the nut of the shea butter
Image: Shutterstock/africa924

Using products with natural ingredients makes us feel like we’re making a difference. But that Shea Butter you get at Walmart may be doing more harm than good.

“Just because something is labeled as natural doesn’t always mean it’s made from a sustainable process,” Alexis Krauss, lead singer of indie-band Sleigh Bells, told online health and wellness publication Well+Good. But she admits that it wasn’t until this year that she realized the real damage of her favorite “green” beauty products.

Since President Obama banned the use of microbeads in skincare products at the end of 2015, people have been more aware of the harmful effects of the chemicals and materials in beauty products that all of us use, leading to a surge in natural product consumption. But even something like Shea Butter, made from fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea tree, which has many documented health benefits, can be a harmful product. Harmful not for the ingredients in it, but for the women in Ghana who work tirelessly to produce for global consumption something we use daily.

“It’s an incredibly labor-intensive process to make Shea Butter,” says Krauss. “There’s no shortcut, no machines, and no labor laws protecting these women producing it.”

According to Krauss, whose blog Beauty Lies Truth informs people of where “natural” ingredients come from, these workers suffer from a lucrative industry that is not regulated. Due to the poverty in Ghana, women have a hard time finding well-paying jobs and end up working in dangerous conditions for low-pay, sometimes alongside children.

“The fact that we have product that lots of consumers are taking advantage of on a daily basis and no one thinks about how unregulated it is is so wrong to me.”

Krauss and her friend, and Best Coast front-woman, Bethany Consentino have recently been a part of a VICE documentary focusing on the varied interests of musicians, which for the Sleigh Bells singer was about Shea Butter. In light of the hardships women in Ghana face, she and Consentino partnered and developed their own product, Global Beauty Butter, a clean and ethical alternative to the kind of Shea Butter you can buy in a grocery store.

The new product is in partnership with Global Mamas, an organization looking to bring prosperity to women in Africa, and was inspired by Krauss and Consentino’s visit to Northern Ghana to meet the coalition of women who make the Shea Butter.

“As I became engaged with these women, I wanted to create some type of meaningful change while I was there,” says Krauss. “So I developed a relationship with Global Mamas and some of the women actually making the Shea Butter in Ghana to create a unique product, and all of the proceeds go back to the women.”

Seventy percent of the proceeds go directly to the women working for Global Mamas, and the rest is used to fund infrastructure projects within the community for a better working environment.