SheaMoisture: Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque

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Tchiba Jennifer Soura
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SheaMoisture is a company that was initiated with the aim of creating products specifically for people (especially women) of colour and people with hair patterns from 1A to 4C ( from the loosest to the tightest curls). As part of this community, and as someone always searching for THE product for my hair, I took interest in this brand’s products. My attention was particularly focused on one of their best sellers, the Jamaican Black Castor Oil Treatment Masque. Despite being owned by Unilever, which is definitely not known for its sustainability, SheaMoisture have proven itself. While not having perfect practices, the company has shown that they are still committed to adopting a sustainable vision.

What it's made of:


There are quite a lot of ingredients used in the making of this 13.99$ and 12oz product. The main ones are Jamaican black castor oil, Shea Butter and several other oils, like coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil. Inspired by the grandmother of one of the founders (who used to sell Shea Butter handcrafted in Sierra Leone), SheaMoisture uses shea butter in almost all its products. The shea butter is ethically sourced from seven women’s co-ops in Northern Ghana. According to an article from American salon (The leading media resource for beauty pros & salon owners for 143 years): “To date, the brand has helped more than 4,500 Ghanaian women become entrepreneurs and create self-sustaining businesses by providing the product ingredients.” In addition, an article from Beauty Packaging Magazine stated that Shea Moisture’s work has made it possible for these women to access fresh piped water, healthcare enrollment and higher school attendance. As well as the shea butter, the other ingredients of the product are certified organic, fair-for-life, and fair-trade. Certified organic ingredients, just like for our food, are grown GMO-free and without most manufactured fertilisers and pesticides. This is generally better for the earth, the farm workers and the consumers. It also excludes toxic ingredients such as sulphates, parabens, pthalates, propylene glycol, formaldehyde, mineral oil, DEA or petroleum. Furthermore, this family-owned and operated business has tested its products on their family for four generations and never ever on animals (they are certified Cruelty-Free).

This Shea Moisture’s Hair Treatment Masque comes in a virgin plastic packaging. Plastic, we can never say it enough, is absolutely deadly for the environment. Nowadays, all producers, companies, and consumers are aware of this fact. Unilever, a giant corporation owning more than 400 brands, is for sure also aware of that. Some of its brands, like Love Beauty and Planet, use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. Now, we agree that going plastic free is THE goal, but at least this big conglomerate is showing us that it’s possible to reduce the damages without totally removing plastic. The big question is then: why not apply that to all their brands using virgin plastic like SheaMoisture? This is only revealing how Unilever is not willing to make the efforts to adopt more sustainable practices when they definitely have the financial means to do it. Really disappointing!

How it's made:


I did a lot of research on the SheaMoisture and Sundial (manufacturer of the brand) websites, but there was no information disclosed on how exactly the hair treatment masque is made. From what I know, the product is made by blending together a different dosage of each ingredient until desired consistency is reached. Apart from the working conditions of the people providing the ingredients, I couldn’t find a thing about those working in the manufacture of the product. Thus, it is not revealed to the public how they work and what their minimum wage is; we don’t know if they are ethically treated or not. I believe that these pieces of information should be disclosed, as they can influence the decision of consumers to continue supporting the company or not, which is their right. That is how a company that declares they have the consumers’ best interest in mind should work.

As I already mentioned, their package is made of virgin plastic, for which production and use represent a long-term danger. In 2020, Unilever announced their plan regarding their plastic packagings. By 2025, they want to reduce more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use, have a 25% increase of the use of post-consumer recycled plastic material, and ensure that 100% of their plastic packagings are designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable. All of this sounds great, but I think their plans should have moved towards that earlier because they own old brands that have been using virgin plastic for more than a decade (TRESemmé), when they were definitely and fully aware of the plastic use problem.

Who makes it:


SheaMoisture was founded in Harlem, NY, United States in 1991 by Liberians Nyema Tubman, Richelieu Dennis, and his mother Mary Dennis. SheaMoisture is the legacy of founder and CEO Richelieu Dennis’ grandmother Sofi, who sold handcrafted shea butter soaps and salves in Sierra Leone to support her family. In December 2017, SheaMoisture was sold to the big conglomerate Unilever and today, the brand is manufactured by Sundial, a subsidiary of Unilever. The British conglomerate is definitely not an eco-friendly company overall, even though they market themselves as a sustainable company and are probably making some progress internally. However, I think that SheaMoisture, independently of Unilever, has proven their commitment to supporting minority communities and the environment. In fact, the business donates 10% of its SheaMoisture Community Commerce sales to help empower disadvantaged women-led businesses. Through Community Commerce, SheaMoisture also funds scholarships for students in the U.S. and abroad, from high school to college and graduate school. In addition, in the U.S, the company makes investments in entrepreneurial and educational programs that empower women and transform communities. They also recently announced the SheaMoisture Fund to support women of colour entrepreneurs during COVID-19. Thanks to all these accomplishments, SheaMoisture is now a certified B-Corporation.

I was not able to find a sustainability report on the company’s actions, and I found that the website was not updated regularly, as a lot of content seems to be from 2018. So they need to work on that.

As a business using its profits to help to communities, I believe that SheaMoisture is doing a pretty good job. Do I wish they would take more responsibility for their packaging and go plastic free? Do I also wish they would invest a little more and support causes fighting for the environment? Yes and Yes ! As consumers, this is where we can start applying pressure and make a difference.