Everyone knows Asheville is the place to go for craft beer, outdoor gear and anything a person could possibly want with a black bear emblazoned on it. Less attention is paid, though, to the many businesses selling locally made skin care products. True to Western North Carolina’s independent-minded ethos, many of these skin care lines are made in smaller batches using sustainably sourced ingredients and without potentially irritating chemicals. Asheville may have gotten its first Ulta Beauty this year, but there are plenty of places to shop local when trying to nourish chapped winter skin. Here are four shops that sell skin care products, from soaps to serums to bath bombs.
Owner Victor Taylor of Appalachian Natural Soaps got an early start learning about soap-making from his great-grandmother, with whom he lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “I thought my name was ‘Git Wood’ until I was 12 because I ran back and forth keeping the fire going for her concoctions,” he laughs. She made her soaps from pork fat and lye.
As an adult, Taylor inherited his great-grandmother’s soap pot. One day, he showed off his soap-making skills to his wife, Pam Taylor, and their children. “Pam washed with one bar for a week and marveled at how her skin allergies disappeared,” he says. (Larger skin care brands that use petroleum and sulfites, which are used as preservatives, in their products may have caused irritation, he believes.) As soon as the couple began gifting their soaps to friends, they switched from animal fat to vegetable oils and added plant extracts and essential oils as well.
Word got around about their soaps and Appalachian Natural Soaps opened in 2008. Taylor’s great-grandma’s original pot still sits inside Taylor’s store, and their skin care products are still produced locally. Their skincare products are all made without fragrances, preservatives and paraffins, a type of petroleum-based wax.
Appalachian Natural Soaps sells other skin care products, like an exfoliating coffee butter face and body polish, a hand sanitizer made from essential oils, bath bombs, beard balm, lip balm and hand soap. Taylor is proud that his Sunshine moisturizer contains six botanical oils (organic jojoba oil, extra virgin organic coconut oil, golden shea butter, argan oil, mango butter and cocoa butter).
The brand has had “outstanding experiences” in the community, Taylor says. “Before the Parkridge Hospital [now AdventHealth Hendersonville] was sold, they entrusted us to make soap for the newborns,” he explains. “It was an honor.” avl.mx/av1
Heidi Vasone began making skin care products while she was a stay-at-home mom and she launched Bonny Bath in 2009. Determined not to add processed chemicals to her products, she chose plants and essential oils as ingredients. “All my efforts came out of persistence to raise my four children using as many wholesome remedies from Mother Earth as possible,” she says.
Vasone’s products range from body butters, baking soda-based deodorant, organic perfume and even tooth polish. She offers a few moisturizers called Shimmers — made from raw organic shea butter, raw organic coconut oil and mica — which come in several shades. Additionally, Renewing Skin Serum is made from organic avocado oil, rosehip seed oil and frankincense and cedarwood essential oils.
She loves working in Asheville’s many outdoor markets, like the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project Farmer’s Market and the Maverick’s Freedom Market in Weaverville. She also enjoys giving personalized skin care recommendations. “I consider my booth a hub for patrons to discuss their problems,” she says. “I take the time to address my customer’s needs to make sure everyone feels heard and fulfilled. I am teaching people to slow down.” avl.mx/av2
Mother Nature knows best
In 2011, Jennifer Maves dreamed of helping others with skin “food” and launched ZenJenSkin, her organic skin care line. “I include plant extracts instead of water as a base to my products,” Maves says. “Since I am a small business, not producing on a massive scale, I can add more nutrient value to my formulas.”
ZenJenSkin includes a wide variety of skin care products, including toners, dark circle repair cream, face lotion and lip balms. Her cacao brightening face mask contains powdered cacao beans and camu camu powder, which contains vitamin C. And her Zensitive Serum for Sensitive Skin contains ingredients that are gentle on dry and allergy-prone skin, like colloidal oatmeal, chamomile and aloe vera.
Many of the ingredients in ZenJenSkin products are Amazonian plant-based, after Maves traveled to Ecuador and Peru and learned about moriche (also called buriti palm). Moriche contains vitamin A, as well as beta carotene, according to the journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition. Maves also learned the sacha inchi nut (also called the mountain peanut), whose oil is extracted and used for skin care products, according to the health news website Healthline.
“I love the pure essence of using the whole plant instead of an isolated portion,” says Maves. “Mother Nature embodies harmony, and she knows best!” avl.mx/av3
Seventeen years ago, Cara Steinbuchel was co-manager of a ceramics studio in Asheville called Mud Hunter Pottery Gallery. The owner asked her to concoct a lotion to help potters whose hands had dried out from working with clay. She loaned Steinbuchel the money to get started, and the rest is “herstory.” Right away, customers exclaimed how Steinbuchel’s formula, containing shea butter, aloe and macadamia nut oil, relieved their dryness. Potters’ Skin Butter, which bills itself as “deep hydration for hard-working hands,” was born.
Of course, Potters’ Skin Butter can be used by anyone — although it did get a shoutout in a May 2021 issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine by ceramicist Tracie Hervy. The testimonials on Care Mae Skin Care’s website include accolades from everyone from farmers to nurses to beauty bloggers.
With creative input from Michelle Rogers, Steinbuchel’s spouse and chief operations officer, and support from Mountain BizWorks, the business has expanded to offer four scents: lavender, mint, tangerine and an unscented lotion for those with sensitive skin. All versions of Potters’ Skin Butter come in both hand and body lotion varieties. Cara Mae Skincare also proudly uses spring water for its lotion from Blue Moon Water, an Asheville-based company that sources from a mountain spring in Henderson County. avl.mx/av4