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Part Two: Shea Butter and All Women

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Part Two: Shea Butter and All Women

Jessica Assaf

On February 13th, I met Alexis for the first time in a coffee shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I was working for S.W. Basics, a company making simple, beautiful skincare with five ingredients or less and Alexis wanted to try our products after learning about plastic micro-beads in exfoliants. Just to give you a sense of the line, S.W. Basics' exfoliant is made with only organic oats, almonds and sea salt, and the front label states in bold, "Sorry, no plastic micro-bead technology inside. Oops." There was a huge, cold storm and I really wanted to work from home. Alexis was planning to visit the office, but when I heard she lived two blocks from me, I offered to meet her at the corner coffee shop. To say it was a serendipitous connection is an understatement. I was meant to meet this rockstar. We talked forever and I even invited her back to my place(!) because I was so buzzed off the energy and how our conversation shifted so effortlessly from the problem to the solution.

We talked about Shea butter and how the story behind it is the story of real beauty. Shea butter is native only to certain parts of Africa and it is considered "women's gold" because Shea butter production is a women-run industry organized in many different cooperatives where women work together to harvest the fruits of the karité tree, crush the nuts and extract and boil the butter. An estimated three million African women work directly or indirectly with Shea butter in nineteen African countries. In other words, all of our Shea butter starts in the hands of women in Africa.

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To me, this story really captures the potential of the beauty industry to benefit the maker and the consumer and to only promote what is good for us. It is the idea that women help women help the world and we can actually see change happen if we support the good guys girls.

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I went to Ghana and visited a cooperative of women making Shea butter together and I was so in awe of the process and the result. Shea butter has endless medicinal properties and uses and crazy healing powers. It is used to treat blemishes, eczema, dermatitis, skin allergies, sunburns, stretch marks, diaper rashes, wounds, scars and it even fights wrinkles! It is also a natural sunscreen. Shea butter has been used for centuries by beauty visionaries like Cleopatra and it continues to be one of the most important natural beauty products in the world. It is produced for women by women to improve our health and wellbeing. And that is good business.

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The story of making, sharing and using Sheabutter is one example of the invaluable yet largely unrecognized connections between women globally. It represents the need to go back to the basics and promote products that we know are good for us and the need to understand who makes our products and why. If we begin to visualize the makers and their intentions we will realize that the best beauty products have much more than a chic label, a cool bottle or a bold website. The best beauty products, like Shea butter, have stories that need to be told. 

Alexis and I started Beauty Lies Truth to share these stories with you. Thank you so much for listening.