AFRican Magic in a Bottle By Ayesha Harruna Attah

AFRican Magic in a Bottle

By Ayesha Harruna Attah

Published on Mon, Oct 27 2008 by Ayesha Attah
At 32, Dakar-born Mame Diene is in charge of a whole line of cosmetics. She is the founder of Karistal and Bioessence Labs, which produce soaps, lip balms, skin lotions, hair lotions and serums for the body. Her products can be found on beauty shelves from Dakar to California.

The slogan for Karistal is “The Crystals of life,” and that of Bioessence is “African Magic is not a science.” Karistal is composite of karate (shea butter) and crystal.

“It was after a show in California in 2005, that I discovered another world on natural products,” Mame said on how she was inspired to start her own cosmetics line. She remembered that her great-grandmother had helped people with various plants.

“How can we, in a bottle or jar, put the African magic?” she said she asked herself. She quit her job, working as a business consultant with BNP Paribas, and with seed money from her mother, started her own company.

The Dakar-based company employs forty-seven people, in a factory that processes raw materials such as shea nuts and mangoes, and in a women’s cooperative in the village of Kedougou, in south-eastern Senegal and in Kedegu. Mame says she’s still getting used to the cosmetics industry and every month is challenged by how she will cover her expenses and the number of families that she has to feed.

Also challenging is the fact that her company handles everything from production to distribution. In the production process, she finds raw materials from all over Africa.

“We want to transmit ancestral know-how to the world,” she said.

The most fascinating raw material she’s used to date is a plant called Tulukuna (Carapa procenra), a plant she found in Casamance, Senegal. The local population calls it a magic plant and uses it to heal everything. She’s infused it into a cream, that she said, is especially good for people who do sports or people who suffer from bone disease.

Three years after starting this company, she won her the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, which goes to five female entrepreneurs. I asked her how she felt.

“Wonderful!” she said.

On the American market, her products range from $7.5 to $78. For more information, check out her website


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