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Pure African Shea Butter Replinshes Dry Skin

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Pierre Dogbe rubs his shea butter product on Angela Birchak at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet in Tucson, Arizona.In the quest to achieve well-moisturized or tighter looking skin, raw shea butter can be hard to find.

This is because pure shea butter is not native to the United States. But Africa's golden gift is now nourishing American skin.

"Especially for rural women in West Africa, I sincerely believe shea butter will be one day the product of great success since nowadays it is used in many cosmetic and pharmaceutical products," said Pierre Dogbe, an African emigrant who sells the raw form at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet in Tucson, Ariz.

Dogbe is from Togo, West Africa and made his way to Tucson to study electrical engineering at the University of Arizona. After six years, he decided to give up engineering to become a teacher and on the weekends sell what his country is best known for.

Perched in one of the aisles at the swap meet, Dogbe sets up shop with small pre-filled containers of the yellowy butter. Alongside the stacked containers is the nut itself, which weighs .025 grams and cost him $400 to ship from Africa. The butter is still attached to the nut so interested passers-by can see its authenticity.

Some gawk in curiosity while those adventurous enough, walk up and inquire about what they see. "It is $8 for one, or three for $20," Dogbe tells them. "Do you want to try?"

Angela Birchak stops and allows Dogbe to rub the butter on her hand. "It feels like my hand is absorbing the shea butter immediately. It's fascinating that such a natural substance comes out of a shell."

If you browse the cosmetic aisle of any store, you often see the ingredient "shea butter" listed on lotion bottles. However, this is in its refined form.

Refined shea butter is typically a cheaper method used to produce mass quantities. Shea butter is naturally white or yellow. Once chemically refined, shea butter looses its natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants due to bleaching.

To reap all its benefits you must apply the butter naturally.  Dogbe says the all-natural shea butter absorbs into your skin and penetrates so deep that it does not evaporate. "It is a powerful healer and protector as well as made by hand."

Only women's hands that is.

"In Ghana only women can touch the shea butter nut. Men are not allowed," said Dogbe. "The female touch is better during production."

West African women in places like Ghana are the harvesters of shea butter. Though shea butter grows in 20 countries on the west coast of Africa.

Not many Americans can successfully plant shea trees in their backyards. ThePierre Dogbe sets up his shea butter stand at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet in Tucson, Arizona. average shea butter nut takes anywhere from 30-40 years to grow averaging from 15-20 meters high and can live for up to 300 years, added Dogbe.  

A mainstay of African tradition for many years, raw shea butter has a wide range of uses. With a small amount of natural latex, the butter is used as an anti-aging remedy.

Beyond skin revitalization, the raw butter also serves a medicinal purpose. "In Africa the shea butter is used in healing sickness. Many use it as an anti-inflammatory," said Dogbe.

Others use it to cook with or as a hair product.

"It really is a miracle thing," said Jacqueline Boswell, owner of sheabutteremu.com. "I had many perms during my life. I didn't want to go bald but at the same time I wanted to manage my hair without chemicals. I found myself against a wall."

Then she discovered shea butter.

"African American hair is so dry but shea butter keeps in moisture as well as keeps my ends from breaking. I had to show this to the world."

In June of 2011 Boswell shared her idea of selling raw shea butter with her best friend. "I told her, hey we can sell this stuff. And it just took off from there."

On the website, Boswell tells visitors she is supporting the women in Ghana. "I try to give them as much of the proceeds as I can. You do what you can to help your sisters."

During her studies of the product Boswell found out that women of small, usually poorer villages are responsible for physically pounding the shea butter off the nut to be used and sold. "You can buy the product in the U.S. now, but there is no guarantee of where it is from, who makes it, or whether it is even pure. By ordering from these villages in Ghana, Africa guarantees raw shea butter and supports these women. It is the only source of income these women have."

An actual shea butter nut shipped from Africa. Boswell said that there is much to be learned about the product. "There are no additives and at a certain age your skin becomes really dry and needs continued moisture. I only need to apply it once a day and my skin stays hydrated."

People, including young children with Eczema, may also find Shea butter a soothing agent. "There is a 3-year-old at my church with Eczema. I gave the shea butter to his mother. She was thrilled. He doesn't have the Eczema anymore!" added Boswell.

People like Boswell and Dogbe are helping to spread this natural product locally. "We are in an era of instant gratification because we are always on the go. God gives us all the things we need. We don't need to be chemically bounded."

Written by Rachel Kolinoski You are reading Pure African Shea Butter Replinshes Dry Skin articles

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