By Tiyani Rikhotso
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
With the rise in consciousness on what we are putting on our bodies and its effect on the environment, as well as the focus on trailblazing womxn for this edition, Varsity sat down with UCT student Palesa Nkosi. She shares her journey towards starting a natural products company and, a few tips and tricks when it comes to looking after your skin and hair in a way that is kind to your body and the environment.
Could you introduce yourself to Varsity’s readers? Who are you and what are you up to?
I’m Palesa Nkosi, I’m in my 2ndyear and I’m majoring in Politics and Governance and Media and Writing. I’m from Pretoria but have also lived in Malawi for a bit as my father is Malawian. I’m interested in things that have to do with engaging the youth and as far as hobbies go, I like exploring and hiking. I’m very keen to know about my surroundings, be it keeping up with the news or going out into Cape Town and seeing what it has to offer.
The words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are all the rage right now. As the world becomes more conscious about our impact on the environment and how our daily habits affect our health, how were you first introduced to the world of natural products?
I mainly encountered natural products such as; the popular black soap and shea butter, while searching online for different skin remedies, as it’s something I’ve always struggled with. Living in Malawi also helped encouraged my curiosity about natural products. There are less stores that have top of the range products, and so you are always trying to find a home remedy that you can use for your skin and hair.
Essentially it was spurred from a need for me to dosomething about my skin and a lack of resources.
Why is it important for you to use natural products and what benefits have you seen?
Aside from the environmental benefits of using natural products, with black soap and shea butter – that are produced within Africa, I’d like to think that I am supporting people on the continent by buying local. I’m also able to minimize the risk of reacting to refined and processed products and have also found that products like shea butter and black soap are much cheaper (especially if you buy in bulk).
Tell us a bit about your business.
The business started towards the second semester last year. While walking around town I bumped into this lady who was selling black soap and raw shea butter. I was so blown away because I had been seeing them online but had no idea where to get them. When I got back to res and saw my roommate get excited about the products as well, I had the idea to post on my WhatsApp status and on an Instagram poll asking if anyone would be interested in buying black soap and shea butter. Lots of people responded showing interest and in February this year I decided to fully commit to the idea.
I started selling black soap around res and campus. I made posters to advertise the product and people responded really positively. Then, after a while of promoting on my personal Instagram account, someone suggested that I start a separate page for the business. I was a bit wary at first but after a week, the account had about 200 followers and interest from people all around Cape Town, not just UCT. I saw a huge market for natural products and started stocking up on shea butter and coconut oil as well; providing little combo packs.
Right now, it’s a one woman show. I have had one or two people reach out interested in helping, but at this point, the benefits I would gain from having someone work with me would only be in relation to small things like help with shopping for stock.
Your skin and hair always seem to be popping, can you give us a glimpse into your routine?
Right now, I’m following the 10 step Korean skin care routine. I don’t follow all 10 steps, but I’ve seen some benefit from including something like the double cleansing method. I use shea butter as my oil cleanser then follow it up with a foam cleanser. In the morning I just do the basic stuff and, at night focus on more of the 10 steps, including things like a toner and serum.
With my hair, I’ve always put it into twists at night – it’s become like a habit now. When I do these, I twist shea butter into them. I wash my hair with black soap and use oils a lot as well. I mix them in a spray bottle and do an oil treatment a couple of times a week.
What are three skincare secrets that you swear by?
The first is, when washing your hair, rub the product in and cleanse for 60 seconds. My other tip would be masks. They are really great for skin plus you get the added benefit of pampering yourself as I find them quite relaxing. I also try really hard to be better about my water intake. Throughout my skincare journey it was something I never really paid attention to, but now that I’m doing the Korean 10 step routine, it’s something I’m more conscious about.
For someone looking to transition or take care of their natural hair, spending money on products may be intimidating and discouraging. Do you have any budget-friendly tips or go-to natural products that are affordable and easy to incorporate into one’s routine?
Oils are my affordable go to and really good for natural hair. You can invest in a few from Dischem or Clicks. You’ll find anything from Argan oil to coconut oil and can end up only spending under R200. Buying things in bulk (like black soap and shea butter) also helps price wise.
To end off, could you share your thoughts on what you believe a trailblazing womxn is and how you try to embody those qualities.
I think being secure in your character and knowing who you are and what your strengths are is super important. I have tried my best to embody this and I think it’s something a lot of us struggle with; self-worth, self-image and not internalizing what the world thinks you should be or letting that affect your character. Because we live in a world where society tries to place so many expectations on womxnhood, knowing who you are and being self-aware in every aspect of your life is even more important.