Is SheaMoisture Sustainable and Natural? Our Analysis
In the current era, consumer expectations from beauty brands have evolved beyond the mere provision of beauty products. SheaMoisture, a black-owned beauty brand, aligns with this trend by focusing on the development of homemade, natural products. This approach reflects a clear objective: to imbue their offerings with both intent and purpose.
The idea originated in Sierra Leone in 1912, when Sofi Tucker began selling personal care products made with homemade shea butter. SheaMoisture, a family-owned company, continues the legacy of their ancestor by selling natural, sustainable products with shea butter.
The brand positions itself as a safe, community-driven company that wants to make a positive impact in the world. SheaMoisture promises “safe and uncompromising beauty.” Its mission is to “invest in and empower Black communities.”
Is SheaMoisture as sustainable and natural as its advertising wants us to believe? We reviewed the brand to find out.
Ingredients (Rating: Iffy)
SheaMoisture markets itself as a community-driven business, preserving their ancestor’s legacy of homemade products with natural ingredients.
SheaMoisture provides an ingredients page with natural ingredients like aloe and hibiscus listed. Customers can click on the name to find products with that ingredient. While this is a helpful way to filter products, it does not provide more information about the ingredient. However, the brand has a full list of ingredients for each product on its website.
The company does not use parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, petroleum, or formaldehyde in its products. This claims checks out, because these ingredients are not mentioned on labels.
On SheaMoisture’s website, the company says it attempts to keep ingredient lists accurate. However, since raw ingredients listings are subject to change because of the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI), they can’t guarantee the ingredient lists are up-to-date or complete. INCI is the international system for naming ingredients published by the Person Care Products Council (PCPC).
The company uses a lot of natural ingredients that come from plants, citrus, and animals in its formulations. While we reviewed SheaMoisture’s current products, we found some ingredients we recommend avoiding.
- Most products have undisclosed fragrances. We do not suggest using products with fragrances.
- Unspecified flavor is in SheaMoisture’s lip balms. It’s an iffy ingredient because it’s usually made with a combination of substances to create or nullify a scent.
- Phenoxyethanol is a preservative ingredient meant to prevent bacteria growth in products. However, it can cause respiratory side effects and allergies.
- Polyquaternium-7 is used in haircare products because it smooths and moisturizes hair. It has the potential for contamination with acrylamide, which is carcinogenic.
- Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine is a surfactant that carries absorption risks. A 2020 study reported that stearamidopropyl dimethylamine showed moderately toxic effects in zebrafish embryos.
- Behentrimonium chloride is a preservative ingredient that moisturizes and detangles hair. In high concentrations, it can irritate skin and eyes. It has a moderate concerns for reproductive organ system toxicity.
- Behentrimonium methosulfate is safe to use in small quantities and when rinsed off, like in the SheaMoisture’s shampoos. However, it can cause irritation and allergies.
- Cetrimonium chloride is a preservative. It’s associated with allergies and immunotoxicity.
- Chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower, rosa canina flower extract, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, and citrus paradisi (grapefruit) are plants and citrus that can cause allergies.
- Cocamidopropyl betaine is a surfactant. It can absorb through the skin and may cause contact dermatitis and irritation.
- Some products contain retinyl propionate, a synthetic form of Vitamin A. Exposure to sunlight can cause retinols to decompose into carcinogenic free radicals.
- Cocamide MEA is made from coconut oils and ethanolamine. It has contamination concerns for nitrosamines if it’s not washed off immediately. Since it’s present in a serum, this is concerning.
- Mica is present in a few products. Since SheaMoisture has a robust policy for ingredient sourcing, it is likely that its mica is sustainability and ethically sourced.
Sustainability (Rating: Good)
SheaMoisture is transparent about its ethical ingredient sourcing. It uses fair trade shea butter from a cooperative in West Africa. Shea butter is fat taken from nuts that grow on shea trees.
Shea trees grow in Africa, where women harvest the nuts and turn them into shea nuts into butter manually. This takes a lot of training a time. The women are often not fairly compensated for their time and skill. SheaMoisture’s support of the fair trade shea butter market helps these farmers and artisans make a better wage. The company’s handmade shea butter comes from female suppliers in Tamale in Ghana.
SheaMoisture has been a certified B-Corporation since 2015. It meets high social and environmental performance standards that benefit humans and the planet. SheaMoisture is transparent about its accountability measures, as measured by B Lab, the nonprofit company that certifies B Corp brands.
The company provides a detailed impact report. This 68-page document outlines the ways SheaMoisture donates to projects that support Black communities. It pledges at least 1% of net annual sales to Black-owned businesses.
It started educational entrepreneurship and educational programs for Black and minority-owned businesses, like the Dartmouth Fellowship Program. SheaMoisture invests in companies owned by Black entrepreneurs to decrease the racial wealth gap.
Regarding recycling initiatives, SheaMoisture states its bottles and jars are composed of 25%-50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. This is a solid start, but its recycling initiatives aren’t as detailed as some other brands we’ve reviewed.
Animal Welfare (Rating: Good)
SheaMoisture makes the following statement on its website about animal welfare:
Tested on our family for four generations. Never on animals.
Cruelty-Free Kitty reports SheaMoisture is truly a cruelty-free brand. The company and its third-party suppliers don’t test products or ingredients on animals. However, SheaMoisture’s parent company, Unilever, is not cruelty-free.
While SheaMoisture is cruelty-free, it is not a vegan brand. Honey, which is a non-vegan ingredient, is present in some products. However, there are some vegan options customers can purchase.
Final Brand Ratings
Our rating scale ranges from “Best” (for having the best practices) to “Avoid” (for having unacceptable practices). We rated SheaMoisture as follows.
|Ingredients||Iffy||SheaMoisture is transparent about its ingredients by providing a full list for each product. The brand does not include harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, petroleum, or formaldehyde in its products. Most of SheaMoisture’s ingredients naturally derive from plants and citruses. However, we found some ingredients we recommend avoiding like fragrances, flavors, phenoxyethanol, polyquaternium-7, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, retinyl propionate, and cocamide MEA. We also found some other ingredients that have the potential for irritation and allergies like behentrimonium chloride, behentrimonium methosulfate, cetrimonium chloride, cocamidopropyl betaine, and natural extracts.|
|Sustainability||Good||SheaMoisture has robust sustainability practices. The brand’s impact report details its stringent processes for ethical ingredient sourcing. It sources fair trade shea butter from a women’s cooperative in Ghana where women are paid fair wages. SheaMoisture is a certified B corp that adheres to high environmental and social standards for business practices. Product containers have 25%-50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. The brand donates to many charities that support Black-owned businesses.|
|Animal Welfare||Good||Cruelty-Free Kitty confirms SheaMoisture’s status as a cruelty-free brand. Its affiliate company, Unilever, is not cruelty-free. SheaMoisture is not 100% vegan, but the company has some vegan-friendly products.|
Overall Rating: Good
SheaMoisture is a Black-owned, fourth-generation family business that advertises organic, natural skincare and haircare.
Many of SheaMoisture’s ingredients are natural and organic. The company is transparent about ingredients used in current formulations. The brand leaves parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, petroleum, and formaldehyde out of formulations. However, we found some other potentially irritating ingredients in products including fragrance, flavor, and phenoxyethanol. Some other iffy ingredients, like polyquaternium-7, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, and retinyl propionate, also appear in products.
The brand released an impact report describing its ethical sourcing practices. It purchases fair trade, ethically sourced shea butter for a women’s cooperative in Ghana. SheaMoisture achieved certified B-corp status in 2015 for its commitment to social and environmental practices. Its packaging is made with some PCR plastic, which shows a sustainable company mindset.
While SheaMoisture is cruelty-free, its affiliate company, Unilever, is not. The brand uses non-vegan ingredients like honey, but there are some vegan options to choose from.
In 2017, SheaMoisture received criticism from customers over a controversial advertisement. The advertisement featured several white women and one Black woman talking about hair discrimination. Fans of the brand were disappointed in this marketing approach, since it did not acknowledge the disproportionate racism Black women receive. SheaMoisture took full responsibility by publishing an apology and removing the ad.
For these reasons, SheaMoisture receives a rating of Good.