All the ingredients used in L'OCCITANE products have a special relationship to nature, and to the beautiful region of Provence. However one stands out from its counterparts, by its distant origins, coming straight from Burkina Faso…
By Marine Normand - Photos L'Occitane - January 17, 2012
Getting to know shea butter is partly about understanding its richness. The history of this majestic tree, which can grow as high as 15 meters and with dense green foliage, begins in the savannas of Western and Central Africa, where it grows naturally. Indeed, its cultivation seems unthinkable given how slowly it develops. Living for up to two or even three centuries, one must wait 15 years to see the first fruits appear. And this isn't even the beginning of its most productive period, which happens between 50 and 100 years: which is to say, there's no point being in a hurry… The big dark-green nuts that it
produces each year are harvested from the ground, rom late June to early September, and only by women. It's difficult work, as they then must extract the nut from the fruit, dry it, crush it and mix it with water to make shea butter. By virtue of the mysterious and sacred nature of the tree, men are not allowed to collect the fruits, nor try to destroy it.
Used as much across the areas of food and health as for sacred rituals, shea has been kept as a beauty secret for thousands of years. Its butter has often been many African women's only beauty product.
Indeed, it possesses numerous properties; a healing agent, it assists in treating dry skin and stretch marks as well as ulcers or eczema. In discovering the rich and surprising history of the shea tree, Olivier Baussan, founder of L'OCCITANE, decided to go to Burkina Faso and search it out in 1980. There he discovered this almost magical nut, and even though it does not originate from Provence, he decided to incorporate it into a line of products. He wasn't wrong. Shea butter has been a huge success and developed a real fan base, and Shea Butter Hand Cream is now a worldwide L’OCCITANE best seller. In fact, in the middle of winter, we’re fairly certain that this product can be found in women’s handbags all around the globe!
But shea butter is also at the heart of another great story. Discovering the work of these Burkinabe women, Olivier Baussan decided to support them by creating a fair-trade cooperative. Additionally, when the L’OCCITANE Foundation was established in 2006, one
of its original goals was to help these women learn to read and write, and to achieve financial independence. Today, L’OCCITANE is proud to work with over 12,000 women in Burkina Faso. And you can be a part of this beautiful story, by succumbing to the magic of shea butter!