"Aloe, goats’ milk, papaya…the grannies and aunties of the villages toute goats’ milk as an elixir for tight, glowing skin and overall good health.
Goats’ milk is also packed with vitamin A, which repairs damaged skin tissue, and minerals such as selenium, which can guard against the effects of the sun.
The miraculous aloe, whose leaves contain a gel that is simply bursting with nutrients, enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and minerals, and which calms and cools the skin and protects it against the sun, abounds in the Caribbean. The succulent inner layer of the aloe leaf, which Caribbean folk cut out and consume either as juice or as is, is also full of polysaccharides that help enhance the immune system by enabling cells to weed out the toxins and retain nutrients.
Generations of Caribbean men and women have also used aloe for smoothening out their hair. They have fashioned softening and hydrating face packs out of the papaya fruit, which contains, among other ingredients, lycopene (which protects the skin against UV damage), lutein and enzymes that soothe the skin, and used the leaves of the quaco-bush in lieu of soap for its cleansing properties and as a cure for the common cold.
Aching and sore feet have been relieved with Pepper Elder leaves, which have cooling properties similar to menthol, and the prickly pear cactus, a relative of aloe that contains a rare form of antioxidant known to lower blood sugar levels, has also been used to scrub out sand from between toes and fingers, since it contains lignin that when released, takes on a soap-like consistency.
But as much as bush medicine and natural health and beauty remedies played an important role in the Caribbean’s history, that same history has also shaped and conditioned beauty ideals. The historical inevitabilities of slavery and colonialism in particular have left their indelible mark on the region, so that today, the most coveted facet of beauty is, ironically, the least attainable: light skin.”