The shea butter story
Raw shea butter is also known as Karite butter has been used in skincare for centuries because of its natural healing and moisturising properties.
Benefits for skin:
Unlike petroleum-based moisturisers such as mineral oils found in many cosmetics, unrefined shea butter can restore the skin's natural elasticity.
Shea butter is also a natural humectant which means it enables our skin and hair to absorb moisture from the air, so it becomes softer and stays moisturised for longer. This is particularly beneficial if you have dry skin or, delicate, afro or curly hair.
As well as protecting and hydrating your skin during the winter months, shea butter is a natural sunscreen on sunny days and loaded with anti-inflammatory agents, making it effective for sore/blemished skin.
It contains vitamin A which can improve many skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis.
It’s also rich in anti-ageing vitamin E, which also doubles up as a natural preservative that lengthens its life and helps to stop it going rancid.
100% natural and unprocessed:
Unlike processed shea butter which is deodorised, vegan-friendly unrefined shea butter is not stripped of its natural fragrance during the manufacturing process, so it keeps its characteristic natural nutty scent.
Once you smell pure natural shea butter, you’ll always recognise it!
Although raw shea butter can feel quite firm to the touch, it has a low melting point and soon melts on contact with your skin.
Uses for shea butter:
• Itchy skin
• Stretch marks
• Nappy rash
• Dry, chapped lips
• Dry, chapped skin, especially hands, elbows, heels, knees.
• Curly/Afro haircare
Where does shea butter come from?
Shea butter is 100% vegan. It’s extracted from fallen shea nuts which grow on shea trees (Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa). You'll usually see it listed on cosmetic and haircare packaging as Butyrospermum parkii.
Shea trees can take up to 20 years to mature and grow naturally in the Savanah belt which stretches across sub-Saharan Africa. Like Oaks, they can also live for hundreds of years.
Natural, sustainable and organic:
Shea trees are not grown on plantations but grow in the wild and thrive in dry soil. Apart from being selectively managed and pruned to avoid overcrowding, they are not cultivated at all, making them a sustainable precious cash crop.
Most of the terrain on which shea trees grow has never been developed.
No chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, toxic or hazardous substances come into contact with the trees. As a result, the nuts are totally organic.
A National Academies Press report estimates that over 95% of Africa’s shea is exported to industrialised countries in the West. These buyers use this natural resource for making chocolate (as a cocoa substitute), margarine, beauty products etc.
Often the women whose hard work produce the shea butter have little to show for it at the end of a working day, which impacts their livelihood and the lives of their families.
Both the award-winning unscented Kalabash Naked Pearl soap bar and our Shea Paradise artisan soap bar with lavender and ylang-ylang, are enriched with Fair Trade unrefined shea butter certified by the Soil Association. Although it costs a bit extra, Kalabash always sources fair trade shea.
Our suppliers buy the butter directly from the Akoma women’s co-operative in North Eastern Ghana, which cuts out the middlemen and agents in what can often be a complex supply chain, with the women at the bottom rung.
Handmade and labour intensive:
It is not unusual for the women to spend several hours working outdoors in 45c heat in full sun during harvest time as shea butter production is done entirely by hand in a 24-step process from picking the shea nuts & shelling them, right through to mixing up the butter.
A 2016 report from the BBC discovered:
“After five days of picking, crushing, roasting, grinding and cooking, 65-year-old Rebecca Atornyege earns eight cedis ($2; £1.40) from selling her shea butter at the market.”…
By contrast, in exchange for their labour, co-operative workers receive a fair wage which enables them to sustain themselves and their families and empowers them to be able to send their children to school.
So, choosing to buy Fairtrade really makes a difference.
Because they buy directly from the co-operative, the Kalabash suppliers ensure that these hardworking women are not exploited for their efforts but receive a fair wage for their labour.
Like the women who rely on them, the shea tree is strong and resilient. Its thick trunk is hard and fire-resistant and the leaf canopy provides shade and shelter for people, animals and agriculture.
Vast colonies of shea trees form natural windshields which protect the soil from turning into dessert during droughts. In harsh arid conditions across sub-Saharan Africa, their fallen leaves enrich the soil which allows local people to grow food crops.
Because of the many benefits and protection shea trees give to local people, they are highly respected and valued by them. By tradition, no individual can own shea nut tree even if the tree is on the individual's property.
The people of Northern Ghana live in harmony with the shea tree in nature. There is very little room for environmental abuse as the shea tree and shea butter are an absolute lifeline for many African communities.
It is taboo and forbidden to cut or cause damage to a shea nut tree.
The tree belongs to all.
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