Consumers can taste the fruits of socially responsible sourcing in the form of coffee, tea, and chocolate; now thanks to Fair Trade USA’s 2008 launch of the personal care category—which has quickly become one of the industry’s most dynamic—the fair trade experience doesn’t stop there.   

Cosmetics have not only encouraged the growth of existing fair trade options like sugar, tea, coffee, and olive oil, but also introduced luscious offerings like shea butter and baobab oil to the growing fair trade industry, says Maya Spaull, director of new category innovation at Fair Trade USA. Over the past year, sales of fair trade aromatherapy and body oils increased 19 percent, while skin care increased by 32 percent. “It’s interesting for us to go into a new category like cosmetics, because before it producers of ingredients like shea butter, who are some of the most wonderful cooperatives of women throughout Africa, didn’t have a way to sell fair trade,” says Spaull. “Now we can get these producers involved and really bring them into the fold.”

Lotion, chapstick, shampoo, and other cosmetics are part of Fair Trade USA’s “composite program” that certifies consumer packaged goods containing multiple ingredients (in addition to personal care, this includes foods like granola bars and ice cream, apparel, and soon to come gold and platinum), not all of which are eligible for fair trade certification. “Consumer packaged goods have been some of our most exciting new categories," says Spaull. "At the end of the day, even if a manufacturer is buying fair trade shea butter and putting it into a product with other ingredients, that is changing a life.” 

Often reflecting their traditional uses, fair trade beauty ingredients are lending personal care products a wide range of benefits, from moisturizing to exfoliating, plus providing global social and economic premiums. And they still reach shelves at reasonable prices, comparable to those of organic personal care, says Spaull. “We tell our partners that by creating products that are for your body and affordable, they are actually going to sell more, which is going to be better for the farmers and for their brands.” These 12 ingredients are standouts in the personal care department.