One of the most important ingredients we use in Essential Care products including lipsticks, Repair Lotion, Rose Moisturiser and even eye liner, is shea butter as it is extraordinarily good both for the skin and hair. Benefits include moisturising, promoting healing and cell renewal, as well as reducing irritation, inflammation, muscular pain, sun damage, stretch mark and scar formation. These plus points have led to a surge in the use of shea butter in natural skincare products generally in recent years.
Ah but not all shea butter is made equal. And not all shea butter growers and producers are treated in the same way...
There are various grades of shea butter ranging on a scale from 1 to 5. Only the top grade shea butter offers the most beneficial properties in skincare, whereas grade 3 shea butter with a lower vitamin content, but some moisturising properties, is more suited to soap-making . Likewise, only raw, unrefined shea butter contains the antioxidants and plant sterols which give it the most benefits. This is what we insist upon as the refined shea butter offers nothing like the same profile.
Shea butter comes from the African karite tree, hence its name in French ‘beurre de karité’. Countries of origin are usually Ghana or Burkina Faso, some of the poorest countries on the planet. We buy our organic shea butter from a cooperative in Ghana which gained Fairtrade certification in 2009. Fairtrade has made a huge impact on the lives of woman working within the cooperative for whom collecting, processing and selling shea nuts is their main source of income. As the Cooperative President, Juliana Sampana says:
“Many women in our region and elsewhere have over the years worked so hard to put food on their tables for their families through farming and other odd jobs but end up with an unfair income leading to several deficiencies as a result of poor dieting. The majority of their money is spent on treating deficiency-related illnesses such as Kwashiorkor, beriberi and skin rashes. With Fairtrade the women are assured of receiving a fair wage for their hard work."
The Fairtrade ‘premium’ - paid to the Cooperative as part of the certification - is being used to renovate a primary school in the region, develop further educational facilities, and buy equipment and technology for schools.
On International Women’s Day on March 8, the Fairtrade Foundation is creating its first ever Thunderclap in order to support women's cooperatives around the world. You can sign up for the Thunderclap at http://ow.ly/hV7FH and find out more information about the campaign, supported by actress Jessica Hynes, here: Supporting women's cooperatives on International Women's Day.