In a nutshell | Oils we love for hair and beauty

Thanks to the natural hair movement, African oils and butters are having their moment

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Dickson’s sold oils and butters from Ghana at Afro Hair & Beauty LIVE

There are so many undiscovered wonders that Africa has to offer. Its abundance in natural ingredients have been used for centuries in beauty remedies, and remain essential in general health to this day. With vitamins and fatty acids, these oils and butters are an amazing way to discover new ways to maintain your beauty, as well as exploring the origins and the history of some of the most beneficial, age old remedies used by African women.

Akua Wood runs a website called Shea Butter Cottage, offering natural African based products such as unrefined shea butter, cocoa butter, unrefined coconut oil, African black soap and palm kernel oil and many more, using base ingredients purchased directly from farmer co-operatives in Ghana. She explained, ‘I grew up in Ghana and experienced the healing and moisturising properties of shea. It’s quite simply a unique natural ingredient in skincare.’


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Akua Wood (left) of Shea Butter Cottage at the Shea Butter Co-op in Gumu with a female harvester


ARGAN OIL Originating from Morocco, organic argan oil is full of antioxidants that strengthen the hair, retain skin elasticity and promotes healthy cuticles. It is very popular in the Western world. Most haircare brands now have an argan oil product in their range, yet surprisingly, it is one of the rarest oils in the world. It takes 30kg of seeds to produce one litre.  The fruit falls from the tree and is laid out to dry, and the seeds are removed by hand and cold pressed to produce the oil.

COCOA BUTTER Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats around and typically it will has a shelf life of two to five years. It is made by pressing the whole bean as this way the antioxidants are preserved and it doesn’t turn rancid. It is hard and brittle at room temperature due to the high content of palmitic and stearic acids. The lovely aroma and velvety texture have made cocoa butter a favourite in beauty preparations. Cocoa butter is ideal for blemishes and stretch marks and because it’s a moisture retaining ingredient, it can be used in haircare as a detangling agent.

BAOBAB OIL Native to Africa,this rich moisturising oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the baobab tree aka ‘the upside down tree’. In cold temperatures it will solidify, but as an oil, baobab is easily absorbed into the hair and skin making it bene cial for a number of reasons. It’s a fantastic oil for dry, itchy, sensitive skin because the vitamin C penetrates the surface to improve the texture and elasticity.  e same applies when it comes to conditioning hair. Try it on its own or with a little bit of organic argan oil to tame the frizz.


The African baobab tree

SHEA BUTTER Sourced from Ghana, and processed from nuts gathered from the karate tree, unrefined raw shea is often referred to as ‘karate butter’. It’s excellent for dry skin, helping to renew and heal. Rich in vitamins A and E and good for all skin types, shea butter is also an excellent moisturizer and provides protection from damaging UV rays from the sun.

MARULA OIL The marula tree, grown in the Swaziland region, is best known for its golfball-sized fruit, which it bears in profusion during summer. The fruit is used in the production of the popular South African drink, Amarula. Marula oil is a stable, moisturising oil, rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. It can be used to heal scars, treat chapped skin. It is a great massage oil and can be used on babies.

ALLANBLACKIA BUTTER Allanblackia is a solid edible vegetable butter extracted from seeds of the allanblackia tree that grows in the rainforest belt of West Africa. The seeds yield 50 per cent of oil and quickly solidifies into butter. Allanblackia has a soft vanilla undertone, making it a great ice cream flavour. It is an excellent substitute for cocoa or kokum butter. The high percentage of stearic makes it the most stable and one of the hardest exotic butters around. It is however a non-greasy/dry butter and can be used in soaps, lip balms and hair products.

COCONUT OIL The coconut oil used in West Africa is made from the flesh of fresh coconuts and the process involves little heat and pressing out the oil. It is good deep conditioner for hair because it penetrates the inside cortex improving its strength and flexibility. It also helps repair damaged scalps and controls dandruff. Coconut oil is used in most tanning lotions, however it works well as an after-sun care to enhance skin tone and moisturise.


Coconut is a popular hair & beauty oil

KOMBO BUTTER Pressed from the ‘African nutmeg’, unrefined kombo butter is dark in colour. The seeds are harvested between December and April and the butter is prized for its anti-inflammatory properties. The waste”after the oil has been pressed from the seeds is used as fire lighters and a natural fertilizer.

NEEM OIL Neem trees grow fast and produce a soft-shelled seed that has a sweet outer layer and a bitter core. Usually cold-pressed and unrefined, the oil is known for its antiseptic purposes and is bought from a farming group on Fairtrade terms. The oil can be used to treat dry, itchy and sensitive skin and head lice.

Thanks to Akua Wood from Shea Butter Cottage for her help with this article. Many of the oils can be found at


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