By now, you probably know that shea butter is the kind of rich, nourishing skin ingredient you’ll want to find listed on the back of your favorite body lotion—and not, say, lathered on whole-wheat toast for breakfast. But even natural beauty devotees would be hard-pressed to pinpoint what the stuff is actually made of, or where on earth it comes from. If you grew up in an African household (or as part of an extended Nigerian family, like this writer), then you’re likely familiar with the look and feel of raw shea butter—crumbly in texture, bumblebee yellow in color—at the very least. “There’s a lot of demystifying that needs to be done around shea,” says Abi Oyepitan, one-half of the British duo behind Liha, a new organic skin-care line that’s gaining a cult following out of London. “I think you could easily call it the ultimate African beauty secret.”
Made from the nut of the karite tree that is native to West Africa, the shea butter that Oyepitan and company cofounder Liha Okunniwa have bottled might be some of the best on the continent. As well as handcrafted African black soap and coconut oil, their line of artisanal products includes pure golden shea butter, a strain rich in vitamins A and E that’s particularly great for treating extra-dry skin types. “The nut itself looks like a conker and is mashed up and kneaded by hand over a course of two weeks in the village,” says Okunniwa of their golden shea that is sourced in southern Nigeria. “Though it’s pretty labor-intensive work, it’s something that women have traditionally done in Africa—in fact, they call it women’s gold because it’s gotten so many women out of poverty.”
While Oyepitan, a former Olympic athlete, and Okunniwa, an art book publisher, met at university in the U.K., they both have roots tracing back to Nigeria. “There weren’t so many people on campus with natural hair,” says Oyepitan. “So we bonded over natural hair remedies.” A custom, considered approach to beauty informs all the products in their line—so if you were wondering who exactly is infusing their tuberose-scented coconut oil with freshly plucked petals by hand every day, it’s these two. It’s in that same DIY spirit that Liha launched its Kitchen Beauty workshops, a series of pop-up events across London that pulls back the curtain on the making of shea butter, and how it can be used as a base with essential oils for a host of tailor-made hair- and skin-care recipes. “I think the idea that you can use what’s in your kitchen and improvise with your routine is very African, while the use of plant essences comes from a British tradition,” says Okunniwa. “My mother is English and was an aromatherapist, so she was always wrapping us up in oils when we had colds as kids instead of sending us to the doctor.”
Though there are no plans to bring Liha workshops to the States just yet, American fans of the label can get their hands on the line’s new Beauty Kit, which includes the ingredients—shea butter, a choice of two essential oils including rose (uplifting!) and rosemary (relaxing), an empty pot for your creation, and full instructions—to get started on whipping up the perfect shea butter soufflé. And given that all you’ll need to grab from the kitchen cabinet is a mixing bowl, whisk, tablespoon, and some olive oil besides, the rest should be child’s play.
For more information, visit lihabeauty.co.uk.
Read the full article at Vogue.com