At Mokosh, one of the key ingredients in our skin care products is certified organic, unrefined shea butter, which is extracted from the fruit of a tree native to savannah Africa, Vitellaria paradoxa, formerly Butyrospermum parkii. We use it in our Rich and Light Face Creams, Pure Face & Body Cream, Frankincense & Orange Body Cream, and Pure Body Balm. Mokosh is one of a handful of brands using unrefined shea butter that is extracted using traditional, non-chemical methods and sourced under Fair Trade certification. Refined shea butter is more popular in skin care because it is pure white and virtually odourless, satisfying a perceived consumer need for a pure white or pastel-coloured product that can be perfumed to a particular style. To our minds, the primary purpose of a skin moisturiser is to nourish the skin, rather than be a fashionable scent or colour. We believe we have achieved beautifully fragranced skin care products that deliver potent nutrition - without pouring precious nutrients down the drain.
The shea butter refining process that delivers a pure white butter removes varying amounts of the healing properties present in the unsaponifiable fraction of shea butter. This unsaponifiable fraction includes nutrients like vitamin E (1), antioxidants (2), and possibly other medicinal fractions. What’s more, refining is frequently carried out using potentially harmful solvents such as hexane, a petroleum derivative. Hexane is a known human toxin (3), an air pollutant of concern in industrialised areas (4), and is at risk of contaminating the finished skin care product .
Here is why we think our unrefined, certified organic, nutrient-rich shea butter should be a regular part of your skin care routine:
1. Shea butter is a superb moisturiser, performing better than mineral oil at preventing water loss from the skin (5), and better than Vaseline at helping improve the symptoms of eczema (6).
2. A number of studies have shown that shea butter applied to the skin either alone or as a 15% mixture, has anti-aging activity (7), attributed to the non-saponifiable fraction, which is best retained in unrefined shea butter. The effect is considered to come from the anti-protease activity of triterpenes which may inhibit the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin.
3. Shea butter has well-documented anti-inflammatory effects which are considered to be due to the effects of compounds in the non-saponifiable fraction (7). This means that unrefined shea butter will help calm itchy, irritated skin, reducing skin inflammation from almost any cause.
4. Allergies to shea butter are extremely rare, even though it is a nut butter. In fact its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce allergic responses in the skin (7).
5. Shea trees take more than 40 years to mature, and live for around 200 years. Because of their slow life-cycle, there are no shea plantations, and no insecticides, herbicides or fertilisers are used in the production of shea butter. By supporting the shea butter industry, these trees will be protected, provide a living for local populations, and help protect the delicate savannah ecosystem (8).
6. At Mokosh our shea butter is Fair Trade certified, and produced by a cooperative of predominantly female workers. Fair Trade certification means workers are paid a fair price, have good working conditions, use sustainable environmental practices, and are also paid a Fair Trade premium which is used to fund environmental and community projects. What's not to love?
Maranz, S., Z. Wiesman and N. Garti. 2003. Phenolic constituents of shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) kernels. J Agric Food Chem 51: 6268-6273
Bird K (2009) Moisturising power of Shea butter highlighted by scientific Cosmetics. Formulation & Science
Belibi SE, Stechschulte D, Olson N (2009) The Use of Shea Butter as an Emollient for Eczema. JJACI 123: S41