In the weeks leading up to the wedding of a woman in many northern Nigerian cultures, she is often seen sitting on a stool, surrounded by her aunties and friends, a cluster of each group smearing local beauty mixtures on her arms, her legs, her chest, her face.
A prominent ingredient in all these is Dilka. It is made from a combination of wheat flour, ground cloves, sometimes orange peel, and mahleb cherry seed. For a more refined mixture, it sometimes has finely ground sandalwood powder or acacia wood powder. It originates from Sudan but has become part of northern Nigerian culture. Its main job is to exfoliate.
The powder is mixed into a paste with water, and sometimes milk, then rubbed all over the bride’s skin. It’s left to dry before being scrubbed off. The ritual is done usually in a span of 7-10 days, sometimes a month.
To achieve maximum effect, some brides-to-be wear a Niqab whenever they have to go out, as their wedding day approaches. This is done to protect the face from the sun, which may interrupt the beauty procedure by burning the skin or causing discoloration.
An accompanying ingredient in the Dilka procedure is the Kurkum. It is a powdery mixture of turmeric and other unknown ingredients and achieves the same as the Dilka.
Another procedure is the Halawa. It is traditional waxing done by melting sugar, and then adding other ingredients, before smearing it on choice body parts. It’s then peeled off, together with the hair. It has been described as a painful but worthy procedure, and is done once in a few weeks.
These beauty rituals are an indispensable part of the wedding cultures of the Hausa, Kanuri, and Nupe people, among other ethnicities.