Shea Butter: the science behind its skin healing properties


Raw Shea Butter and Nuts


In the course of learning how to make skin care products, I’ve had to learn a lot about both traditional ingredients as well as modern chemistry. It turns out that an important benefit of organic unrefined shea butter (one of our key ingredients) is it content in “unsaponifiables” (what a mouthful!). That means it cannot be decomposed into an acid, alcohol, or salt by the body. The unsaponifiables contain most of the healing properties of oils.

Furthermore, I found out that unrefined shea butter has the highest percentage of unsaponifiables of any known seed oil. Most seed oils only have 1% or less that are unsaponifiable. It means that those oils can have great moisturizing capabilities, but little to no healing properties. Why? Because our body will decompose the essential fatty acids (must-have nutrients) and vitamins contained in them. Meanwhile, unrefined shea butter has unsaponfiable oils between 7-12%, which is extremely high! Compare that with Avocado Oil, a great skin conditioner, which comes in at 2-6% unsaponifiables.


Why does it matter? These fatty acids are necessary to moisturize and maintain the  elasticity of the skin. Unrefined shea butter nourishes the skin with all the essential elements it needs by making up for lipid deficiencies in the cells of the epiderm. That is why it is used to treat skin problems such as wrinkles, dryness/itching, eczema, psoriaris, sunburns, little wounds, skin allergies, insect bites, frost bites and many other skin conditions. And thanks to the unsaponifiables, shea butter spreads easily and absorbs quickly in the skin.

Find this potent ingredient in our creams, scrubs, washes and soaps.


Why did I apologize?


As I had the chance to work with Magatte this summer, I knew I wouldn’t only be learning about her company and achievements but also about myself. With my internship this summer, I have the chance to learn all about social media, as I am currently looking to change my major. I work to create posts to really display the authentic character of Tiossan.

What inspires you differs from person to person. Myself, I am a huge Michael Jackson fan. My mother played his music as the soundtrack of my childhood. Growing up, I never stopped listening. When the day came for me to graduate high school, I even rounded up ten friends to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at graduation with me. So, it is safe to say I am quite the fan. I like to incorporate Michael Jackson into anything I can. When I showed Magatte a picture of Michael with a quote from a song of his, she kindly explained to me why she doesn’t relate him to her company.

“I love his music, I do. But we want people who are authentic. Michael changed himself with all of his surgeries to conform,” she explained.

She had a point, Michael always wanted to fit in. He has a skin condition called vitiligo which changed his dark skin to dark skin with blotchy, white spots. As everyone knows, he eventually dyed all of his skin white. After friends and family made fun of his big nose throughout his childhood, Michael got surgery when he was old enough to. It’s hard to admit that there is nothing authentic about Michael Jackson as a person. But, I will stick up for him right now and say, everything was authentic about him as a musician and a performer.

“Okay,”- I said understandingly, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t say you’re sorry! Never apologize for something you believe in!” Magatte exclaimed. I can only imagine the surprised look on my face as she told me not to be sorry. I was shocked with myself that I did apologize for wanting Michael Jackson to be apart of something I was working on. I wasn’t actually sorry, so why did I say it?

At that point I had been working with Magatte for a little over a week. I just wanted to do my best work and show her that. I didn’t want to mess it up just because I was a fan of Michael Jackson. But was I sorry for trying to incorporate an inspiring Michael Jackson quote into my work? No. But I still apologized. The truth is, we apologize all the time for things we aren’t actually “sorry” about. If we are talking about authenticity, saying sorry for something you don’t mean only hinders your own authenticity. After just a short conversation with Magatte, I was left analyzing authenticity in general. She couldn’t have been more right when she said, “never apologize for something you believe in.” Are you really sorry when you apologize for something you believe in? Or are you just sorry that the other person doesn’t agree with you?

I now understand that it is fine that I love Michael Jackson – that is an authentic aspect of who I am.  At the same time, I also understand that he is not a good symbol for Tiossan, for the reasons Magatte provided.  But there is no reason for either of us to apologize.  Our truths can both co-exist respectfully.

Grasse: where our fragrances are crafted

In my husband’s words:
Magatte Wade spent many months working with a perfumer in Grasse to develop each of Tiossan’s four fragrances. They would spend hours on the phone talking about the characteristics of the fragrances, then he would develop several variants, then they’d go back and forth again a few times. Then once she integrated the fragrances into her products, then they had to be refined yet again based on the interactions with the products themselves.

A glimpse behind the scenes of Tiossan


Our luxurious Tiossan Terranga Body Scrub

For the past five years I have spent hundreds of hours working on my recipes to perfect the look, feel, performance, and scents of my products.  I have searched for the best ingredients from around the world, in some cases rejecting dozens of different varieties of the same ingredient before I found a supplier who could produce adequate quality.  I’ve spent thousands of hours working on my designs, my brand, and my message, and am still constantly refining them.  My husband complains about what a meticulous perfectionist I am, but this email that I received from a fan this morning explains why:

“This message is to say thank you. I am a Virgin coconut oil producer here in the Caribbeans. And I identify totally with your message as it relates to feeling that our products are not good enough for the world market.

In the words of Fredrick Douglass: ” your words have added much to my limited stock of language and enable me to give tongue to the many interesting thoughts which have often flashed thru my mind and have died away for want of words in which to give them utterance.”

I spend time reviewing your videos over and over again of speeches where you advocate your ideas. There are many times I see a more advanced version of myslef in you, Magatte. You have given me much inspiration and hope in taking my business to the international market. Thank you again.”

When I say that I want to “rebrand” Africa, in part my ambition is to produce such high quality products that no one questions African quality ever again.  It is heartening that other entrepreneurs from around the world are hearing my message.

My first encounter with the Tiossan Tribe


This past Thursday evening, something amazing happened. Something that I will never forget.

I met the Tribe. I met the Tiossan Tribe that so far I have only dreamed of. A group of women who embody the fully accomplished woman. It is true that I have met many Tiossanas since I started Tiossan, scattered around the world. But it was the first time I saw them in a group, full representatives of the Tribe.

For the first time, I was able to see, hear, touch and feel the Tiossan Tribe. And it was a majestic experience. These women are the perfect mix of brains + heart + spirit. They are not your typical do-gooder who think traditional charity is the sustainable way to cater to social issues. And they are not your typical power women who only care about being more powerful. No, these women are uber caring, yet no-nonsense as to how we achieve a better world. They understand me and Tiossan, its importance for women around the world (to lead authentic, meaningful lives), its importance for Senegal (the jobs, the supply chain, the innovative schools) and its importance for Africa in general (the change of perception of Africa and Africans by Africans and non Africans).  And they have a real love of fashion, style and beauty products. It was fun to see them trying our body creams on, smelling our perfumes in delight, talking about how soft our body scrub and body wash made their skin feel…

They represent what I call having it all: brains + heart + soul + looks

Thank you so very much to my dear friends Delilah Rothenberg and her amazing other half Spencer Wang for opening their NYC home and hearts and making this most memorable evening possible. And thank you to all the ladies for coming.




Idebate Rwanda


Just now, I received a fabulous message from a great fan and friend from Rwanda who returned home last year. In his message, Jean-Michel tells me:

“Here in Rwanda, I have been doing a lot of stuff that I wanted to share with you!! I started with some friends an education program called Idebate Rwanda ( and basically what I wanted to do was to create an army of critical thinkers and speakers that are gonna change Rwanda. We started in October and now it’s just amazing the way kids are really growing and being shaped. Most of them, their confidence level is growing and their minds are being opened.”

This is exactly why the Tiossan Schools in Senegal will feature a robust program to develop critical thinking through Socratic Dialogue and debate.

The Soul of a Brave, an Accomplice or an Executioner?

Often I like to listen to this song (also love its video above), one of my favorite when I was a teenager growing up in France.

This song has always spoken to me in the sense it makes me stop for a minute and think about how we become what we are. How everyone’s life is a series of circumstances. We form feelings, opinions, and then go act on those, based on circumstances that we often have no control over, as in which family and circumstances we were born. But it is important to be aware of that fact. I think that that awareness can help us change the course of our own life. So, often I like to check in with myself.  That is the Femme in me who craves self-introspection. And this songs helps me do that.

In any case, in this song, Jean-Jacques Goldman, of Polish Jewish background, wonders what type of a man he would have been had he been born in Germany in Leidenstadt right after WWI where the German suffered a very humiliating defeat. Would he have been better or worse than these people, if he had been “brought up with humiliation, hatred and ignorance, fed with dreams of revenge”?

As for Jones, he wonders who he would have been if he had been living in tribal and industrial Belfast. Would he have had the courage to betray his and lend a hand to others.

The late Carol Fredericks, an African American woman from Springfield, wonders what would have happened if she had “been born white and rich in Johannesburg”. Would she have heard “those cries carried by the wind”?

In the end, we are all encouraged to think of what we really have in our guts. Do we have the soul of “a Brave or an Accomplice or an Executioner? Would we be those who resist or sheep in a herd?”.


See below for my English translation (the official French version is below):

What if I was born in 17 Leidenstadt
On the ruins of a battlefield
Would I have been better or worse than these people
If I was German?

Rocked with humiliation, hatred and ignorance
Nurtured with dreams of revenge
Would I have been one of those unlikely consciences
Tears amid a torrent

Had I grown up in Belfast docklands
Soldier of one Faith, one Caste
Would I have had the strength and against mine
To betray: lend a hand

What if I was born white and rich in Johannesburg
Between power and fear
Would I have heard these cries carried by the wind
Nothing will be as before

We will never know what we really have in our guts
Hidden behind our appearances
The soul of a brave or an accomplice or an executioner?
The worst or the best?
Would we be those who resist or sheep in a herd
If it was more than words?


What if I was born in 17 Leidenstadt
On the ruins of a battlefield
Would I have been better or worse than these people
If I was German?
And may we be spared you and me for a very long time if possible
From having to choose a camp

French Official Lyrics

Et si j’étais né en 17 à Leidenstadt
Sur les ruines d’un champ de bataille
Aurais-je été meilleur ou pire que ces gens
Si j’avais été allemand ?

Bercé d’humiliation, de haine et d’ignorance
Nourri de rêves de revanche
Aurais-je été de ces improbables consciences
Larmes au milieu d’un torrent

Si j’avais grandi dans les docklands de Belfast
Soldat d’une foi, d’une caste
Aurais-je eu la force envers et contre les miens
De trahir: tendre une main

Si j’étais née blanche et riche à Johannesburg
Entre le pouvoir et la peur
Aurais-je entendu ces cris portés par le vent
Rien ne sera comme avant

On saura jamais c’qu’on a vraiment dans nos ventres
Caché derrière nos apparences
L’âme d’un brave ou d’un complice ou d’un bourreau?
Ou le pire ou plus beau ?
Serions-nous de ceux qui résistent ou bien les moutons d’un troupeau
S’il fallait plus que des mots ?


Et si j’étais né en 17 à Leidenstadt
Sur les ruines d’un champ de bataille
Aurais-je été meilleur ou pire que ces gens
Si j’avais été allemand ?
Et qu’on nous épargne à toi et moi si possible très longtemps
D’avoir à choisir un camp

Cyborg Mate Hunting at Princeton

This morning, I stumbled upon the story of Susan Patton, a Princeton mom, who is giving the advice to young women to find their husband while attending an Ivy-League College.

Her whole basis is that men basically like to marry younger and dumber women than them, while women like to marry smarter men than them. Therefore, if you don’t find your mate on campus, chances are you will not find a mate worthy of your brilliance.
I am not one to automatically equate Ivy-League with Intelligence, but if I had any doubts, such reasoning from one of them settles it.

What bothers me with this whole story is what bothers me with the “Ambitious Woman” type in general: only brains matters when it comes to choosing the right mate. The choice of mate seems like a cold, calculated transaction. No room is left for the heart, nor the spirit. It is all about Pedigree.
Don’t take me wrong, I am known to love smart men. But the men I love (in the purest sense of the world, not just romantically) have in common to have amazing intellectual abilities + wonderful hearts + purpose in life.

As far as I am concerned, there is and should not be ANY formula when choosing a mate, except for: do I love + respect + admire him?

Trials & Tribulations for the perfect lotion

Right now, we are working on bringing you what I call the perfect body lotion to give you a lighter option along Tiossan body creams. The Research & Development on any new Tiossan product is always very tricky because of two criteria I do not  want to compromise on: the formulation is based on traditional Senegalese ingredients and recipes AND it has to rely on a natural preservative system, which is not something most chemists have experience nor patience with. In that regards, I absolutely love my chemist, a woman who has really embraced Tiossan, the inspiration behind it, our philosophy and our cause. We spend countless hours discussing formulations and Philosophy at the same time.

A few days ago she and I had a three hour conversation on our latest challenge. Our current challenge is to create a lotion that absorbs quickly so that you can put the lotion on in the morning and then get dressed right away.   We had gotten to a point at which we were very successful at this:  The lotion was absorbing in less than 2 minutes, leaving the skin non greasy, as I like it.  But what I did not like about it, is that the absorption was so complete that it left the skin feeling dry.  My goal, instead, is to create a lotion that absorbs quickly but which leaves a soft, supple feel I love so much (Our current body cream does this brilliantly!!!).

So we are now experimenting with more green chemistry that will allow our lotion to keep its record high absorption performance while also delivering to your skin all the yummy nutrients contained in our fabulous ingredients, while leaving the outer layer of the skin properly conditioned, and a delight to caress. We are getting close. Stay tuned and keep moisturizing your body with our body creams.