Better health and wellness isn’t an overnight development. The time and commitment (and recommitment) it takes is why people often say, it's a lifestyle. But it’s also a process. We read and learn about this beneficial product and that harmful product, but there’s often a lag between learning and implementation. And even when we do implement, there’s the time that it takes for us to observe our own body and how it reacts.
I had an interesting upbringing. My mother grew up on a farm in Mississippi. Her father grew cotton, greens, peanuts, watermelon, peas, okra, and raised livestock. Therefore they had a farm-to-table upbringing. My father grew up in New Orleans with regular visits from his dad’s good friend, Dr. Sebi. We ate homemade wheat bread and took cayenne capsules for anything resembling an illness. But when my parents divorced when I was six, things changed. For convenience and cost, canned vegetables and white rice became staple products in the home. Let’s not even talk about the Hamburger Helper nights. When I became an adult and started living on my own, I vividly remember noticing the color difference between fresh and canned green peas. The canned vegetables literally looked embalmed.
This was the beginning of my journey to realign myself with how my maternal grandparents raised their children with a farm-fresh diet, and how Dr. Sebi and my grandfather understood health and wellness. And it’s been a journey. Processed goods are in so many things. I am one of the few people that loved Raisin Bran. I thought it was a healthy cereal until I learned about GMO wheat and the amount of processed sugar in it. It took me years to fully wean off. Lol!
It takes time for us to develop the patience needed to embrace the journey towards healthier living, as experience informs us that the benefits are coming. A few years ago, my family and I had this experience with skin moisturizers. I grew up using all kinds of stuff. My favorite memory is the pink lotion we used for our scalp. Oh my God! Lol! Or better yet, the Blue Magic when I got into having “waves.” More of us now know that these products are loaded with petrochemicals that are harmful to the body. I also used cocoa butter that was watery and with artificial fragrance. Nothing was worse than rushing to put some on before school only to sweat it all off by the time I reached the bus stop. In Ethiopia, Nivea was everywhere and it seemed to work until I found out that it too was composed of chemicals, water, and fragrance.
Soon, we began to buy as many organic products as we could. It seemed like the best way to avoid chemicals. We found a lotion that we liked and used it regularly. It was expensive but at least it didn’t have petrochemicals. But it still required large amounts and constant reapplication to truly moisturize our skin, especially in the cooler months. In the warmer months, especially in New Orleans (with heat and humidity), I did all that (and paid good money) just to sweat it all off, still.
In 2020, I had a chance to visit an old classmate and great friend in Mali. After some initial challenges (I promise I’m going to tell this story in full one day, hahaha), we found some quality shea butter. Finally, an all natural product, free of chemicals, no added fragrance, and actually quite different from the stuff I purchased from the street vendors in Harlem. This shea butter was softer, smoother, and didn’t clump up as I tried to apply to my skin. (I later learned that much of the “shea” butter sold by those vendors is cut and mixed with other ingredients).The pure shea butter took longer to apply than my favorite lotion but the benefits were noticed immediately. My skin had a non-oily sheen, I used less of it, and it didn’t sweat off.
I brought several jars back to the US but found myself still using lotion because of how speedy it could be applied. That only lasted a few weeks. I had observed the difference with shea butter and my skin felt the difference. I realized I needed to exercise a bit more patience, learn to actually love my skin (not just its color) so that I could treat it with the care and respect it deserves. I kid you not, my then 11 year-old son (yours truly, Idris) eventually learned to do so as well. And now it’s truly a staple product in our family. We’ve learned our skin is worth the few extra seconds that it takes to apply it properly and we’ve noticed that the effort of massaging shea butter into our skin is soothing both mentally and physically. Long story still kind of long, this is why we offer pure African shea butter. It’s the best moisturizer we’ve found over the years. It’s all natural, soothes and heals skin, and economically supports communities in many African countries. A win-win as they say.
(Photo: African sister cracking shea nuts by hand)