes and sores, as well as a wash for baby’s heads. Native people’s wisdom has undoubtedly influenced Bearberry’s use as an ingredient in commercial hair care products to soothe the scalp.
Corn to Purify the Skin
Corn had a crucial importance in ancient Native American life. As well as being used as a food source, many Native Americans ground up corn to use as a cleanser for the skin. This was often rubbed on to the skin by indigenous tribes before performing ceremonies to remove impurities from the body. Ground corn is also an effective exfoliator and can rid the skin of dead cells, encouraging faster cell turnover and renewal.
Prickly Pear to Reduce Inflammation
The Prickly Pear cactus is a staple in the diets of many indigenous people of the southwestern United States. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, indigenous tribes in New Mexico and California used Prickly Pear nopales to reduce swelling. In addition, the leaves of the prickly pear can be used to make a hydrating moisturizer that protects from the sun.
Saw Palmetto to Regulate Hair Growth
Saw palmetto is a small palm tree found in Florida and some other southeastern states. Indigenous people from the Seminole tribe in Florida used Saw Palmetto berries as a food source and to treat urinary and reproductive problems. In fact, Saw Palmetto is widely used by medical professionals in Europe to treat prostate issues. Native American women used this plant to regulate facial hair growth. This is another example of pioneering indigenous wisdom, as many modern studies show that Saw Palmetto can suppress DHT production in the body — a hormone produced by testosterone.
Wild Mint for Hair Styling
Wild mint is one of the few native mints that grows in the U.S. The Cheyenne used wild mint to create an antibacterial and antimicrobial hair oil. Similarly, the Nlaka’pamux tribe of British Columbia soaked the whole wild mint plant in warm water to make a hairdressing solution. Wild mint is often used in commercial products to relieve dandruff symptoms and soothe the scalp.
Rose Hips For Skincare
Wild rose hips contain a significant amount of vitamin A and B, making them an important vitamin source for indigenous people during the winter months. In fact, Native Americans used rose hips in many different ways. For instance, Pueblo Native Americans created a salve out of rose hips to treat mouth sores. Many modern beauty bloggers revere rosehip seed oil as a wonder product, able to reduce redness, fight signs of aging, calm acne, and hydrate the skin. Even Avari Beauty’s very own Kari uses Rosehip seed oil as her go-to facial oil.
“Rosehip seed oil is my favorite facial oil. It feels very sacred to me...like a kiss from the earth! From evening out my skin to creating a healthy looking tone, this oil heals not only my skin, but also my heart.” — Kari Tribble | Avari Beauty Founder & CEO
Yarrow as a Hair Shampoo
Yarrow is a small perennial plant that was used by Native Americans as a fragrant hair wash. The Syilx of British Columbia mixed Yarrow leaves and stems with other plants to create a cleansing shampoo. In commercial cosmetics, Yarrow is used to effectively treat dandruff, counteract itchiness, and reduce oil on the scalp.
Yucca to Prevent Hair Loss
The yucca plant was used by many indigenous people to encourage healthy hair growth and prevent baldness. The Navajo uses the roots of yucca plants to create a natural shampoo that protects against dandruff and hair loss. Some indigenous people apply yucca plants directly to their skin to help heal sores, reduce bleeding, and ease joint pain.
If you would like to learn more about the historical, cultural, and economic contributions of Native Americans, head to https://www.ncai.org