For centuries, Somali women have applied qasil powder in a bid to achieve clearer, smoother and brighter skin. Here’s why it’s gaining popularity on social media right now.
Growing up, every Saturday morning, like clockwork, I’d sit and watch my mum apply her green face mask, just as she watched her mum do the same, and her mum before her. It was both a beauty and cultural practice, and even though I didn’t pay too much attention to it then, it’s become a lot harder to get away from it now. What was the green face mask in question? Qasil.
The world of TikTok has discovered qasil, with videos tagged with #qasil so far amassing over 15.7 million views. Google searches for ‘how to use qasil’ and ‘where to buy qasil’ have recently doubled, too. Though for thousands of East African women, qasil is nothing new (it’s remained a foolproof beauty staple in many homes for generations), it’s fast becoming beauty’s new super ingredient.
What is qasil?
Qasil is a substance harvested from the gob tree, which is native to Somalia and neighbouring countries. The leaves are ground together to make a smooth powder that has natural cleansing and antibacterial properties. It’s also enriched with antioxidants and vitamin C, making a wonder beauty product of sorts.
For centuries, my mum tells me, Somali women have applied this powder in a bid to achieve clearer, smoother and brighter skin. She too remembers how her mother and aunts would come together the night before an occasion and apply the mixed qasil powder on each other’s faces, like some kind of adult face painting party.
Qasil wasn’t only for beauty prep before a big occasion, though, it was a daily or weekly routine for many women. One of my aunts still uses a qasil cleanser every day and my grandmother is a big fan of her weekly qasil hair masks. My mum has a particularly laid-back approach when it comes to her beauty routine – for her, less is truly more – yet she’s stuck to her weekly qasil ritual (alongside a daily cleanse, moisturiser and SPF) for most of her life.
How to use qasil powder
Like the beauty magpie I am, I have recently incorporated the powder into my routine, applying it on Saturday mornings, like my mum and her mum did. There is something so satisfying about mixing your own face mask, not only because it leads to noticeably smoother and brighter skin, but because it comes with the knowledge that you’re continuing time-honoured traditions.
Qabul Abdi, the founder of Que Shop tells me that qasil is the Somali woman’s beauty secret, used to protect and repair the skin from heat and dry weather conditions. You simply add water to the powder to create a gentle natural cleanser, add turmeric for a super glow-inducing face mask, apple cider vinegar to soothe blemishes or curb oiliness, or even some coconut oil to make a nourishing hair mask. “What matters most is that you buy good qasil, straight from the source,” Qabul says. Its effectiveness is in its simplicity; it’s 100% natural.
While the modern beauty industry may have come far from the days of creating your own face masks at your kitchen table, sometimes nothing beats trusted beauty traditions that are passed down from generation to generation.
Where to buy qasil powder
By Zeynab Mohamed