Shea butter is a staple ingredient in many cosmetic chemists treasure trove, so when a good quality and fair trade supply source opens up its reason to celebrate. Shea butter is the fatty substance extracted from the fruit of the Shea tree which is grown across central Africa. The trees take around twenty years to bare fruit but then continue to produce the plumb shaped nuts for around 200 years! Shea butter is used across Africa as a cooking oil, as a base for body paint and as a natural sunscreen (although SPF would only be around 4-6 alone). Cosmetic chemists around the world use it to make creams, lotions and hair products – there are even claims that it reduces the appearance of stretch marks (probably through good moisturisation and delivery of vitamins to the skin).

The processing of this fruit is labor intensive but environmentally low impact due as it can be extracted purely via force and a bit of water! However, many consumers like their face creams to be pure white and unrefined shea butter is a yellowy brown colour. Therefore further bleaching and processing is often carried out to meet these aethetic standards.

Anyway, news came out this week about a new source of Fair Trade Shea butter from a company called Akoma. Akoma work with farmers from Uganda through to Ghana and have recently achieved organic certification by the UK’s Soil Association and fair trade certification from the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO). You can read the story from the Cosmetic Design Newsletter here and can visit Akoma online to purchase this fair trade ingredient.

Akoma are one of the many companies and charities investing in Fair Trade and Fairly sourced Shea butter across Africa.  Supply chains are strengthening and the internet has made sharing these stories and experiences so much easier. Why not look for fair trade Shea butter in your next lip balm, face cream or hand lotion and support the hard working men and women of Africa by letting them  share in your beauty!

The video below is a great introduction into the Shea butter market. Produced by Visual Story Tellers of the USA it takes a look at Shea butter farming in Mali, another West African nation. Enjoy!