Think of Africa and the image that you conjure up is probably a giraffe or an acacia thorn tree silhouetted against the sunset. You might also think of teeming cities, possibly a khaki-clad soldier or perhaps a pile of lusciously ripe mangoes. What almost certainly didn’t spring to mind were beauty products. It’s one of life’s ironies that most people instantly associate France, the UK or even the United States with beauty goodies, but that many of the ingredients used to make them come straight from the Dark Continent. Rose, shea butter, argan oil and myrrh are just some of them.
So it was with interest that I approached Africology, a hotly tipped organic beauty brand from South Africa that focuses entirely African ingredients and incorporates local traditions into its treatments. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, African designers are making inroads into the world fashion scene, with the likes of Tanzania’s Mustafa Hassanali and South Africa’s Maya Prass flirting with the international big time. So why not in beauty? Why not indeed, thought Renchia Droganis, when she launched Africology just over a decade ago in 2000. Since then, the brand has become a cult hit in its native South Africa, where its use of indigenous plants and support of local development initiatives such as the Ulusaba Pride and Purpose Charity, have won it legions of devotees. More recently Droganis has started looking outside of Africa with the launch of the Africology Urban Spa underneath Soho’s Bloww Salon.
Walking into Bloww on a chilly autumn day and looking around at the chic monochrome interior, I didn’t pick up much of an African vibe. This was hipster London, not eco-South Africa. Then I went downstairs to the cavernous spa and changed continents in the process. Decked out in warm brown and cream, livened up with a shot of rusty orange and some wonderful art, the Africology Spa has Africa written all over it. Admittedly it’s the cool version and it’s certainly more pared down than you’d expect from an Africa-inspired design. But I liked it and instantly felt relaxed. That much was good because what followed wasn’t. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of massages over the years and for me, they slot into one of two categories. The type that makes you fall asleep on the table (Balinese tends to work for me) and the sort that leave you energised initially but in need of an early night later on. The Intonga Amasatchi massage was the latter.
Being prodded with a baton probably doesn’t sound like much fun – in fact, it sounds as if it’s verging on the masochistic – but in therapist William’s capable hands, the Intonga baton provided a quick route to a knot-free back and shoulders. Using Africology’s fabulous neroli-scented body balm, he managed to iron out every last kink within 90 minutes. A combination of deep tissue massage and controlled pressure from the Intonga, the massage wasn’t exactly soothing but it did feel like it was working, and left my muscles comfortably loose. Starting with the backs of my legs, William worked up and over my back, switching between the Intonga and his hands as he went. After I turned over, he got to grips with my neck and shoulders using the baton to rub out every last knot. It was positively blissful.
Verdict: A completely new experience for me, the Intonga Amasatchi massage preceded one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in years and made short work of even the toughest knots. It wasn’t particularly relaxing at the time but the results made it well worth it. As a brand, Africology is one to watch, particularly as in its case, emerald green environmental ethics have translated into excellent products.
Need to know: The Intonga Amasatchi Full Body Experience lasts 90 minutes and costs £125. For more information about the Africology Urban Spa, call 020 7292 0300 or email email@example.com. For more on Africology, go to www.africology-uk.com
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