Words by Amanda Foxon-Hill – Cosmetic Chemist

Mafura butter – an oily, buttery hybrid that serves as a palm oil alternative in soap making thanks to its fatty acid composition – is somewhat new to me.

I have found this ingredient to have a myriad of features and benefits but as usual, it was one of its back-stories that first captured my attention.

Mafura butter comes from the nut of the Trichilia Emetica tree which grows along riverbanks throughout the eastern part of Southern Africa, and it was in one of these trees that the resilience of humanity was broadcast to the world!

Terrible flooding hit Mozambique in the year 2000 and left vast swathes of the country underwater. The focal point of which occurred on 1st March when all eyes were on two women and one Mafura tree.

The world watched as a heavily pregnant Carolina Chirindza and her mother clung to the upper branches of a Mafura tree as chaos and destruction swirled around.

Before long, Carolina went into labour and with millions of eyes upon her she delivered Rosita, a beautiful baby girl into her mother’s outstretched sarong. Rosita, now 19, owes her life to two incredibly strong women and one majestic Mafura tree!

Rescue teams winched people to safety during the Mozambique floods in 2000

I think of that as I experiment with this fascinating ingredient, warming and spreading the rich, viscous sometimes oil/sometimes butter through by fingers and over my hands. It sinks in quickly, like coconut oil but leaves behind a velvety softness that feels protective, nourishing and rich. 

The oil leaves a finish that is halfway between matte and a light sheen, it has a slight tinge of buttery colour and only a trace of nutty odour making it perfect for a wide range of applications including the hair butter and facial oil that I’m thinking of creating.

I love the way this ingredient blends a steadfast stability, thanks to its chemistry, with a luxuriously rich texture that just sinks into the skin, strengthening and softening it. 

Along with its fatty acids this oil has inherent antioxidant properties which may be why generations of African women have trusted Mafura oil for wound healing and for maintaining their own skin and hair in good condition. 

Experimenting with it on my own hair, the oil is quickly lapped up by my dehydrated split ends as I massage it in, locking in precious moisture as it softens the cuticle.  

There are so many great oils for a cosmetic chemist to play with and this one should definitely go onto the ‘to try’ list!

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Amanda Foxton-Hill

Amanda’s diverse laboratory and factory experience spans a broad cross-section of the cosmetics industry from small-scale hobby manufacture all the way to 20 ton batch production. This hands-on expertise ensures that the formulation work produced by Realize Beauty on behalf of clients can be implemented on both a practical and commercially viable level.

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