To be called “ashy” rivals a “yo momma” comeback on the playground as far as I’m concerned. There’s no hiding dry skin on your elbows if you made the fatal mistake of wearing a short sleeved shirt and there’s absolutely no way to avoid the embarrassment of crossing your legs and realizing your decision to forgo the shea butter that morning has now left your ankles looking like you walked through flour. These are the stories I’ll tell my children as I recount my reign as an “ashy princess” who continuously avoided lotion out of laziness. But the worst moments were the days when I made the decision to kick my laziness to the side and go the extra mile to take care of my skin by using a name brand lotion only to realize hours later that my skin soaked it up without a trace, leaving me utterly disappointed and dry. But to my relief and surprise, Alocoshé filled the gap where other moisturizers fell short.
When Dr. Veronica Morohunmubo Amaku decided to follow her children’s advice to sell the shea butter she’d been creating at home in Texas, she didn’t know how many self proclaimed ashy princesses, like myself, she would be dethroning. Born in Ile-Ife, the ancient city of the Yoruba tribe in Southwest Nigeria, Amaku knew that to achieve anything, she had to take hold of her education. Her father, an orphaned child, started school when he was 16 years old and earned a scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh. He became a math teacher and later a superintendent of schools. Her mother grew up in a polygamous home with a father who deemed an educated woman better served working in “a man’s kitchen” while ironically donated to missionaries to build schools in their village. But Amaku’s grandmother knew education would take her daughter much farther than a man’s kitchen. Dr. Amaku’s mother was able to secretly go to school during the week, work on the farm every evening, and go to the market to sell on the weekends. As the first daughter to attend school, Amaku’s mother drilled the freedom of education into her daughter. The full-circle moment came when Amaku dedicated her Ph.D. dissertation in Environmental Toxicology to her mother.
As a toxicologist, Dr. Amaku found herself drawn to critical thinking and conducting research, but didn’t imagine the beauty industry impacting her life until she went back to Nigeria in 2007 on sabbatical with her family. Once there, she realized that shea butter was being used as a popular moisturizer instead of as a vapor rub like she was accustomed to as a child. Once she tried it, she instantly noticed a change: “I noticed my skin was glowing and it was even toning my skin, so when I was coming back, I bought the whole bowl of shea butter.” Upon her return home to Texas, she planted aloe vera plants, mixed the aloe with the shea butter and coconut oil, and gave it to her children. That container of shea butter became Amaku’s first iteration of Alocoshé, the all natural shea butter line which stands for aloe, coconut, and shea.
We laughed on Zoom recounting her memory of how the early prototype worked its magic on her daughter Grace’s skin, but it was obvious that Alocoshé was more than another at home remedy borne out of necessity—Alocoshé was a reason to bring her family together. All of her children have been involved in the process from the beginning. Grace, who has amassed 1.1M followers on TikTok, handles the marketing, Esther is in charge of design, their brother Joshua is the website developer, Ruth serves as Chief Administrator, and Mary finds time to help while at college. “My whole hope eventually is to be able to support women. And I believe that other women, other girls, seeing an old woman like me doing something late in life will be of encouragement. Age should not be a barrier. Your accent should not be a barrier, whatever you think is a problem should not be a barrier; if you put your mind to it, you can do it.” Amaku is intent on creating legacies not only for her own family but for the women in Nigeria who work for Alocoshé extracting the shea butter. “We plan to help them by providing scholarships for their children, purchasing mechanized equipment to facilitate the extraction process,” Amaku explained.
Using her children’s support as fuel, Amaku applied her scientific knowledge to the tedious process of creating the brand free from alcohols and toxins. “Being a toxicologist, I’m very sensitive to therapeutic index[es].” “Every ingredient is either sourced directly from the local community or through someone who gets it from the local community.” For example, the calendula comes from Egypt while the licorice is sourced in America. With this attention to ingredients, Amaku has been proud to see the results in her family’s skin, including the disappearance of her great nephew’s eczema.
As someone with a history of eczema, I’ve gone through several creams and lotions looking for one that retain moisture and calm my skin irritation. After using Alocoshé on and off for the past month, I’ve noticed how well the butter moisturizes my skin without my having to risk a breakout because the scents used are all natural. The texture of the butter is light-weight and does not leave my hands clammy like other big brand lotions I’ve tried. Knowing that Alocoshé is made with consumers’ skin health in mind makes using the butter that much more special because I know my skin health was a priority instead of an afterthought.
“Black women aren’t really catered for and we’re sometimes often left with scraps and left to make our own little concoctions."
When a brand can bring people together for a positive mission, it’s a brand worth paying attention to. For Esther, creating Alcoshé with her mom is about creating space for Black women skin care needs. “Black women aren’t really catered for and we’re sometimes often left with scraps and left to make our own little concoctions. Finally having an opportunity to put ourselves first and focus on our needs especially with hyperpigmentation or eczema, I really appreciate that and I feel like we can provide with Alcoshé.” She admires her mom for the nights she spends working in her lab to perfect the formula and sees this venture as a badge of honor. Grace explained Alcoshé as a way for her and her siblings to support their mother in a tangible way. “She was basically the one that helped with bringing us all up. There’s five of us and she was a professor, but she would also come home and clean and cook and do everything for us. So, I was really passionate about [Alocoshé] because it was a possibility for us to give back to her within this lifetime.”
Alocoshé is proving itself to be a brand centered on family, legacy, and healthy skin — and the end of an ashy princess era.