African Shea Butter

shea butter and shea nuts

Healthy Smooth Skin and...
Help Women In African Communities.

If you've done any shopping for skin care products lately you've probably seen African shea butter or shea butter being used in more products lately.

This lovely rich, moisturizing ingredient is used in shampoos, face, hand and body creams, soaps and more. African shea butter used in its natural form offers some wonderful benefits for all skin types and has been found to be very helpful when used in anti aging skin care products.

From Shea Nuts To Shea Butter

The Shea Tree grows in the harsh, dry African Savannah of West Africa and in some areas of East Africa. This includes areas in Ghana, Mali, Togo and Nigeria. It does not grow anywhere else in the world.

In this rough environment the shea trees grows best in the wild without human intervention. It can not be cultivated and is truly unique to this climate alone. The trees live 200 years. Around the tree's 15th year it begins to bear dark green fruit which contain the shea nut and the trees are fully producing by 25 years old.

It is a protected species but the lack of cheap sources of fuel in these regions can lead to cutting trees for firewood and they are sometimes burned to clear land for farming. The lack of education about environmental sustainability is a problem.

shea tree in Togo

The Shea tree is a valuable resource for the women of West Africa, providing hundreds of thousands of them involved in the harvesting and processing of shea a means of survival in a harsh difficult environment.

Not All Shea Butter Is the Same

woman grinding shea nuts

The traditional extraction of shea butter from the shea nut is a very labor intensive process. The nuts are picked, sun dried, shelled by hand then boiled where the butter rises to the surface and is scooped into gourds and allowed to cool. Newer methods of expressing the butter through grinding have been giving a quicker clean extraction.

Much of the African shea butter on the market today has been refined. A chemical called Hexane, a by-product of gasoline, is used to dissolve the shea nuts. The product is boiled to remove the solvents though traces can remain. It is then bleached and deodorized using other chemicals.

Preservatives are added and sometimes antioxidants, producing a white uniform color with no scent and an extended shelf life. By this time much of the healing properties of shea have been greatly reduced.

Be wary of products claiming unrefined shea butter in their product unless they give the exact percentages it may contain very small amounts while the bulk of the shea is refined.

Wonderful Unrefined Shea Butter

Fresh natural African shea butter is smooth and usually soft, it stiffens with age but remains smooth. It melts in the sun or with heat but returns to solid when cooled. It doesn't have a shelf life but the healing properties are greatest within the first year to year and a half.

Fresh unrefined shea is light grey turning to yellow with a natural scent that diminishes with time. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, proteins and fatty acids that are most effective when shea butter is used in it's natural form.

Why Is Fair Trade African
Shea Butter So Important?

fair for life logo

Unfortunately much of the shea butter currently on the market today is not fair trade. Without the benefits of fair trade standards being followed women can labor all week long producing shea butter and may receive less than $1.00 for a week's work.

According to the Global Alliance for Community Empowerment, large corporations worldwide with tremendous buying power control the price of shea nuts and frequently the prices paid do not equal a living wage. The extensive labor these women do is not factored in. Many times the price set is for the raw material and much of that money is lost to the middlemen.

Ways to provide an income for their families is so limited that women often have no choice than to accept what's offered. And to make matters worse the processing and refining of shea nuts is frequently done outside the country further eliminating potential employment.

The U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) researchers have found that the greatest potential for women in these regions is to produce and market the African shea butter themselves.

Working together women's groups pool their resources. Women in these areas already have an extensive knowledge of shea butter and with help learn organizational, educational and environmental knowledge giving them more of a voice in their own communities and helping them to have access to the world market.

The Secret To Beauty For Hundreds Of Years

Shea butter has been used for hundreds of years. It has been found to provide healing, nourishing, enriching, toning, protective qualities for the skin and surprisingly also is used as a decongestant and anti-inflammatory.

Studies have shown shea butter provides protection against environmental damage. Women in this hot, dry, sunny region have been using it for years to take care of their skin. It has also been shown to provide some real benefits for anti aging.

Make sure to choose products that use the freshest, purest most natural ingredients. Those made with minimum processing and no unnecessary chemicals and preservatives.

Alaffia African Shea Butter

Alaffia shea butter

Many companies offer African shea butter but one company not only strives to provide high quality, natural shea but is also an African owned producer and distributor providing fair trade shea butter.

Agbanga Karite/Alaffia is a member controlled shea butter cooperative whose members bring their skills passed down through generations to the harvesting and the production shea butter and other sustainable ingredients. No middleman to deal with here.

Alaffia, a skin care company located in Washington takes these unrefined products and use them to create their skin care products. They have committed to providing the members of the cooperative with fair trade wages along with other benefits both for the member and the community.

Where To Shop


This is the main site for Alaffia-Agbanga and it provides links to their store. It is loaded with interesting information about shea butter from extraction of the butter from the nuts to info on using shea butter products.


This is their main site to shop for African Shea Butter products. I think you will find that their prices are very reasonable.

We all want to have beautiful, soft skin and there is nothing like using African Shea Butter for it's soothing healing properties. If you could also make purchases that help change the lives of women who like ourselves want nothing more than to provide the best they can for themselves and their family, wouldn't you do that? Look for fair trade African shea butter and help make a difference.

Related Pages

Fair Trade Gifts

Anti Aging Products

Natural and Organic Skin Care

Better Choices

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