Straight Outta Sierra Leone- The Story of Shea Moisture

The26The26
Jun. 15, 2020
There’s nothing quite like advice from your grandmother – and that’s exactly what forms the basis of organic body and hair care line SheaMoisture. Founded in Harlem, New York, by Nyema Tubman and Richelieu Dennis (as well as Richelieu’s mother, Mary Dennis) back in 1991, the company’s product line is inspired by their grandmother, Sofi Tucker, who first began selling shea butter-based products in 1912 at a market in her hometown of Bonthe in Sierra Leone. Now, almost three decades later, SheaMoisture prides itself on inclusivity, modern wisdom, sensory solutions to body and hair care problems, and using the best organic ingredients selected carefully from around the world.
The story of SheaMoisture begins more than a century ago in the town of Bonthe in Sierra Leone. Looking to make money in her teenage years, Sofi Tucker – already a widowed mother of four – started selling shea nuts at the village market. By the age of 19, she was selling shea butter and African black soap, as well as an array of homemade products for the hair and skin, all over the region.
As a child, Richelieu spent his summers helping his grandmother with the business, learning all of the tricks of the trade and becoming familiar with the ingredients, products, and business operations. Little did he know that, one day, this knowledge would save his family.When a civil war broke out in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Richelieu fled to the US with his mother and sister – and although Sofi stayed behind, her expertise did not. In 1991, on the streets of New York, Richelieu and his family began selling her products in a desperate attempt to earn some money and support themselves. 
Today, almost 30 years on, SheaMoisture is sticking to the same core principles of using natural ingredients, recipes, and production processes to produce a line of sustainable, organic hair and body care products, including soaps, lotions, and shampoos. According to Richelieu, the majority of all the ingredients used are imported directly from villages in different parts of Africa, and they’re still using the same production processes that they learned from their grandmother. 
They’ve also extended their product line to include raw ingredients from Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, with the recipes carefully created by Richelieu’s sister. Wherever the natural ingredients come from, one thing’s for sure: SheaMoisture products are guaranteed to be free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, petroleum, or formaldehyde – and the shea butter is fair trade.
One of the company’s best-selling products is the Coconut and Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, which is a styling cream that helps to repair, soften, and moisturize damaged hair.  Made with organic shea butter, hibiscus extract, coconut oil, and neem oil, it’s specially formulated for wavy and curly hair to hydrate and protect against breakage while replenishing lost oils – and the thousands of 5* reviews online suggest it does exactly that! 
A Winning Combination
As SheaMoisture’s mantra goes: “Recipes handed down from a healer make for potent 21st-century cures” – and there’s certainly truth to this, judging by the company’s loyal customer base that spans almost three decades and continues to grow. Centuries-old wisdom and recipes are combined with raw, organic ingredients, as well as ethical and sustainable production processes, to create high-quality, natural products that are also cruelty-free. As the website states: “Tested on our family for four generations.”
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