Shea Butter Hand Cream Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Shea Butter Hand Cream Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

You must have already had it in your hands... Developed by L'Occitane for the past 20 years with the help of women in Burkina Faso, the hand cream containing 20% shea butter is the Manosque based brand’s bestseller. A simple and true story.

By Caroline Taret

At the source of L’Occitane en Provence's Shea Butter Hand Cream are two men and... many women! In the 80's Olivier Baussan, founder of L'Occitane, ordered a formulation for a natural moisturizer from Yves Milliou, a specialist in natural cosmetics and essential oils. Its purpose? To create a source of income for the women of Burkina Faso, wonderful guardians of the raw material, shea butter. His brief? To create a cream rich in shea butter, creamy but not greasy and which penetrates the skin. A real challenge for the chemist who developed a cream in what were, at the time, artisanal conditions: a single stainless steel bowl with a drill acting as a stirrer and a hose encircling the bowl to keep it cool. The results were promising and the product appealed.

In 1994 came a new stroke of genius: the incorporation of 20% shea butter into the hand cream in order to enhance its moisturizing power. For the packaging, Olivier Baussan wanted a simple, raw, almost rustic tube. He chose aluminum tubes of gouache as inspiration and added a brown paper label in reference to travel and to letters and parcels come from afar, just like the magic ingredient. A bestseller was born! Today around the world, every 3 seconds a tube of Shea Butter Hand Cream is sold.

Twenty years later, the manufacturing conditions have been modernized but the philosophy remains the same: to offer a product with exceptional cosmetic qualities and to provide economic opportunity for the production of the women of Burkina Faso. In 2013, the continued engagement of L’Occitane and its Foundation in Burkina Faso was recognized as “exemplary” by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In particular, the L’Occitane Foundation finances many literacy projects as well as microcredit loans.

When we question the actors of this success, they both say the same thing: “It is the strength and simplicity of these founding principles that explain the product’s endurance” (Olivier Baussan), or “The simplest stories are the ones that last” (Yves Milliou). This says it all.