Shea butter is the oil from the nuts of wild Shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa - also known as Butyrospermum parkii in the cosmetic industry) scattered throughout the wooded savanna of West and Central Africa. Shea butter has been used for centuries in Africa and is completely enmeshed within the history and culture of the West African savanna. It is mentioned in almost all African historical documents, including a reference as early as Cleopatra's Egypt, which mentions caravans bearing clay jars of Shea butter for cosmetic use. Funeral beds of kings were carved in the wood of old Shea trees, and shea butter has always been a staple of African pharmacology. Shea butter has been used for centuries in Africa for herbal salves, lotions for hair and skin care, and cooking oil. However, it’s protective and emollient properties are most valued for skin care. In recent clinical trials, shea butter was found to help to protect skin against climate and UV aggressions, reduce appearance of wrinkles, soothe irritated and chapped skin, and moisturize the epidermis.
••• UNREFINED SHEA BUTTER •••
Handcrafted, unrefined shea butter contains the maximum amount of bioactive phytochemicals. Most shea butter available to the general public outside West Africa is white and odorless: in other words, it has been refined to remove the natural scent and color of natural shea butter. In the process, the majority of the antioxidant agents are also removed. For example, the yellow tint of unrefined shea butter is due to the Vitamin E content. Remove this color, and the beneficial vitamins have also been removed. Refined shea butter is often hard and grainy, not smooth and creamy like pure, unrefined shea butter.
Virgin coconut oil is traditionally extracted oil from fresh fruit of the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera. Coconuts have been cultivated in coastal West Africa and been part of the diet and skin care for centuries. Virgin coconut oil is an important food oil, and is applied to skin and hair directly to protect from sun and wind damage.
Virgin coconut oil is high in natural antioxidants and protects skin from damaging free-radicals. It also helps keep skin looking firm, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Repeated use of virgin coconut oil helps keep skin smoother and more evenly textured by removing the outer layer of dead skin cells. We extract our virgin coconut oil by hand using traditional fermentation methods in Togo, West Africa from fresh coconuts grown organically on small farms. We use our virgin coconut oil in its natural, unrefined state for maximum effectiveness.
••• UNREFINED COCONUT OIL •••
Refined coconut oil has been stripped of natural antioxidants and is highly prone to free-radical generation. Free radicals damage skin cells and cause skin aging and cancer. The antioxidants in unrefined coconut oil not only prevent free-radicals from forming in the oil, but also help protect against free-radicals that the skin is exposed to.
The Alaffia basket weaving program began in 2004 and the first Alaffia Basket Weaving Cooperative was established in Tchevié, southern Togo in 2006. In 2008, Alaffia baskets were Certified Fair Trade by GiFFT and the Alaffia Internal Control System with full quality parameters was established. In November 2014, our Togo basket weaving program underwent a full and rigorous inspection by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification Program. IMO is one of the first and most renowned international bodies for inspection, certification and quality assurance of sustainable products. Our Togo baskets are now Certified Fair Trade by IMO. Furthermore, our baskets, as well as shea butter, other oils and soaps received IMO's highest possible Fair for Life performance ranking (5). To our knowledge, our West African Togo baskets will be the first and only to be Certified Fair Trade. The certification covers the baskets woven in our Sokodé, Togo center.
The Alaffia Handwoven Grass Baskets program in Togo employs 260 basket weavers at our cooperative in Sokode and over 2,000 grass collectors in Blitta. Our Ghana basket cooperative is made up of 1,400 individual weavers, who each have a contract with Alaffia, which guarantees a fair trade price for each basket 87-130% above market pricing. By the end of 2016, our contacted weavers in Ghana will also be Certified Fair Trade by IMO. In the meantime, fair trade requirements and pricing are being strictly followed in Ghana even without certification, and most importantly, no child labor or slavery is involved in the crafting of our baskets. Each weaver must sign that no child under the age of 14 will be involved in the weaving. We also conduct community empowerment projects in Ghana similar to those in Togo.
By providing a fair wage for handwoven grass baskets, we are working to empower communities in West Africa. Traditional knowledge is preserved in multiple communities in Northern Ghana, Central Togo, and Northern Togo. As part of our commitment to traceability and transparency, each Alaffia basket is labeled as of June 30, 2015 with the weaver's name, village, country, and a lot code linked to the month it was woven. All information will soon be cataloged and available in a database on Alaffia's website, fully searchable by our retailers and customers. Every single Alaffia basket is unique; they are not mass produced. Therefore, the crafting of our baskets is an art, and each weaver deserves direct recognition and credit of their artistic knowledge. As importantly, it is no longer acceptable for others to use the blanket statement "we are helping a village in Africa"; we vendors, producers and manufacturers must be fully ready to be unquestionably transparent, and provide not only the village name, but the individual's as well. Therefore, you can download a list of our basket weavers:
Good Soap is available exclusively at Whole Foods Market and is made with Certified Fair Trade shea butter and coconut oil and is fortified with goat milk. Triple milled and long-lasting, Good Soap is available in seven refreshing scents: Ginger Flower, Wild Strawberry, Honey Vanilla, Coconut, Prairie Rose, Lavender, and Sunshine.
••• IMPACT •••
1% of the total annual sales of Good Soap is donated to the Whole Planet Foundation, which works to alleviate poverty through microcredit in communities around the world. We also committed to use the funds generated by the sales of Good Soap to build a kindergarten in Togo each year. We believe kindergarten gives young children the basic skills and knowledge they need to be successful in primary school and improves the likelihood they will remain in school and graduate from secondary school.
In 2014, the Kaboli Kindergarten was built and is now attended by 60 boys and girls. We also constructed a latrine for students in Kouloumi. Here in the US, the convenience and luxury that clean and safe toilet facilities provide is often forgotten. In 2015, we broke ground on a kindergarten in the village of Adjengré. Our Good Soap initiative will continue to fund these truly impactful projects in our Togolese communities.
••• SKIN TYPES •••
Acne prone skin is usually oily and distinguished by blackheads and pimples. If neglected can lead to scarred and pitted skin.
Oily skin is caused by excessive sebum production. It is often shiny with enlarged pores. It may also have patches of flakiness around the nose.
Normal skin is not too oily or dry and blemishes are uncommon. It is firm, with a healthy appearance and small pores.
The combination skin type may have an oily T-zone or normal skin across the forehead, nose and chin, and a normal to dry area around the cheeks and throat. Adversely, this skin type may have normal skin across the forehead, nose and chin, but a dry area around the cheeks and throat.
Dry skin has reduced ability to produce moisture and natural oils. It may have fine pores and few blemishes, but with a tight or flaky appearance.
Extra Dry/Mature Skin:
Superficial fine lines, slower cell regeneration, reduced skin elasticity and thinner appearing skin characterize this skin type.
Learn more about Alaffia’s skin care products at our online store.
••• HAIR TYPES •••
Dry & Extra Dry Scalp:
Any combination of flaky, itchy, red, irritated, scaly - immediate onset and chronic.
Dry or Damaged Hair:
Damage due to heat processing, blow drying, perming. Hair is brittle, frizzy.
Fine or Thin Hair:
Visible scalp, thin volume, excessive shedding.
Curly Hair and Locs:
Tight spirals, kinky, coarse, wiry, moisture loving.
All hair Types:
Fine to thick hair shafts, straight to curly, enjoys mid-volume moisture and fortification.
Learn more about Alaffia’s hair care products at our online store.
••• CURL TYPES •••
Wavy - Type 2:
Hair lies in a gentle, loose “S” pattern close to the head and needs weightless conditioning.
Curly - Type 3:
Hair lies in an “S” pattern and curls are well-defined and range between big and loose to bouncy, tight corkscrews (in-between wavy and kinky). Needs moderate to heavy conditioning.
Kinky - Type 4:
Hair is very tightly curled and has clearly visible spiral patterns with either rounded curves (“S” pattern) or more angled curves (“Z” pattern). Needs generous conditioning.
Learn more about Alaffia’s Beautiful Curls Collection at our online store or by downloading the PDF below:
At Alaffia, when we speak of beauty, we are referring to holistic beauty, which looks beyond aesthetics. We believe our bodies, emotions, and environment are interconnected, and when they are in balance, holistic beauty is achieved. This leads to the peaceful coexistence of all life.
Our products are born from this ideal and influenced by the science of Ethnobotany, which is the study of relationships between people and plants. We evaluate how each ingredient interacts with the product, the person using it, and the environment it comes from. Please view our Ingredient Glossary for detailed information about the ingredients used in our products: