Shea Terra Organics, Sustainable Beauty from Africa

This month, Beauty Editor Joy Elkayam interviewed Tammie Umbel from Shea Terra Organics. This line features ingredients indigenous to Africa, and supports local communities and natural habitats across the continent.

Parvati Magazine:
What inspired the creation of Shea Terra Organics?

Shea Terra Organics: Shea Terra Organics was the result of a lifetime fascination with wildlife, cultures and the desire to eradicate poverty. Growing up I was the “weird one”. From the time I learned to read at the age of four I began comparing food labels. I would request my mom to buy the products that say natural and attempt to divert her from anything that said artificial. Much to the scolding and disapproval of my mother I was intrigued by Feed the Children. At a young age I wondered why no one provided these people with jobs. I said to myself that one day I would make jobs for them so that they no longer had to starve. As my teenage years approached I found myself in Indian stores buying oils for my hair. I was very intrigued by the beauty regimens of other cultures. With time I would meet hundreds of international visitors along Embassy Row in DC. Still a teenager, I was amazed with the exotic henna patterns of the young brides. I fell in love with the different treatments that the women of Africa did, like fragrant smoking of the body. I came to realize that these natural and potentially sustainable beauty regimens could bring much needed income into small villages and thus the idea of Shea Terra Organics was born.

PMAG: How did you start sourcing your unique ingredients, and what did you find?

STO: Over the past seventeen years I have been combing through villages in search of hidden beauty secrets. I have worked closely with local communities and conservation groups to identify these rare ingredients. Kigellia Africana, for example has been used by indigenous peoples in southern Africa to firm their skin as well as to soothe numerous skin complaints. Moabi butter comes from the Moabi Forest which is part of a wildlife conservation project. The butter is similar to shea butter in many ways, but makes skin more supple than shea butter. Elephants, monkeys and several other species of wildlife depend on the preservation of the Moabi Forest for their survival.

PMAG: What recommendations do you have for creating a luxurious and restorative bath?

STO: Turn your bath into an exotic spa destination. Begin in Morocco with a deep cleansing Mud Detox made with genuine Moroccan menthe essential oil in pure ghassool clay from the Atlas Mountains. Wrap the body in this Mud-tox while having a cup of mint tea. Rinse off in the shower. Next, travel to the Fynbos of South Africa with a South African Lavender Shea Butter Malawi Sugar Scrub. This is not your average scrub. The cream holds the sugar and pumice onto the skin to allow them to buff away dead skin, leaving skin buttery soft. Once you step out of the shower take an exotic journey to East Africa. Slather the body in a silky shea oil cocoon with Shea Nilotik’ Oil in Dakara Frankincense. This black frankincense is sustainably harvested by the Masaai of Kenya.

PMAG: As we move from winter to spring, what skincare products do you recommend?

STO: As we transition from winter to spring we need to slough off our old skin and spring into our new. This is the time to use Rose Hips Black Soap Face Wash to get rid of the dead dry cells and refresh skin. I created this soap back in 2002 and knew it was going to one day be our top seller. It breaks down dead skin leaving it younger looking and softer than anything else I have used. Then it is important to care for the more youthful skin. Our Egyptian Pomegranate Oil is the perfect way to infuse the skin with pomega-5. Topping off the skin with Tamanu Butter will seal in the moisture and protect it from chilly spring winds.

Tammie Umbel

For over a decade, Shea Terra Organics’ founder, Tammie Umbel, has been helping native Africans to preserve their wildlife habitats by sharing their indigenous, healing ingredients with the world. Not only do Shea Terra Organics’ premium skin care treatments assist in preservation, they are also the backbone of economic sustainability for many hardworking families across the continent. Tammie lives with her 14 home-educated children and husband on an organic farm in Virginia.