Shea butter is a wildly popular ingredient in skin care products, because of its excellent moisturizing properties. Seen as one of nature's miracle products, it can be used to hydrate dry or irritated hands and faces (we use it in our manicures and facials), it can help reduce stretch marks, it's packed with Vitamins A,D, and E, and it reduces skin blemishes and wrinkles.
Shea comes from processing the nut of the shea tree, which grows wild in 21 countries of the Savannah region of Africa. Shea is often called "women's gold," as over 16 million African women make a living harvesting and processing shea nuts. Nuts are harvested by hand by local women and children, who then come work together in a social gathering to process the nuts, using techniques passed down through generations.
Nuts are first boiled or dried to make the shells easier to crack open. The shells become fuel for cooking, while the enclosed seed is ground up and roasted. The roasted nuts come out in a paste consistency and are then churned, by hand, until the oil separates. This oil is then boiled, skimmed, strained and cooled to make raw shea butter. The final product is sold, raw and unrefined, though many cosmetics companies put the butter through further refining and bleaching.
Producing shea butter can help African women to make a good living and find economic independence for their families. Ghana and Burkina Faso, in particular, are hotspots for the production of shea butter. Sourcing shea butter ethically is important. It ensures that the women who supply the product are being paid fairly, can improve their lives, provide for their families and can organize and improve their products. Fairtrade or Organic accreditation can be a good indicator of ethical shea sourcing, or being a member of the non-profit Global Shea Alliance (GSA). GSA members must commit to quality practices, standards, and sustainability.
At BCB, we use shea butter that is unrefined and certified organic, sourced ethically via Bulk Apothecary/Nature's Oil from Burkina Faso.