Shea butter is becoming synonymous with creating childhood memories, the same way vaseline was for me as a child when my mum would slather me with petroleum jelly. The effects of which would leave my skin shining bright like a diamond.
As a school-going child, I never could leave the house without slathering my face with Vaseline and kissing mum goodbye. This routine has followed me into adulthood, where I now find myself doing the same with my children. But instead of Vaseline, we now use shea butter.
Shea butter was brought to my attention by my friend Eunice, who calls it cocaine of black skin and natural hair. She swears shea butter does something to her skin and hair as no other cream could.
At the time, I was also searching for a solution against the hard Danish water and brutal winter winds. Well, when Eunice visited me from the UK last year, she brought along a giant tub of organic Ghanaian shea butter. The effects of this West African white gold has been astounding.
Everybody in my household is shea crazy. My Caucasian husband, once flaky skin now has more collagen production. My sons will not leave the house (their call) unless they too get shea love.
So, what is so good about shea butter?
Why should you be using it too, especially now when you must wash your hands more often than before?
Benefits of shea butter:
- Natural moisturiser – raw shea comes from the seed of the fruit of the ancient African Shea or Karite tree, common in West Africa.
- Versatility – because of its raw form, it can act as a base for creating other homemade remedies like lip balm, lotion, massage cream, hair oil, cuticle treatment.
- Skin repair – it eases the effects of eczema, acne, and reliving flaky, itch skin without clogging the skin. These benefits come from the fatty acid content and its ability to create a moisturising barrier between the skin and environmental elements, such as dryness.
- Black doesn’t crack – regular use diminishes the visibility of wrinkles and fades stretch marks.
- Natural elixir – rich in Vitamins A, E and F, it has healing agents to nourish and moisturise skin and hair.
With international demand rising, (for edible use in chocolate, margarine, shortenings or cosmetics) it is important to note that most of the production comes from women-led cooperatives in Western Africa.
Unfortunately, many women in these African villages get a short end of the deal when they trade low-quality shea butter. When shea butter is bought by middlemen and refined abroad, then sold to consumers at a high margin, far beyond what the women earn for their backbreaking work.
As consumers, we can protect this industry against plundering and abuse, as has been the case with chocolate production.
We can assure the sustainability of this industry, one tub at a time. If we buy fair trade shea butter, we ensure these African women are then, more able to gain better prices from their precious labour.