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Product Spotlight
Travel Amenity Kits
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We’re thrilled to introduce a skillfully collaborated collection of Bella Lucce’s bestsellers, now offered in TSA-friendly sizes tucked inside chic cotton travel bags. Our new Travel Amenity Kits enable you to take your favorite Bella Lucce luxuries for face and body on the road no matter where your travels may take you. Whether you’re off on an adventure by plane, train or automobile, we wish you happy travels!

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From Morocco With Love

Shop Bella Luccè's nonprofit to discover a treasure trove of handmade Moroccan luxuries and learn how adding beauty to your life can change the lives of indigenous Berber people.
Visit From Morocco With Love.

Latest Obsession
Inspirational Jewlery from LuluBug
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My teenage daughter recently left for a summer service trip to Thailand. I was scouring Etsy for a piece of inspirational jewelry to give her when I stumbled upon LuluBug. I’m smitten with her whimsical, original designs in sterling silver. My Chloe scored a locket that said “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams…” but I’ve got my eye on several other pieces as well. Who could resist the “You are my sunshine” necklace?

Ingredient of the Month
Crushed Freshwater Pearls

Crushed Freshwater Pearls: Celebrated by Asian women and ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia for more than 3,000 years, pearl powder has a rich history and a myriad of legendary tales about its use at the Imperial Palace. Created by pulverizing real freshwater pearls, it is reputed to boost skins brightness and is rich in both amino acids and trace minerals.

Find it in: Shiitake & Green Tea Antioxidant Serum, Detoxifying Giinger-Wasabi Masque, Orchid & Crushed Pearl Body Creme

Food For Thought

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

- Steve Jobs

Home Spa Rituals
Lavender- Honey Milk Bath

3 tbsp. Dried Lavender Flowers*
1 1/2 cups Whole Milk or Buttermilk
1/3 cup Honey

Process lavender flowers in a blender until they become a powder, turning off the blender and scraping down the sides as necessary. Whisk together lavender powder, milk, and honey in a glass bowl, then pour into a jar. Before each use, shake the jar and pour half of the mixture into the bath. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes enough for 2 baths.

*Dried lavender flowers can be found in the spice section of gourmet and specialty stores. (Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board)

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NY Times Travel Blog : For those days when you're trapped in your office, but dream of snorkeling expeditions to Belize or biking through Spain.

Yoga Journal : An ever-changing source of information about yoga, meditation and healthy cooking.

Women's Rights Blog : An eye-opening look at the state of women's rights around the globe.

Daily Candy : Unwrap a surprise in your email inbox every morning. It's the only site you'll ever need for the latest in travel, culture, nibbles and libations.

101 Cookbooks : Delectable new recipes every single day. Never fret over what to make for dinner again!

A peek inside our shea butter processing facility in Uganda

August 12, 2010

While in Uganda, I had the chance to observe the process of turning raw shea nuts into finished Nilotica shea butter, known as “moo yao” in Langi, the local language. There’s a fascinating, labor-intensive process behind that creamy shea butter that women covet in their American personal care products…

Native women begin by gathering raw shea nuts from wildcrafted trees. The general rule of thumb is this: if the tree is on your property, the nuts are yours. If the tree is on communal property or lining a road, first woman to the tree gets the nuts!

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A mature shea tree in Otuke, Uganda

The nuts are washed and dried on handwoven mats in the sun. As they dry, the kernel inside the shell contracts a bit, so the women shake the nuts next to their ears to see if they’re ready. If they rattle slightly, the inner kernel is dry and ready for processing. The women then remove the outershell by gently smashing the nut between two rocks. At this juncture, they take them to the local project coordinators at Bead For Life, who grade them, weigh them and purchase nuts by the kilo. The very best, classified as “grade A”, are reserved for shea butter processing destined for the export market. Grade B nuts are typically not purchased by BFL and the local women retain them for use in soaps and shea butter processing for the local market. Grade C nuts are the lowest tier, used by the women at home- both as a cooking oil and to smear upon their babies to encourage soft skin and deep sleep.

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An unshelled shea nut (on the left) and a freshly picked nut (right)

The deshelled, dried and graded shea nuts are then transported to Lira, the nearest town in Uganda, to begin processing. They are graded once more as part of a stringent quality control process and only grade “A” nuts are used in Nilotica butter processing. A generator-powered grinding mill quickly turns the nuts into a coarsely ground powder. East African shea nuts are never boiled or roasted, unlike their traditional West African counterparts. The result is a cold-processing method that maintains an abundance of the natural vitamins and skin benefits of the natural shea nut.

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A grinding mill crushes the nuts into powder

The powder is blended with hot water, which excites the natural oils inside the nuts. The resulting “slurry” is scooped into small cotton bags, which are then placed in a manual steel press fitted with a sieve. Heavy plates are placed on top of the bags to add pressure and weight, then a giant “screw” head is lowered upon the bags, winched down by two men walking in circles until the full pressure of the press has been applied to those bags of shea slurry. The pressure causes the liquid shea to ooze from the bags.

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The resulting powder after two runs through the mill

The bags are then handwashed and hung to dry in the sun. The shea powder, now devoid of the lion’s share of its valuable oil, is retained. The rebel insurgency has contributed to the rapid deforestation of Uganda’s shea parklands, as villagers cut down large shea trees, transforming them into charcoal to earn a living. The Bead For Life team in Uganda is experimenting with turning this powder into charcoal cakes, which could help slow the deforestation by preserving existing trees. As it takes twenty years for a shea tree to bear its first fruit, preservation is vital since replanting won’t yield results for at least a generation.

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The freshly-washed muslin bags hanging to dry in the sun

The liquid shea butter is then heated twice. The first heating purifies the butter and removes any impurities, such as ground nuts which may have seeped through the bags. The second warming evaporates any remaining water, leaving nothing but pure shea behind. The shea is poured into buckets while still warm. Upon cooling, it becomes more firm and is ready for incorporation into a variety of different personal care products. The butter is transported to Kampala, Uganda’s capital, then flown to Boulder, Colorado (Bead For Life’s US headquarters).

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Pouring warm shea into containers at the processing facility

I was fortunate enough to meet with two different groups of women who gather the shea nuts in the Otuke district in Northern Uganda. I wanted to hear their personal stories, see the processing methods for myself, and I also wanted to learn how these women have traditionally used shea butter in Africa. Here’s what I discovered.

1. Mothers typically rub their babies in shea butter almost every day, believing the “moo yao” makes babies fat and promotes good sleep.

2. Villagers often drink a teaspoon of warm shea butter to ease sore throats.

3. Women traditionally chew shea leaves to alleviate stomach pain.

4. Shea butter is widely used throughout Africa as a cooking oil for traditional cuisine. I consumed plenty of it while in Uganda.

5. Men and women sometimes rub shea butter on swollen areas to decrease inflammation.

6. Joseph Kony, crazed leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, tells the children he abducts and converts to child soldiers that drawing a cross on their chest with shea butter will make them invincible in battle. Horrifically sad, but true…

As discussed in an earlier article, the nuts for Bella Luccè’s Nilotica shea butter are gathered by the women who have survived the twenty year insurgency of the LRA rebel army in Northern Uganda. You can meet a few of them right here. We’re proud to be a part of this exciting new project from Bead For Life and we’re sharing our source for this beautiful fair trade, organic shea butter with you in the hopes that more cosmetic manufacturers in the US will help Bead For Life in their mission to help these amazing women rebuild their lives and permanently escape abject poverty. If you’re affiliated with a cosmetic manufacturing firm and you’d like to learn more about Nilotica shea butter, we invite you to contact Malinda at Bead For Life (303.554.5901).


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