Bar soap wins natural hair fans

Bu.Ke products founder Lucy Kingori at her lab in Nairobi. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG
Bu.Ke products founder Lucy Kingori at her lab in Nairobi. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

Sheila Ndinda, a renowned naturalista in Kenya, considers her Shampoo Bar as her go-to product in her wash day routine.

“I switch it up a bit, but every time I keep coming back to my shampoo bar,” she says.

Shampoo bars are relatively uncommon, taking into account that most people look for a silky and fragrant liquid to wash their hair.

Sheila reckons that the first time she heard about the line was at an event where they were showcasing. A friend recommended the shampoo bar, and she was hooked as soon as she used it.  

“It is easy to apply, it lasts long and is so convenient when I am travelling. I wrap it and pack it,” she explains.

Bentonine clay

The shampoo bar was the first of its kind in Kenya, tapping into the health-conscious users.

Being paraben, sulphate and silicone free, the shampoo is made from natural oils and bentonine clay, all that offer healing and moisturising capabilities to the hair.

Lucy Kingori started by sheer coincidence. Her son had been suffering from eczema and after constant visits to the doctors and different treatments, she was still struggling with a solution.

“I met a friend from South Sudan whose son, the same age as mine, was suffering from the same condition. Her son’s skin had cleared up and I wanted to know what she had done,” she says.

“She used shea butter from her home and it worked for her.”

Getting the raw unprocessed shea from South Sudan, she came up with the idea of packaging it and selling it using the brand name Shea by Asal, in partnership with her friend.

“Asal are the initials of the women in Sudan who would harvest the butter for us,” she says.

The brand was renamed later to as it incorporates a wider variety of products that do not all have shea butter.

“The new name had a double meaning. One from my son’s name and the second was indirectly to Buy Kenya,” she explains.

After extensive research, she discovered the different ways of using the shea including in soap making.

In September 2015, with the assistance of Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (Kirdi), she formulated a shampoo bar.

“It was initially a hard sell because people were unfamiliar with it,” she explains.

Hair and skin products by Bu.Ke. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG
Hair and skin products by Bu.Ke. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

As part of the formulation, she included bentonine clay which is harvested from naturally occurring volcanic ash.

She came across it during a visit to the Organic Market in Karen, Nairobi. Taking it for testing, she followed up with research on where to source it and the uses.

Healing process

It is pharmaceutical—grade clay that is used internally and externally as it contains magnesium, calcium and potassium. It helps draw out toxins from the body to speed up the healing process.

“I use it externally. The clay can be used as a face mask or hair mask or act as a deep conditioner for hair,” she explains.

Incorporating the different oils, herbs and plants add value to the soaps. She has a turmeric and shea butter soap that combines the antiseptic value of turmeric and moisture and healing properties of shea.

Other soaps she produces include an activated charcoal bar, tea tree oil and a full range of pure shea butter and shea butter with essential oils. The label on each soap indicates the benefits of the individual ingredients.