About the time Michele Gilfoil decided to start a company making plant-based skin care products, she and her sister heard about a women’s group that made shea butter in Ghana. They flew to West Africa to check it out.

There, they found a group of women who harvest the pit of the shea fruit, then go through a two-day process that’s been handed down from generation to generation to make shea butter.

“A lot of the women are subsistence farmers,” Gilfoil said, “so they do this collection (of the pits) as an extra income for their families.”

Gilfoil uses the African shea butter in her products for Planet Botanicals, her company based in the historic Presumpscot mill building in Westbrook. She has recently added it to her new line of products, which contain another sustainable ingredient: Maine seaweed.

“One of the things I really wanted to do with this company is almost every ingredient, the key ingredients, we go directly to the source,” Gilfoil said. “We know the growers and how it’s harvested. So we work not only with the women’s shea butter but other companies that produce baobab oil. We work with a family farm in South Africa for essential oils, and then we work with the seaweed harvesters in Maine. We really wanted to know our source of production and know how it’s grown, and make sure it’s harvested in a sustainable way.”

Maine seaweed, Gilfoil says, contains more than 50 vitamins and minerals, as well as powerful antioxidants.

“It has an anti-inflammatory effect for the skin,” she said. “If your skin is prone to breakout, it has a very soothing effect on the skin.”

Gilfoil uses a blend of of bladderwrack, Irish moss, sea kelp, rockweed and sea lettuce. The “Maine Seaweed Dream Cream,” $21 for 6.75 ounces, is a bestseller, and seaweed is also used in the bar soap ($6.50) and Maine Seaweed Body Wash ($16); the Maine Seaweed Voyager Gift Bag ($18) includes all three.

Planet Botanicals products are only available on its website, planetbotanical.com, and through Amazon.com.

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