Most, if not all women of the natural hair persuasion in the African and African American communities are aware of the almost mystical advantages of shea butter, and how beneficial it is for hair. For those who are not familiar, according to a UNDP report on the “Shea Butter Project” in Ghana:
“Shea butter is a fatty extract from the seed of the shea tree that predominantly grows in the African semi-arid savannah belt. The extract is an all-natural vitamin A cream and known to contain a number of natural ingredients with biological activities. These give shea butter its great moisturizing for skin-caring and remarkable healing properties for skin ailments including blemishes, itching, sunburns and skin wounds.”
As a personal note, my mother, being from Ghana, has always kept a stash of shea butter. Shea butter is also used to fade stretch marks after pregnancy, help ease the pains of adolescent girls while they develop breasts, and also help to treat eczema. Shea butter can also be used for cooking oil, as well as a substitute for cocoa butter in making chocolate. The cream can come in colors ranging from a bright yellow color (unrefined) to a more whitish hue. It has a slightly smoky, though not unpleasant smell. It is especially desired because of the fact that shea absorbs into the skin quite easily and does not clog pores, unlike *ahem*….many other commercial products with chemical additives.
But shea butter is also distinguished by the fact that it is a source of income for many women in West Africa. In the aforementioned UNDP report, 600,00o women in Northern Ghana depend on the sales of shea butter and shea butter products. The process of extracting shea butter is generally regarded as “women’s work”, and consists of separating and cracking the shea nuts, crushing them, roasting the crushed nuts, grinding the paste while adding water, separating the oils that float to the top, and lastly collecting and shaping the hardened past into balls. You can look up details on the process at Wikipedia. I got tired just by reading about all the hard work that women put in just to make this stuff. Phew!
In Mali, according to a recent IPS news article by Soumalia T. Diarra, shea butter production represents 80% of rural women’s incomes. However, shea trees, which take 25 years to reach full maturity, are being threatened by droughts, disease and deforestation. Another potential threat to shea butter production are some of the unfair market practices cutting rural women out of the profits shea butter raise on the international markets:
“Local shea producers have no influence over the price fetched by shea nuts and butter internationally. “The prices change frequently on the international market, but at the moment a kilogramme of shea nuts costs between 500 and 600 CFA francs (just over one U.S. dollar),” said Seydou Kone (a trade technician representing AMEPROC, an organization of agricultural traders and exporters based in Bamako)
Large companies prefer to buy their shea nuts from villages through local buyers who roam the countryside. However, these intermediaries make far more profit from the trade than rural women producers.”
As a proponent of using more natural beauty products, as well as an ardent supporter of efforts to economically support women in the Third World, I encourage everyone to look into shea butter for your skin and hair care needs. I have been using pure shea butter for several months, and honestly, its the best thing I’ve done for my sensitive, dry skin during the Texas winter. For those with natural hair, I also use the lemongrass shea butter to moisturize my scalp, and/or protect my hair during blow-drying, pressing, or other types of heat styling.
I have been using a whipped lemongrass shea butter recipe for months now, and it has done wonders for my skin. My mother is especially a fan of the lemongrass scent, and I chose to use it because my mother always says the smell reminds her of the wild lemongrass fields growing up in West Africa.
Because my family and I love it so much, I am offering to send a few free samples of my Whipped Lemongrass Shea Butter to readers! I use pure, unrefined shea butter from straight from Ghana, with jojoba oils, vitamin E, almond oil, and other pure oils. I really am passionate about this, and I would hope someday to partner with initiatives to make sure more rural women profit from the sale of shea butter internationally.
I have a limited supply, so email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll take care of shipping and handling.