itiba Beauty was born out of necessity, the quest for a mother to find soothing relief for her infant daughter.
Twenty years ago, when my doctor and I were trying to determine the cause of my fifth child’s constant discomfort, I took a moment to listen to my father. My family is prone to food intolerances and milk allergies. My father said, “Yoki, when you children were small, your mother did not take you to the doctor for every little thing. You children were healthier than your own children because you had bush tea to drink every morning and different bushes were used to treat your sickness. If you went to the doctor, it was for something serious.” That really made me think to go back to my roots and remember ancestral remedies taught for generations: fever grass (lemongrass) tea to drink when we had fevers, bush baths and aloe taken every weekend to “purge out” and aid our digestion and overall health. His words gave me pause and I decided to pay close attention to when she cried and why.
It was during bathtime, which was usually twice a day because it is hot here in the Caribbean, that it I figured it out. It was the commercial baby soap that was irritating and truly aggravating my daughter’s sensitive skin.
I went back to my roots, my childhood, my ancestral skills. I started studying the different herbs and fruits and plants and what they were used for in terms of healing. I began to formulate how to make natural soap and to incorporate those natural, Caribbean bush and herbs, creating my first soap. This process is part of my mission of Sankofa – going back to the past, to bring the gems of wisdom of the past to the present.
It was amazing! Both my daughter and I finally had a peaceful night’s rest after MONTHS of pain and irritation from the “syndets” that are sold in the stores. After that I became obsessed and on a mission to really delve into the different plants and leaned on my heritage. My paternal grandmother was the go-to person for bush concoction back in her village in Nevis, WI. My late husband, who was Puerto Rican and part Taino Indian had his own knowledge of different plants and herbs. I asked the elders of the community and slowly began to develop and create the products based on that knowledge and information of Bushlore, knowledge and use.
Becoming skilled in the different uses of the local plants, herbs, and even fruits has been integral in the creation and development of the itiba Beauty products. For example, I use cornmeal in our body polishes because our elders have said that rubbing cornmeal on the skin helps to remove blemishes and marks. And giving a cornmeal pop, a porridge made from cornmeal and milk sweetened with sugar, helps to keep the baby’s skin clear and soft.
My island is filled with wonderful plants, herbs and fruits and I am blessed that the flora and fruits of the island and my upbringing in local healing practices were able to help me in my time of need and create a product for my daughter that helped her with her skin problems. And now, I am able to bring this knowledge and use of plants, herbs and fruits to a natural skincare line that is steeped in a deep culture and tradition of local bush knowledge. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!