Dainty hotel soaps shaped like seashells are one thing. But when it comes to lathering up, a touch of homespun can be just as luxurious.
Local milk, organic herbs, fair-trade shea butter and pure essential oils highlight ingredient lists for area residents who create and sell natural, handmade soaps.
“We work really hard to maintain that small, handcrafted kind of rustic feel,” said Gina Renee, who started Nurture Botanicals. “It’s not something you can go to Bath and Body Works and buy.”
Nurture Botanicals is one of a handful of area companies producing unique natural soaps. Here’s more about them and three others.
Made in: Lawrence
Sold at: bazilessentials.com, Essential Goods, the Merc, the Phoenix Gallery and a number of spas and gift shops
There wasn’t a wide variety of natural products for babies on the market when Renee had her son about 16 years ago. So Renee, who had dabbled in homemade beauty products before, came up with her own line of natural diaper rash salves and baby powders.
That effort eventually led to Nurture Botanicals, which Renee expanded after moving to Lawrence. The company makes bar soaps, lip butters, body scrubs, soaking salts and a popular “Sting Stop Elixer” for itchy bug bites. The products contain all organic herbs and essential oils and fair-trade shea butter sourced from a women’s collective in Togo, Renee said.
“We work very hard to maintain ethical business practices, not just within our own business but also the suppliers that we purchase our raw materials from,” she said. “We do a lot of homework.”
Renee recently moved back to California, but her apprentice Courtney Gray has taken over operations and is now making the products in her home studio.
“I felt that it was best for Nurture Botanicals to stay in Lawrence, and Courtney’s proven to do a wonderful job,” Renee said.
Carolyn’s Natural Soaps
Made in: Perry
Sold at: carolynsnaturalsoap.com, the Merc, other small shops in Topeka and Perry
When Carolyn and Brian Reid bought their farm in 1996, their first animals included chickens and a Jersey cow named Becky. With Becky producing more milk than they could drink, Carolyn Reid started making soap.
The soaps are made “the old fashioned way,” a cold process using lye, said the Reids’ daughter Julie Justus, of Ozawkie, who now makes the soap under her mother's direction. In addition to the lye, milk and cream — since Becky passed on, it comes from the Reids’ other milk cows — the soaps include pure essential oils, raw honey and other organic ingredients.
Popular scents include “Everything Nice,” a cinnamon, orange peel and clove bar, popular with men in farming communities, and “Lady Lavender,” a calming bar with organic lavender and oatmeal.
Justus said she typically makes about five batches of 30 bars each at a time, in the kitchen and outside if the weather’s nice.
“It’s very fun,” Justus said. “And the house just fills with scent.”
Made in: Lawrence
Sold at: healingmoonsoaps.com, the Merc, Weaver's and a few area massage studios
Every few months, the kitchen of Cynthia Walker’s East Lawrence home is transformed into a soap factory. Walker makes about 400 bars at a time, a process that takes several weeks from blending and pouring to cutting and curing her handmade Healing Moon soaps.
Walker worked two years as an apprentice for Healing Moon’s previous owner before taking over the business three years ago. The soaps feature coconut, palm kernel and olive oils with essential oils, dried herbs and natural colorants — mild, with no artificial chemicals.
“Personally, I’ve found it’s the best soap I’ve ever used,” Walker said.
A few of her favorite scents are “Love Potion” — featuring orange, patchouli, cinnamon, ginger and ground rose petals — and “Peppermint Oatmeal” — a simple and mild yet invigorating blend. She also makes bath salts, lip balm, fragrance sprays and other products.
“I enjoy the creative process,” said Walker, who works full-time at Kansas University’s research and graduate studies department and also is a massage therapist. “Selling them is kind of a way to maintain the habit.”
Made in: Lecompton
Sold at: circlehr.com, Saturday Lawrence Farmers' Market, the Phoenix Gallery, Pendleton’s Country Market and Hy-Vee on Sixth Street.
Courtney Skeeba and her partner Denise Skeeba invest so much time and care in their goats to keep them happy, healthy and producing milk that they “couldn’t bear” to just throw away milk they couldn’t drink.
To put the excess to good use, Courtney Skeeba said, she researched making goat’s milk soap and body creams, experimented with her own recipes and started selling them.
Goat’s milk is known for being easier to digest for people with milk sensitivities because it’s more similar in chemistry to human milk, Skeeba said. And that translates well to soaps.
“It doesn’t rob the skin of nutrients,” she said. “It actually bonds with your skin and helps to moisturize it rather than dry it out.”
Homestead Ranch’s “Goat Butter” soaps have aromatherapeutic scents with names like “Invigorating,” “Soothing,” “Kansas Prairie” and “Matcha.” They also make goat milk hand and body cream, shampoo and shaving soap.
“We’ve had a lot of fun developing different combinations,” Skeeba said.