Hearing a lot about shea butter lately? You may be wondering just what it is and if it is worth the hype. In fact, shea butter is becoming a favorite ingredient among eco-friendly consumers in North America. According to Grandview research, the global shea butter market, which was valued at over $2 billion in 2021, is expected to continue to grow at a steady pace of 6-7% per year over the next decade.
In this blog, we'll take you on a journey to discover the African roots of shea butter, its incredible benefits, and how it's transforming communities. Plus, we'll guide you through choosing the best shea butter for your needs and introduce you to &Better's commitment to premium products and fair compensation for women. Get ready to indulge in the world of shea butter and elevate your self-care game to new heights!
What is shea butter?
Shea butter is a slightly granulated, yellowish substance. It has been used for centuries in Africa, both as a cosmetic ingredient and a food product. Unlike chemical-laden alternatives like Vaseline, shea butter is a natural source of fatty acids and nutrients, making it safe and beneficial for your skin and hair.
The magic of shea butter lies in its ability to moisturize and protect the skin, while also providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. It's easily absorbed into the skin, leaving it feeling soft and nourished. Therefore, shea butter is a popular ingredient in a variety of skincare and haircare products such as lotions, creams, soaps, shampoos, and lip balms.
Beyond cosmetics, shea butter has a long-standing history in African culinary traditions. It's used as cooking oil, and an ingredient in soups, stews, and porridges. Shea butter is also used as a spread for bread, a dip for vegetables, and in making a fermented porridge called Koko, made with grains and flavored with spices, peanuts, and shea butter. Its versatile nature even extends to traditional confections and candy sweets.
The essence of shea butter and its African cultural heritage
Shea butter is an African natural treasure and a significant part of its culture and traditions.
Deeply rooted in African culture, shea butter holds a special place in the hearts of the people who make it. The Wali people of northern Ghana, for example, have been crafting shea butter for centuries. Living on the edge of the Sahara, they faced the relentless sun and wind, which constantly battered their face, hands, and skin. Despite these harsh conditions, they found solace and protection in shea butter.
Today, the women who make shea butter follow age-old techniques passed down through generations from their ancestors. These skilled artisans lovingly craft each batch of shea butter by hand, extracting every bit of goodness from the shea nut. The result is a high-quality, nourishing product imbued with the rich cultural heritage of Africa.
In Ghana, shea butter plays a crucial role in a coming-of-age ritual called "dipo." During this ceremony, shea butter is lovingly applied to the skin of young women, symbolizing their transformation from the innocence of childhood to the wisdom of adulthood. This sacred rite connects generations, as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers share their experiences and bestow blessings upon the young women embarking on a new phase of life.
Across the vast African continent, shea butter is also a symbol of warmth and hospitality. When guests arrive, they are often greeted with the gift of shea butter as a heartfelt sign of welcome. This humble offering reflects the generosity and kindness deeply ingrained in African communities.
Beyond its social significance, shea butter is believed to possess spiritual and protective powers in some cultures. Revered for its healing properties, it is used in rituals and ceremonies designed to ward off negative energies and promote well-being.
Benefits of shea butter for your hair and skin
Shea butter is a natural gift from Africa that can do wonders for your hair. Let's explore how it can improve your hair's health and appearance.
Moisture for Your Hair
Shea butter is packed with vitamins A and E, along with natural fats that are great for your hair. It moisturizes, fixes damage from harsh shampoos, and brings back its natural shine.
Shea butter also helps repair and prevent split ends. It seals the hair cuticle and strengthens the hair strand, keeping your hair healthy and strong.
Shea butter doesn't just work once. Its antioxidants and vitamin E form a protective layer around your hair, helping it retains moisture. This means your hair stays hydrated, bouncy, and healthy-looking for a longer time. Hydrated hair is also easier to style and manage.
Protection from Damage
Shea butter protects your hair from damage caused by chemicals and the environment. It has antioxidants and fats that shield your hair from sunlight, heat from styling tools, and air pollution.
Nourishing Your Hair
Shea butter has many natural ingredients that are important for hair health. Vitamins E, A, and F, antioxidants, and fats work together to nourish your hair from the inside out. It also keeps the scalp healthy and reduces hair problems like dryness and brittle hair.
Soothing a Dry, Irritated Scalp
Shea butter is great for the scalp because it has anti-inflammatory properties and is moisturizing. It helps get rid of scalp dryness, calms irritation, and prevents itchiness and flakiness, creating a comfortable environment for your hair to grow.
Since shea butter works wonders for your hair, it's important to note that not all shea butter is created equal. So, how can you ensure you're getting the best quality Shea butter? Let's find out!
Where to find the best shea butter
The shea tree, native to West Africa, is the source of shea butter. While several countries in Africa produce shea butter, Ghana stands out for its exceptional quality. Often referred to as "liquid gold," Ghanaian shea butter is prized for its rich texture and high levels of vitamins A and E.
Countries like Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Togo also produce shea butter, with Burkina Faso earning recognition for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. However, it's Ghana that truly shines in the world of shea butter, thanks to its ideal climate and soil conditions.
Nestled in the heart of Ghana's savannah region, shea trees flourish under the hot and dry climate. The nutrient-rich soil provides the perfect environment for these trees to thrive, ensuring an abundance of high-quality shea nuts.
The people of Ghana also have a long-standing tradition of crafting shea butter, passed down through generations. Skilled artisans carefully harvest the shea nuts and follow time-honored techniques to extract the butter. Their dedication and passion for preserving this ancient art are evident in the unparalleled quality of Ghanaian shea butter.
Handcrafted vs industrially-produced shea butter
In a world of highly industrialized production, what many people don't realize is that 85% of raw and unrefined shea butter on the market is produced in industrial factories. The industrialized process uses harsh solvents and chemicals to extract the butter from the shea nut. However, our Chief Production Officer Gifty Serbeh-Dunn shared with us the deep-rooted conviction of the women in Ghana to continue the art of handcrafting shea butter, especially the delicate process of whipping shea butter to perfection. You might wonder, why is handcrafted shea butter so important and what makes it better than its industrially-produced ones?
Craftsmanship with Heart
The intricate process of creating handcrafted shea butter involves meticulous craftsmanship. Skilled artisans carefully select and process the shea nuts by hand, ensuring that each step is infused with their passion for excellence, resulting in a high-quality and consistent final product.
Pure and Natural
Handcrafted shea butter is produced using traditional methods that avoid chemicals or additives. This commitment to purity results in a product that is free of synthetic ingredients, allowing you to embrace the gentle touch of Mother Nature.
The beauty of handcrafted shea butter lies in the preservation of African cultural heritage and ancestral wisdom. Women who handcraft shea butter use traditional methods and techniques passed down through generations.
High Nutritional Value and More Eco-friendly
Handcrafted shea butter is often produced using traditional methods that involve a slow, gentle heating process. This can help to preserve the nutrient content of the shea butter, including its high levels of vitamins A and E, which are important for skin health. Also, unlike industrial process where high amounts of energy and heat are needed, the handcrafted process is more eco-friendly.
Refined vs unrefined shea butter
When looking for shea butter, you might come across two types: one labeled as "raw, unrefined, natural" and the other as "refined, deodorized, pure white with a subtle floral fragrance." So, which one is better for you?
Unrefined shea butter is produced through a traditional process handed down through generations. It doesn't involve chemicals or additives, allowing it to maintain its full nutritional benefits. Although it may have some impurities, vital ingredients, such as vitamins, are preserved at their maximum potency.
In Ghana, people have long recognized the unique properties of their native shea butter. Unrefined shea butter is as nature intended, making it a great choice for skincare and hair care.
Refined shea butter is created using chemicals that speed up the extraction process. While this results in a more consistent product, it loses many of the beneficial properties for your skin and hair. Moreover, the added preservatives may cause irritation.
Due to the chemicals used in processing, refined shea butter is not considered organic. Terms like "refined, pure, and white" describe a chemically-treated and industrially-processed product lacking the moisturizing, anti-aging, protecting, and healing properties of raw, unrefined shea butter.
In conclusion, unrefined shea butter is better. With its nutty scent and off-white or yellow color, unrefined shea butter stands out as the better choice. It provides deep moisturizing, anti-aging, protecting, and healing properties. Additionally, it is 100% pure, and organic, and supports local communities that rely on shea butter production.
Shea Butter's Impact on Local Women and Communities
Shea butter production has long been a significant source of income and cultural connection for women in Ghana. However, with the rise of industrialization and middlemen in the market, local women have seen their traditional roles diminished. Efforts to re-establish these opportunities for women have not only improved their financial stability but also reinforced their sense of community and cultural identity.
The Importance of Shea Butter Production for Women
Traditionally, women have been responsible for harvesting shea nuts, processing them, and selling the final product at local markets or exporting them. According to a report by TechnoServe,an international nonprofit, shea butter sales contribute to food, utility bills, school fees, and healthcare, improving the overall welfare of families. This process also empowers women by allowing them to make decisions independently, often without needing consultation from their male counterparts.
Reviving Cultural Connections Through Shea Butter
When our chief product officer, Gifty, visited her community in Ghana, she was struck by the women's desire for jobs and opportunities to contribute to their community, rather than receiving gifts. Realizing the importance of shea butter production for both income and cultural connection, Gifty sought ways to help women reclaim their traditional roles. In the process, she discovered that producing shea butter not only provides a livelihood but also fosters a sense of unity and joy within their community.
Supporting Women and Their Work
To help the women in Ghana, our company, &Better, pays double the market rate for our shea butter. This not only supports them financially but also honors their hard work and dedication to producing high-quality, handcrafted shea butter. By doing so, we contribute to the women’s empowerment, help preserve their cultural heritage, and strengthen their community bonds.
Introducing &Better: premium shea butter products and fair compensation for women
At &Better, we are committed to using only the finest unrefined, handcrafted Ghanaian shea butter in our products, while supporting the local women who produce it. Our mission is to provide you with the best shea butter and ensure that women are fairly compensated.
Superior Shea Butter for Exceptional Products
Our shampoo bars contain up to 25% shea butter oil, much higher than the 5% in many other products. This high concentration not only cleans and nourishes your hair but also creates a rich lather and a longer-lasting bar. By choosing &Better, you enjoy the benefits of high-quality shea butter and support a great cause.
Fair Compensation for Women's Hard Work
We believe in valuing the hard work of the women who handcraft our shea butter. By paying them doubling the market rate, we ensure fair compensation, allowing them to improve their lives and their communities. Choose &Better for the best unrefined, handcrafted Ghanaian shea butter that empowers local women.