Sandra Maurice, 36, General Manager of COPVEPA, Cooperative de Producteurs de Vetiver de Port Salut et d’Arniquet – holding recently harvested vetiver roots. COPVEPA is one of six vetiver cooperatives in the area working to improve and systematise the harvesting of vetiver, so as to generate greater profits and also improve the sustainability of the sector.

By Delfine Kernizan

In recent years, Haiti has earned its spot in the international beauty industry as one of the leading suppliers of natural extracts and oils used in skin, health and dietary regimens. Beauty brands like Kreyol Essence and Okay have helped popularize Haitian national treasures like castor oil and the new-kid-on-the-block— moringa oil. 

However, what’s the newest best-kept beauty secret to come straight out of Haiti? Haitian vetiver oil. 

Haitian vetiver oil is known to have a wide range of applications in mental and cognitive health, aromatherapy, skincare and cosmetics. As the movement towards natural ingredients in skincare products grows and health-conscious consumers urge brands to prioritize organic manufacturing, many brands have turned to Haitian vetiver oil as an additive for the moisture, calming aroma and highly sought-after anti-aging qualities it provides. 

The high levels of antioxidants in vetiver oil make it a leading ingredient in anti-wrinkle treatments, as antioxidants aid in treating skin and nerve disorders, slowing visible signs of aging, promoting healthy and glowing skin, reducing the risk of cancer, increasing detoxification, and creating longer life span. In addition to its role in treating dry skin, acne and pimples, Haitian vetiver oil can be used to treat nervous tension, depression, heat stroke, ADHD, insomnia and more.

Stemming from a culture heavily reliant on natural remedies, Haitian vetiver oil has become a popular tool in treating burns, reducing the appearance of stretch marks and evening complexion, partly due to its ease of use. As a cicatrisant, vetiver oil is skin and wound-healing, as well as cell-regenerative, and, when diluted, can be applied topically to heal and regenerate skin tissue. As an antiseptic, it can also be used to help prevent infection. It can be used on its own or mixed with other essential oils to be used as a massage oil, hair treatment, or face and body moisturizer. Vetiver sponges, made of roots of the vetiver grass, can be used to exfoliate the skin, removing dead skin cells while promoting circulation.

As it stands, Haiti holds the major share in the production of vetiver oil globally, with consumers in India, Japan, the United States and Europe. Vetiver oil also contributes a major share of the income of Haiti. With demand increasing across industries, the uses of Haitian vetiver oil in fragrances have grown exponentially. The oil is most popularly used for blending oriental and floral compounds in perfumes and other cosmetics. According to a report by Transparency Market Research, “Haitian vetiver oil is used as the main ingredient in 20% of all men’s fragrances and 36 percent of western quality perfumes.” 

Because of its earthy or smoky aroma and sweet undertones, vetiver oil is also a key ingredient in many soaps, body creams and body washes. The dark brown, amber viscous oil oil is typically extracted from the roots of vetiver grass, a bunchy, herbaceous grass with an extensive, fibrous root. While the topical applications of Haitian vetiver oil are clear, the jury is still out on whether or not vetiver oil is safe for consumption.

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