Touch, feel and collected memories in the body

Like every time when she finishes showering, she was sitting on the edge of the bed, the loincloth at her waist, facing the window overlooking the street. She loves living in Paris, the city she has been calling home for over 20 years now. It has everything she likes: the beautiful architecture, the food, the art scene, but more importantly she has built her little family here.

Since she has decided to reduce her footprint by flying less, her cosmetics routine and products have been her new way of visiting, revisiting and discovering places around the world. This day she decided to cherish her body with one of her favorite oil: macadamia oil. Its light/viscous texture makes her float on a little cloud above southern Africa. And its smell reminds her of one of the most delicious vegan meal she has ever eaten, the last time she was in Nairobi.

She felt a little hand caressing her back.  « Mommy, your back is so smooth ».

May I rub some oil on your back? The little one suggested. From Southern Africa, she has been transported by these little hands to west-Africa, to Bamako, the city she grew up in.

Laid down on the couch in the family home, she revived these evenings where her mom would massage her tailbone and spine after she had a minor accident and fell at the school.

Her mind recalled each detail from the accident. Her body was once again filled with the vibrations from her mom’s humming. And she could still feel how the fingers would sink into her spine as if to uproot the pain. She observed her body and noticed impulses and emotions raised. She didn’t try to hold them back, she embraced them and let go, she cried of joy, of pains, or rememorating.  

 

With images, words and discussions we have been exposed to recently, as a black person, our body may be going through a process of understanding and recognition of old experiences because it has a knowledge that is different from our cognitive brains. And this knowledge is stored in our bodies.

“The body is where we fear, hope, and react; where we constrict and release; and what the body most cares about are safety and survival. When something happens to the body that is too much, too fast, or too soon, it overwhelms the body and can create trauma. Contrary to what many people believe, trauma is not primarily an emotional response. Trauma always happens in the body. It’s a spontaneous protective mechanism used by the body to stop or thwart further (or future) potential damage” RESMAA MENAKEM – My grandmother’s hands.

Massage helps flushing out of impurities and toxins through the skin, and increases our vibrancy, promoting soft and lustrous skin. And is also demonstrated to be an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension and to help calm down the body when it is going through an overwhelming phase like the one, we might be going through now.

While meditation is a great buffer for mental stress, massage with oil is a buffer for the body and nervous system, known to release oxytocin.

When was the last time we massaged ourselves or let a partner or a family member massage us?

Self-massage or massage by a partner or a family member is a simple but effective moment of wellness which can help bring back our body in the present time. It produces happy hormones, feelings of caring, comfort and connection. A partner or parent knows our body better and we also feel more confortable giving our emotions free rein. 

When done regularly, oil-based (warm oil), it is beneficial for maintaining the health of our nervous system. The oil will make its way to the nerve endings. When the nerve endings absorb the oil, it gives one the feeling of deep rest, warmth and a feeling of stability. Bringing with it contentment and self-acceptance.

We can self-massage every day for about 10-20 minutes and once or twice a longer session from a partner, or relative we feel comfortable with.

The African continent abounds in natural and high-quality ingredients used in cosmetics worldwide. Here are three (04) oils you may want to try in your massage ritual.

  • SESAME OIL  

INCI: Sesamum indicum

West Africa – Burkina Faso

Appearance: Oily fluid.

Color: Light yellow.

Odor: Characteristic sesame odour.

Touch: Dry, it penetrates quickly into the skin without leaving an oily film.

Rich in antioxidants, it’s protective and regenerating. It acts effectively on desquamation and dry skin. Softening, it maintains the skin's good hydration while penetrating easily.

Traditionally used synergistically in massage care in cases of joint discomfort.

  • MACADAMIA OIL

INCI: Macadamia ternifolia or Macadamia integrifolia

Sothern Africa - Kenya

Appearance: fairly viscous oily liquid

Color: yellow slightly green

Odor: sweet and pleasant, with hints of nuts

Touch: dry, very penetrating and does not create an occlusive film on the surface of the skin. Its fatty acid composition is very close to that of sebum. Softening, nourishing and anti-dehydration, Repairing and soothing, it brings protection and softness to the skin.

  • KALAHARI WATERMELON OIL

INCI: Citrullus lanatus

Southern Africa - Namibie

Appearance: very fluid oily liquid

Color: light yellow

Odor: very sweet of nuts

Touch: dry, penetrates quickly without leaving a greasy film

Regenerating, restructuring, protective and softening. It regulates skin hydration and sebum production. Restores the skin's hydrolipidic film and improves skin suppleness. Very easily absorbed by the skin, "non-greasy" effect. It is reputed to bring a beautiful complexion to dark skins.

  • TOULOUCOUNA 

INCI: Carapa procera

West Africa – Guinea

Appearance: from oily liquid to semi-solid paste depending on the temperature.

Color: beige to amber

Odor: characteristic, seedy, fairly strong odor when smelled from the bottle.

Touch: rich. Can be mix with drier oil (macadamia, jojoba, kukui …) to improve its cutaneous penetration. Soothing, regenerating and repairing, promotes the repair of dry scaly skin and muscle discomfort.
Emollient and nourishing, softens and soothes dry or sensitive skin.

“The reality is that we are bodies born of other bodies feeding other bodies, bodies having sex with other bodies, bodies seeking a shoulder to lean or cry on… bodies matter, which is why anything related to them arouses emotions.” FRANS DE WAAL – Our Inner ape