|Clear unrefined palm kernel oil|
Palm kernel oil is a white to yellowish edible fat that is obtained from palm kernels especially of the African oil palm, that resembles coconut oil more than palm oil, and that is used in making soap and margarine. Palm kernel oil, locally called Manyanga, has been used on skin and hair in Cameroon for ages and most people I know grew up with a grandmother or great aunt who swears by it as the ultimate moisturiser.
I first came across palm kernel oil as a child. I have always had very dry skin allover, except on my face, where my body decided it would be ideal to set up an oil production factory! My grandmother always had a bottle of nutty smelling locally made black palm kernel oil. She would add a fresh scent by putting a few drops on some leaves and rubbing between her palms before rubbing it all over my skin when she helped me get ready for school in the morning. I would stay shiny... literally, and squeaky-clean looking for the rest of the day. Many people in Cameroon recommend black palm kernel oil for children especially as it is believed to help sooth insect bites, prevent and/or treat infections such as ringworm and scabies, as well as promote smooth healthy skin that stays moist and supple through the harsh Hamatan and dry season. Some local health practitioners caution that unrefined palm kernel oil is not appropriate for babies.
There are obviously two types of palm kernel oil available in Cameroon. Black palm kernel oil which is made from roasted kernels is more common, while clear palm kernel oil is made from dried kernels. Both are unrefined and both will set into a paste at room temperature. Palm kernel oil, like it's sister palm oil, is exceedingly common and easy to find in most parts of Cameroon where the African palm tree is grown. Since olive oil is rather expensive here (8000 fcfa = £10 for about a litre), and I've had a preference for coconut oil and Jamaican black castor oil since going natural (oils which are not the lease bit common here) I've been very reluctant to use oil when I deep condition in order to prolong my little stash until I can replenish it.
I remember someone recommending black palm kernel oil but I didn't think I would like it... partly because it is soo very black, but also because I didn't remember it having a very good smell. A few weeks ago while returning from a trip to scenic Fontem, I spotted some hawkers selling black oil and clear oil in bottles. Being a natural who's always on the look-out for oil, I ask what the clear oil was (I could already tell the black oil would probably be Manyanga). I was surprised to find out that the clear oil was Manyanga as well. I asked to smell it and found it was still nutty, but not half as bad as I remembered it to be. I bought a half litre bottle of the stuff for only 500fcfa, approximately 75pence and let me say... I'm loving the stuff. I've been mixing it with some local wild honey when I deep condition and I'm loving the shiny luster it adds to my hair.
If you have access to some of this oil, I recommend that you try it. There is so much of it in Africa and it is super cheap, I'm surprised it isn't as common within natural hair circles as Shea butter is. Take it from a happy healthy natural, palm kernel oil is golden. Enjoy!