A typical sight in northern Mozambique is a beauty mask of musiro (also spelt mussiro, msira or n'siro) worn by women of the Macua people.
The white paste is made by grinding down wood from the Olax distiflora shrub. It dries when applied and is similar to a clay mask in western beauty treatments, being washed off later with water. However, as well as moisturising and purifying the skin, musira also acts as a sunblock and is often worn all day – and especially during the Muslim religious time of Ramadan.
In days gone by, only unmarried women and girls would wear musiro – it is considered very effective against teenage acne – and the mask therefore came to be considered a sign of youth and beauty. A bride would apply it all over her body on her wedding night but, once married, would not wear it again. However, that practice no longer holds true and it has become so associated with Macua women that they now even apply it as a tribal decoration during events such as dance festivals. The musiro was once applied in patterns that each had a distinct meaning – whether a girl was engaged, for example. These messages are now lost but every region retains its own designs.