The very first winter at Beekman farm was rough. Literally. Having spent the last several years of our lives in the rarefied office environments of Manhattan, our skin was not used to facing the harsh elements. Because the relative humidity – moisture in the air – gets so low in the cold season, winter weather dries out our skin. Indoor heating also lowers humidity, depriving the skin of moisture. In the cold weather, many of us develop something commonly called “winter itch” or eczema – dry, itchy, flaky skin.
In addition to using the goat milk soap that would eventually make Beekman 1802 famous, we started working on other chemical-free products that could help protect and restore our skin. First came the Stick of Butter—a solid lotion stick made using goat milk that could travel right along with you, even on an airplane. This was great for lips and routine use on the hands. But for those areas of the body REALLY prone to drying, like the elbows, knees, and heels, we wanted an effective spot treatment.
So was born the Tub of Butter which blended goat milk with the only thing we could think that would be more emollient – Shea butter. Shea butter is a slightly yellowish or ivory-colored fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). The Shea nut is used both for its fruit (which is eaten,) and its oil (which used in skin care products and also for cooking.) While we love Shea butter for it’s moisturizing properties in the winter, it’s also used by persons living in the Sahara Desert to keep from losing too much hydration in the hot dry winds.
While Shea butter was widely used in Western cosmetics from the 1930’s – 1960’s, in the last part of the 20th century it was replaced in most beauty products by cocoa butter, which was cheaper to import. But Shea butter has some interesting natural SPF and anti-inflammatory properties that cocoa butter doesn’t, and has seen a resurgence in popularity recently. We’re often asked why we don’t produce traditional lotions. The answer is that any liquid lotion or soap requires chemical preservatives and stabilizers, which we prefer to avoid. Shea butter, however, has a naturally long shelf life.
Shea butter is also a vital part of some rural African economies, where it is harvested and processed by women. In fact, it’s sometimes referred to as “Womens’ Gold” since in some regions the harvesting and processing of Shea nuts is one of the only opportunities for income for African women. In fact, the Mali government produced the two videos below for its national television to help teach women how to harvest and process Shea nuts more efficiently and profitably.
Beekman 1802 is a beauty brand that has grown into something much more, but at our core is the desire to make beautiful things and sometimes the beautiful thing is you.