UPDATE: I don't know what the laboratory analysis is for this brand of shea butter, so I am unsure as to whether or not it is truly superior quality. All of its physical properties indicate that it is high quality, but lab results are important.
Okay, let's start off with a brand of rare shea butter that is well-sourced, put together, transparent, and currently well-priced--Sans Pareil Shea Butter.
Processing Method: Cold-pressed
Ethics: Fair-trade & Sustainable
Butter Aesthetics: Cream Colored & Smooth
Performance: Highly Absorbable & Light Outer Protective Layer
Brand Aesthetics: Transparent, Traceable, and Top-Notch
Buy at: Sans Pareil Naturals Website or Amazon
Sans Pareil Shea butter is from Uganda. Ugandan shea butter, or East African shea butter, or Nilotica shea butter, is from the species Vitellaria Nilotica. Nilotica shea butter has more oleic content than western shea butter from the species Vitellaria Paradoxa. This means it is smoother and melts faster.
Regarding their processing methods, San Pareil reports:
It all starts with the wild collection of shea nuts in the bush by independent, smallholder farmers. It is a natural crop–a gift from nature, each tree takes 20 to 25 years to mature and bear fruits; life span of the tree is expected to be 300 years and above.This shea butter is cold-pressed, then naturally micron filtered, and then crystallized in a physical fractionation plant. It is certified organic and certified fair trade by Ecocert (from the farmers all the way up the value chain). It is also harvested in a sustainable way; only ripe fruit is harvested and the trees and lands are protected.
Ethics + Bonus History Lesson
Ugandan shea butter could have vanished because of the unrest in Uganda that escalated in 1987 with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency. Uganda suffered an agonizing period during the LRA insurgency, and shea trees were felled and the processing of shea nuts was disturbed. Knowing the history of this country makes it better to understand and value Shea Nilotica.
In the words of Sans Pareil:
Many of the farmers are survivors of the Joseph Kony-led LRA insurgency and have returned to their fields after years of living in IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps. Today, trade --not aid --helps keep farmers active, healthy, and able to pay school fees for their children.Before continuing on, I do want to point out that even though these IDP have been urged to return to their homes/farms, it is still a tricky process and safety is still a major concern, especially since Joseph Kony's army, though weakened/retreated, is still out there. And the illegal felling of shea trees is still a concern. So we are really dealing with an endangered crop here and the political future of Uganda is directly related to the survival of shea Nilotica. If you want to know more, please read this Saferworld Update of Conflict and Peace Analysis and Sustainability article The Evolution of Shea Butter's "Paradox of paradoxa".
I admire the company Sans Pariel because it is transparent about where it sources its shea Nilotica, how it is processed, and its history. Seriously, transparency with shea butter sourcing is very rare...not many shea butter companies are confident enough to disclose their manufacturer, which is really frustrating for consumers like me.
Sans Pariel's is manufactured by Guru Nanak Oil Mills, which is the ONLY USDA and Ecocert and Fair for Life certified manufacturer of shea Nilotica in Uganda. So if you are using certified shea Nilotica that comes from Uganda, I would bet that it comes from Guru Nanak Oil Mills.
Using the butter...it's aesthetics and performance:
This shea butter has a light ivory color. The smell is lightly nutty and sweet. It has higher oleic acid content than West African Vitellaria shea butter, so it is very smooth, spreadable, and absorbable.
When I am pressed for time and need to quickly put on shea butter, I reach for shea Nilotica because you can distribute it quickly across your skin and it absorbs faster. It also leaves a lighter protective layer than west shea butter. However, if you want heavy duty protection from the outside elements, I would go with yellow West African shea butter. But if you get frustrated with the thick pastiness of typical shea butter, this might be the perfect choice for you.
Regarding brand aesthetics, Sans Pareil is spot on in their presentation. The butter is housed in a sleek plastic jar, which is housed in a cardboard outer box. There is stamp on the box that tells you when it was made (a huge bonus for me) and also an expiration stamp. I’m super impressed with this company’s presentation.
Regarding the price, at about $19 (including shipping) for 8 oz., Sans Pareil is actually very reasonable for shea Nilotica. Any shea Nilotica is going to be much more expensive than west shea butter. Maybe if political and processsing conditions improve in Eastern Africa that will change, but for now shea Nilotica is expensive.
Comparison-wise, I have tried the shea Nilotica brands Shea Terra and Viva Naturals. Shea Terra was good and around $14 for 6 oz. Viva Naturals was rancid (boo) and about $15 for 16 oz (never put rancid oil on your skin because its free fatty acids will have a savaging hay-day on your skin....yikes). There is the brand 3CayG that also sells shea Nilotica for a good price but I haven't tried it so cannot attest to its quality.
Once again, what I like about Sans Pareil shea Nilotica butter is that it is fresh, high quality, and the company has good ethics and is transparent about its manufacturer. They also offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. In addition to being fair-trade, Sans Pareil donates 5% of its profits to Uganda charity. So I don't hesitate to recommend Sans Pareil to those looking for a good shea Nilotica.
And when you buy it and start using it, please remember to keep the lid on, in a cool spot, and definitely out of sunlight! Contrary to the belief of some, unrefined shea butter will go bad, and exposure to light, heat, and air will only accelerate that process. So store it well, use it all over, and celebrate your natural beauty because your skin is gonna drink this up. ;)