About a month ago, I got an email from Erin and Heather, two women who work for the non-profit organization, Bead For Life.
Bead for Life's goal is to eradicate extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and the world’s concerned citizens. Erin and Heather were hoping I could connect them with an African distiller to purchase high quality essential oils for their shea butter products.
The 760 women working for Bead For Life's shea butter project in Northern Uganda are rebuilding their lives by gathering shea nuts and pressing them into shea butter, which they then make into beautiful lip balms, moisturizing butters and soaps.
Shea butter is renowned for its incredible moisturizing and healing properties, and East African shea is known for being particularly soft and luscious. Shea is commonly referred to as "Women's Gold" in Uganda, because women have traditionally used the money from producing shea to meet their most critical needs. Having been displaced by two decades of brutal civil war, these women’s work with the shea butter project is enabling them to slowly rebuild their lives.
The fair trade income they earn is used to buy food, improve their small farms, pay school fees and create hope.
Their rural soap project is still in the development stages, but they are currently selling a Lemongrass and Lavender soap that they produce from their East African shea butter. The Lemongrass essential oil is from Uganda and the Lavender essential oil is from South Africa.
I recently received a package in the mail of their soap, lip balm and pure shea butter. The package smelled great before I even opened it! I tried the pure shea butter first. It was soft and easy to apply and the aroma was gentle and appealing.
In fact, the moment I applied the shea butter to my skin, I knew I was in love. I've worked with shea butter for over 15 years and this is, by far, the nicest shea butter I have ever used. It is soft and creamy; my skin immediately soaked it up. I also liked the packaging size of the shea butter--it's small enough to toss in a bag or backpack for traveling.
Then I tried the Peppermint lip balm. It's made from beeswax, shea butter, cocoa butter, baobab oil, jojoba oil, Peppermint oil, and tocopherol (Vitamin E). It's the perfect texture and quite minty!
Shea butter is an excellent ingredient for lip balm. It blends beautifully with cocoa butter and the additional baobab--also a traditional African nut oil. Baobab oil is highly penetrating, deeply nourishing and is known to soften dry skin. It is able to restore and re-moisturize the epidermis (outer layer of the skin), as it has a high essential fatty acid content (oleic, linoleic and linolenic).
Lastly, I tried the soap. The bar has a thick, oval shape and felt great on my skin--both while washing, and long after I finished my shower. The aroma was light and lovely. It is an absolutely wonderful soap.