Saturday, October 29, 2011

Essential Oils vs. Synthetic Oils and All Natural vs. Organic

Alyssa, San Francisco, CA
Alyssa and I just returned from ten days in sunny California where we participated in a certification class in All Natural formulating.  The Brown Barn Company tries to be as all natural as possible but this is not always practical depending on what we want the product to accomplish or to meet consumer's desires for certain fragrance blends.

We find many customers do not fully understand the difference between essential oils, synthetic fragrance, all natural and organic formulating.  Here is a "primer" on these items:

Essential Oils - Put simply, Essential Oils are oils drawn from plants. Essential oils are basically the DNA of plants, the oils being their "life blood". Some plant DNA contains qualities that are beneficial to us in our health or provides therapeutic benefits to us. For example Lavender Essential Oil helps calm and relax, promoting quality sleep. Myrtle Essential Oil is antiseptic. High quality therapeutic grade essential oils provide the best therapeutic benefits. Oils of this quality are very expensive. It takes hundreds of roses to make an ounce of Rose Otto Essential Oil! The Brown Barn Bath Company will soon be offering more products using therapeutic grade essential oils. These products will be priced at a higher price point than our fragrance oil products because of the cost of the Essential oils used BUT they will provide aromatherapy and Essential oil benefits not available in any other form. 

Because essential oils are basically "alive" they respond to their environment, smelling different to and on each person. During our class we noticed that essential oil blends smelled differently on each person who tried them. For example Rose Geranium essential oil smells beautiful on Alyssa and horrible on myself.  And I love love love the scent of Cedar essential oil while Alyssa can pass it up. 

We see this concept in action all the time in the store and among the employees. Some employees will smell an item and say "This is great!" while others will turn their noses up at it!  We recently had one employee remove all of a product from the shelf because her and a customer both didn't care for the smell.  When we investigated "the problem" we were stunned to find no problem at all!  The scent of the combination of peppermint and tea tree oil was off-putting to them and fine to the rest of us. (I'm not that crazy for tea tree and peppermint oil scent either but its benefits outweigh that so I continue to use it to heal my skin and put it in our facial bars so you can benefit from it as well.  And this scent combination is also found in one of our best selling bar soaps.) 

Another interesting example of essential oil differences is that essential oils can draw forth "aroma-memories" that can be good or bad. We have a facial creme that uses Lemon Essential Oil and Geranium Essential Oil.  This is the same combination that scents Murphy's Oil Soap. We had an employee who was alarmed and pointed this out to us when she first started working for us.  (Of course we knew it smelled like this, HA HA!) Some people just love that facial cream, I've had customers say it has a calming and soothing effect on them as they associate it with their grandmother. Others don't want to use it on their faces as they associate it with cleaning their house.

Aromatherapy -  Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being.  Alyssa is soon beginning her work on becoming a licensed Aromatherapist.  An Aromatherapist  is someone who uses their knowledge of Essential Oils to make products to help people using aromatherapy techniques.  We are very excited (and lucky) to soon be offering products formulated just for our company by our own "in house" aromatherapist!!

Fragrance Oil - "Fragrance Oil" is the term that describes the synthetic, lab produced scents used in many bath and body products. The decision to use fragrance oils in our products was one that promoted much thought and debate. The reason we struggled with this decision is because we do not know what is in the synthetic oils used by companies that make fragrance oils. These oils are considered "proprietary" blends and their ingredients are highly guarded secrets. The FDA does not consider the use of fragrance oils a health risk due to the small amount of oil that makes it to the customer's skin. It takes only a small amount of this oil to fragrance a huge batch of product.

Fragrance oils are highly desirable in the bath & body industry because they are so stable. The scent can be duplicated over and over without change and it will smell the same on everyone because it is not "alive" like Essential Oils.

The reason we debated so ferociously over the fragrance oil issue is because fragrance oils are known to cause allergic reactions. In the end we decided to let the consumers decide what they wanted.  Fragrance oils are so very popular in our store that they outsell our essential oil scents more than ten to one. Will we continue to use fragrance oils once we introduce more natural scents? Sure. As long as there is consumer demand.  We would rather see our customers buy our fragrance scented items with their healthy natural bases than be forced to buy them from the other companies using these oils combined with horrible, unhealthy bases.

All Natural - This is a term thrown about a lot in our industry. At the Brown Barn this means that the ingredients used in these products are all derived from plant sources.  We NEVER animal test!!  If the product does not say "All Natural" then most likely the preservative or base used is derived from a chemical or it uses fragrance oil.  Our products are all healthy though. We research carefully each ingredient to the best of our ability ensure that you  are receiving a top quality item. It is difficult to make an oil based item without the use of some type of emulsifier to keep the oils from separating. Thru our course we learned new techniques to provide you with some wonderful all natural perfumes, room sprays, body sprays and facial oils. Again though, the use of the all natural ingredients drives the cost up because they are difficult for us to source and cost more than chemicals.  However we feel the extra price is worth the long-term health benefits so will continue in this direction.

Organic - The "golden" word! It is very difficult to make a 100% organic bath/body item. We are allowed to call an item organic if 85% of the ingredients in the product are organic. Organic soap is a good example of this. In the organic bar soap all of the oils used to make the soap are certified organic. The lye in the soap is not organic. However, the lye evaporates from the soap over time so it is just a saponifier (holder togetherer) of the oils. That is why we can have organic bar soap. The Brown Barn Company farm is currently not certified organic but we have been laying the foundation for this certification for years. It is our hope that in 2012 we will be able to start producing our own organic fruit fibers and flower waters from the farm!

I hope you enjoyed this little "vocabulary list" and that you will try some of our soon to come all natural sprays, mists, perfumes, smelling salts and more!

Have a great Pumpkin of a weekend! 

Chris Untiedt
The Brown Barn Company llc

Monday, October 17, 2011

Introducing Brenda, Our Holcombe Store Manager!

Our employee blogs continue this week with Brenda Anderson. Brenda is also a member of my family and one of my most beloved people. I can always count on Brenda for a smile and a kind word, a punch in the arm or a good joke just when I need it most. Brenda has literally been with the company since its inception years ago when I started making products from the left over plants in the greenhouse. Brenda was the original "tester" (along with my Mom) of my first bath bombs, lotions (it was Lemon Verbena) and scrubs. I can remember a coffee sugar scrub that smelled amazing and left her tub filled with coffee grounds! After she used it Brenda said to me, "Did you have as much trouble as me getting those coffee grounds cleaned up out of your tub?" My answer: "No, I never used it once you told me about the mess it made!"  Chris

Brenda Anderson, Holcombe Store Manager


My name is Brenda Anderson and I love working at The Brown Barn Bath Company.  First of all, I'll share with you a little bit about myself. I have a daughter named Caroline who is married to Josh. They have given me two grandsons, Dontae is 11 years old and Chance is 6 years old. My grandsons look forward to me bringing them fun things from the store like Bath Bombs.

Let me share with you what a typical day is like for me. I wake up in the morning and start my day off at home by using either a Sugar Scrub or a Whipped Soap product. Now that I am feeling great, it's time for me to go to work at The Brown Barn Bath Company. I unlock the door to the shop and step inside. I pause and inhale a slow breath, enjoying the wonderful aroma of products in the store. The smell of the store just makes you feel peaceful and ready for whatever the day may bring.

I've had some funny moments working here at the store. One day Erika (Lab Manager) came in with a candle fragrance called Camp Fire. She wanted to a make a Camp Fire Candle for a friend. As I made the candle, the scent strongly filled the store and wafted down the hall to the bank. (The bank is in the same building as us.) The ladies in the bank thought the camp fire smell was a real fire and came to check on me. They thought something was on fire. We laughed at how real the candle smelled. After that I thought I better send them some more relaxing smells, so I made Lavender candles.

Another thing I really enjoy about working at The Brown Barn Bath Company is the people I meet.  We have so many great people come into the store. There are ladies who make beautiful crafts and women who do relaxation techniques. Sometimes peole also share their wisdom with me. Sue Sutor told me to tell your loved ones every day that you love them because you don't know what life will bring. How very true her words are.

Working at The Brown Barn Bath Company is fun. Every day is different and exciting in its own way.  I love all the fragrances I get to take in. Stop in some time and say, "Hi", you will be glad you did! 

Brenda Anderson
Holcombe Store Manager

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Silly Soap Stories and Candle Craziness

When we started this blog we promised peeks "behind the scenes" at the Brown Barn Bath Company. This post launches a series of blogs by our staff that talk about their job at The Brown Barn Bath Company and anything else they would like to share. To kick things off I thought you'd enjoy some "soapy stories".

Learning To Make Bath Bombs...About four years ago I stumbled across a bath bomb recipe on the Internet. YUM! I thought, remembering my beloved fuzzy bear soap from childhood. I immediately invested over $100 in supplies and anxiously waited for the UPS man to arrive.

Several days later I set up the KitchenAide mixer my mother-in-law had given me many years before as a wedding gift (and which I had never used!). Back then I made everything from my home kitchen. I followed the recipe perfectly, heeding their warnings that the mix can be set off with inaccurate measurements. I mixed the dry ingredients and set the mixer to slow, then mixed the wet ingredients separately...confident I'd find success because I had ordered the exact ingredients in the recipe from the company who gave me the recipe. I then quickly dumped the wet into the dry, ramping my mixer up to full speed to avoid setting off the mix. 

WHAM!! My kitchen was suddenly COVERED in white dust from the dry ingredients. Coughing and Hacking, my face white with powder (I hadn't used a face mask or goggles either!) I backed away, recovered and came back to the mixer to find the mix had been set off!!

When you use one of our little bath bombs they come to you dry and hard. When you set off five pounds of mix in production it turns to foam, fizzing and spewing forth like an ooze monster. The foaming bath mix quickly foamed up and over the mixing bowl, down the counter, over the edge, down the front of my kitchen cabinets and onto the floor. On the opposite side, it was actually crawling UP my wall toward the electrical sockets. I yanked the plug hard, slamming my elbow into the mixer hard enough to cause the heavy mixer to fly off the cabinet onto my foot..breaking a toe! Jumping up and down I notice my Himilayan cat, Theo, licking the mix. I grab Theo, flinging him into the living room, come back into the kitchen only to SLIP ON THE MIX and land flat on my back covered in Margarita scented bath bomb foam! Our house smelled like Margarita mix for at least two weeks after that. 

My favorite bath bombs are these huge bombs but no customers wanted to pay $5 for a single bomb...this pic makes me think we might have to make some for the Christmas season! 
Word of warning...there are tons and tons of recipes for every possible bath item on the Internet. Some are good but many many are awful. And worse, some posted by companies who sell ingredients can include ingredients we shun do to their potential hazards. Research everything you use if you decide to make a product of your own and look over several recipes BEFORE you buy ingredients. The goal of these companies is to sell ingredients to home hobbyists, many of the recipe pages include disclaimers that say something like "our recipes are untested, we are not resonsible..."  Believe it!!

Stinky Soaps - When I decided to add Dog Soaps to our mix I wanted to be sure to make an amazing dog soap that was super healthy. Somewhere in my research I read that Neem Oil was a great additive to the soap as it soothed their skin and coated the dog hair to help repel pests. I found our cute paw print mold, poured a luxurious Aloe Vera base and added our essential oil mix followed by a generous dollup of Neem Oil. I then cured the soaps, knowing they'd be ready just in time for a big Christmas Show I was going to be a vendor at.

I was still working at home back then and had made the soaps late in the day. When making products my nose stops working around 1pm. It just gets overwhelmed and checks out around that time every day. That's why I measure all my scents! Back then I was just starting out and had not realized my nose was letting me down every afternoon. Also, our house back then smelled amazing..imagine all those scents in a small space, it was like walking into a garden every day.

I set up for the show, proudly displaying our new dog soaps right in there with all of our other pretty soaps. All day I sat at that show, people came and went, sniffing and oohing until suddenly abruptly walking away. At the very end of the day a very pregnant woman entered my booth, she picked up the dog soap, sniffed and immediately set it down. The woman then turned to me with a look of utter disgust and RAN to the bathroom!! My neighboring booth-mate said to me "Do you know her??"

I walked to the dog soap, sniffed it and GAGGED!!! The Neem Oil smelled HORRIBLE! Lesson learned: made at the end of the day sniff the next morning outdoors, away from all the other scents!  We removed the Neem oil from the soap and you now have a great smelling dog soap.
The original offender.
Candle Campfires - This story happened just last week!  Erika, our Formulary Manager, had been familiarizing herself with the many bottles of synthetic scents in our lab. When she stumbled across a scent called "Campfire" she exclaimed excitedly, "Oh Wow! I have a friend who was telling me he wants a campfire scented candle, do you think this would work in a candle?"  The outside of the bottle claimed it was good for candles, soaps and body items. I told Erika to take it to the store sometime and have them try it in a candle.

I spent the following week in Tomahawk helping open the store. One day I got a phone call from Jessica, our Director of Operations. She told me that Erika and Brenda (our store manager) had decided to give that campfire candle scent a try. Full of anticipation they had melted the wax and poured in the scent only to find the scent was far too strong for candle-making and once ignited, the scent had a distinct burning Italian sausage scent to it. It didn't take long for the manager of the bank next door to stop in to make sure the store wasn't on fire. The store and bank had to open its doors to air out the spaces!

And one last candle story.... Something else we've been giggling about for the last month is that since starting making soy candles I've been frustrated by the development of "Frost" between the candle wax and jar. I would spend an entire day pouring the most beautiful candles only to find Frost all over them the next day. I've researched and researched, trying everything I can think of to get rid of this Frost. Throwing my hands in the air I had marked all the candles down to the lowest possible price when we opened the Holcombe store and then been surprised when they sold and people told me they loved their candles.

When we moved the candle making operation to the store the employees joined me in this quest for Frost-Free soy candles. A few weeks ago we took a road trip to set up our store in Tomahawk. Several of the stores on Wisconsin Ave. offer beautiful soy candles, we were so HAPPY to see many of the candles had similar frost on them! One of the store owners told me that was the sign of a quality soy candle and that was how you knew you had a genuine soy candle!!!  Oh My Gosh! We've been trying to remove the sign of a quality soy candle from our quality soy candles and I'd even given some of them away as "rejects"!!

Hoping you have a safe and great smelling weekend!  Chris Untiedt, CEO, The Brown Barn Company llc

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Perfect Facial Care Routine

Greetings!  It's great to be back on The Brown Barn Blog. 
Katie Giencke

There are four steps to basic skin care which includes cleansing, toning, exfoliating, and moisturizing. These four steps should be done both morning and night. Other products to enhance the status of your skin can be used as well, some morning and night, some one time a day and some every few days. Below is a reference to help you to know what each product does for your skin.

Cleanser: Removes impurities and prepares the skin for following products. Some cleansers exfoliate as well. Cleanser should be used morning and night.
Toner: Corrects the PH balance of the skin. Toner should be used morning and night.
Exfoliate: Removes dead skin cells, there are two types of exfoiants, liquid and granule, a liquid gives a chemical exfoliation which dissolves away dead skin and a granuler exfoliant gives a mechanical exfoliation rubbing away dead skin as well as bring circulation to the skin. Exfoliants should be used every other day or every three days.Serums: Treat the skin. Serums are usually used morning and night but sometimes once a day. Serums each have different purposes.
Eye Cream: Treats the delicate eye area differently then the rest of the skin. Eye cream should be used morning and night.
Moisturizer: Moisturizer should be used morning and night. Moisturizes and sometime treats the skin.
Masks: Masks treat the skin. Each mask has a different purpose. Masks should be used one time a week. 

How to choose a perfect routine for you and how to use the beautiful Brown Barn Facial products. The following are suggested combinations available, there are other options in the store as well as these and all work well.  All of these products are available on the The Brown Barn Bath Company Web-Site: and in the stores. If you have questions please feel free to ask!
(Duplicate numbers indicate steps where you have a choice of products to choose from.  Choose of the products from any number group.)

Anti-Acne- If your skin is oily with frequent blemishes.
1. Grapefruit and Lime Cleansing Gel Use morning and night, use two to three pumps on damp skin, work into skin with upward circular motions, rinse with water.
2. Clear Complexion Corrective Toning Mist Use morning and night, spray two to three times.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Facial Serum Use morning and night, use about a pea size and pat onto face an neck.
4. Revital-Eyez Eye Cream Use morning and night, use about a pea size and dab around eyes in upward motions.
5. “Problem Solved” Moisturizer Use morning and night, use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.

Anti-Aging- If your skin has signs of aging or want to begin prevention of aging.
1. Radiance Glowing AHA/BHA Face Wash Use morning and night, use two to three pumps on damp skin, work into skin with upward circular motions, rinse with water.
2. All Natural Fresh Complexion Corrective Mist Use morning and night, spray two to three times.
2. Glycolic Toner Use morning and night, spray two to three times.
2. Floral Facial Toner Use morning and night , spray two to three times.
3. Revital-Eyez Eye Cream Use morning and night, use about a pea size and dab around eyes in upward motions.
4. Replenish Anti-Aging Moisturizer Use morning and night, use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.
4. Anti-Oxidant Protective Morning Moisturizer with Vital Night Repair Use morning and night, use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.

Increased Radiance- If you have balanced skin and need to maintain.
1. Radiance Deep Refining Face Wash Use morning and night, use two to three pumps on damp skin, work into skin with upward circular motions, rinse with water.
2. Dew Complexion Corrective Toning Mist Use morning and night, spray two to three times.
2. Citrus Twist Toning Mist Use morning and night, spray two to three times.
3. Balancing Facial Serum Use morning and night, use about a pea size and pat onto face an neck.
4. Revital-Eyez Eye Cream Use morning and night, use about a pea size and dab around eyes in upward motions.
5. Intense Hydration Cream Use morning and night, use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.
5. Replenish Anti-Aging Moisturizer Use morning and night, use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.
5. Anti-Oxidant Protective Morning Moisturizer with Vital Night Repair Use morning and night, use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.
Dry Skin- If your skin is dry.
1. Orange and Geranium Cleansing Facial Cream Use morning and night, use two to three pumps on damp skin, work into skin with upward circular motions, rinse with water.
2. Floral Facial Toner for Dry Skin Use morning and night , spray two to three times.
3. Balancing Facial Serum Use morning and night, use about a pea size and pat onto face an neck.
4. Revital-Eyez Eye Cream Use morning and night, use about a pea size and dab around eyes in upward motions.
5. Intense Hydration Cream Use morning and night , use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.
Sensitive Skin- If your skin is sensitive to the touch or to products.
1. Cucumber and Chamomile Facial Wash Use morning and night, use two to three pumps on damp skin, work into skin with upward circular motions, rinse with water.
2. Floral Facial Toner Sensitive Skin Use morning and night, spray two to three times.
4. Revital-Eyez Eye Cream Use morning and night, use about a pea size and dab around eyes in upward motions.
5. Intense Hydration Cream Use morning and night, use about a dime size and pat onto face and neck.

Exfoliation: Facial Scrubs should be used two to three times a week.  Cover entire face and neck with product and use upward circular motions to manually exfoliate skin for about one minute, rinse with water and finish with your hydration routine.
  • Royal Jelly Moisturizing Facial Scrub
  • Honey Oats Gentle Facial Scrub
  • Bamboo and Green Tea Facial Scrub

Clay Scrubs and Masks:
  • Ylang Ylang and Lime Clay Facial Scrub: Use two to three times a week, cover entire face and neck with product, leave on for about three minutes, allowing the clay to dry a bit and detoxify the skin, gently use upward circular motions to manually exfoliate skin for about one minute, rinse with water and finish with your hydration routine.
  • Orange and Ylang Ylang Mineral Mask and Stinky Dead Sea Mud Mask:
  • Use one time a week, cover entire face and neck with product, leave on for about ten minutes, allowing it to dry, rinse off with water and finish with your hydration routine.
As usual, I am available for free private consultation for Brown Barn Bath Company customers.  E-mail if interested.  Have a great Labor Day Weekend! ~Katie

Friday, August 26, 2011

Product Safety at Brown Barn

This post is an update of our previous post labeled "Dangerous Bubbles" (8/2011), written almost 3 years ago but still read often, we wanted to make sure the information our customers receive is relevant and current ~ cu

I was recently asked by a customer, “What makes your product better than everyone else’s?”  I wanted to say, “Because it is, trust me” but that would not have answered the real question which was "Why us?"  Pretty packaging, fun scents, spa quality craftsmanship, customer service and enthusiasm aside I think the real reason to use The Brown Barn Bath Company’s products is safety.  We try our very best to bring you products that you can feel safe and confident using. 
When we design recipes we consult a number of research databases to determine the safety of each ingredient in the recipe.  Most databases rate ingredients on a 0-10 basis with 10 being the worst for carcinogens, skin irritants, metabolic disruption, allergens and more.  For products we make “from scratch” we use ingredients with a rating of 5 or less unless we absolutely cannot help it. And then we work hard to locate and reformulate that ingredient out of our mix as quickly as possible.

When we first entered this business we struggled between being 100% all natural and simply providing the best alternative to our customers as we can for products we know our customers want. I'm so glad we opted for providing healthy alternatives as the longer I'm in business the more I see that people want what people want...for example I want my Chocolate but I also know I can get healthy and not-so-healthy chocolate. So I opt for the healthiest version of chocolate I can find. We want Brown Barn to be your go-to for the healthiest possible version of what you want and a learning source to guide you to even healthier decisions and options you love.

Over the years we've found there are products our customers just beg for, such as bubble bath. We know our customers will go elsewhere to purchase these items unless we carry it. However we also know that you cannot have a fantastic, bubbles to the sky bubble bath without using SLS. We also know SLS is not a good ingredient. What do we do? 

Our philosophy on products such as this is if you absolutely have to have your Bubble to the Sky bubble bath scented in Woolly Mammoth fragrance oil then let us provide it to you using the best possible base using the healthiest possible ingredients we can locate. We'd much rather have you purchase your Woolly Mammoth fragrance scented lotion and bubble bath from us with a touch of SLS than to go to Bubble Baths R Us and get something laden in chemicals and unhealthy preservatives and colorants. 

And of course we then also offer an SLS free super safe bubble bath option which will put bubbles in your tub (not to the sky) scented in beautiful all natural essential oil combinations as well. We also inform our customers of the difference between the two products. Finally...we keep working on developing a formula that will solve the problem. 
We also use pre-made bases in some of our products. The reason we used to use bases (back in 2011 when this blog was originally written) was because we could not produce as fine a product from scratch at as reasonable a price as the base maker, who makes barrels of the base and can bring ingredients in at the lower bulk cost, thus passing the savings on to us and our customers. Another reason we used bases was because we were too small a company to provide the man hours and space to properly produce all of the items we eventually planned to make from scratch. It is so exciting to revise this blog and say that we now use only a few bases! We have really grown over these years!

Now we use bases from other companies for products that are patented or for which we cannot determine the recipe. Our foaming bath butter is a good example of this. 
Occasionally we find that a base may use a tiny amount of an ingredient with a 6 or 7 safety rating, usually as part of its preservative. In this case we may choose to use the base while we search for a better alternative. The decision to use the base in this case is determined by how much exposure the customer would have to the questionable ingredient and if the benefit/demand for the product is high. If we feel the exposure is minimal and will not be enough to accumulate into a health risk, we choose to use the base. If you would like more information on which products use such ingredients please ask and we'll be happy to provide that for you. Off the top of my head I believe the only product currently is the foaming bath butter because of its preservative system.
Sometimes our commitment to providing a healthy product gets in the way of our ability to produce a quality product for the consumer. In that case we may offer a healthy alternative or we may offer the product in the less desirable (but more effective) formula but also offer a healthy alternative on the shelf right next to it. A good example of this is our Bubble Bath. I feel it is impossible to make a high foaming liquid bubble bath that can compete in the marketplace without the use of the high foaming detergent, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). We have been (and still are!!) working on developing a solid bubble bath to use as an alternative. 
So why fight using Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and just make a bubble bath?  Because SLS is a known carcinogen with a host of other issues. There are a wide variety of opinions out there about exactly how bad SLS is and what it can or cannot do to your body if you use it.  Some experts say it is fine to use this ingredient even though there is so much risk because the amount used is so small.  This may be true, a little bit won’t hurt you but SLS is used in SO MANY products!!
Right now, please go to your bathroom. Get your non-Brown Barn toothpaste, shampoo, liquid soap, face wash, bubble bath, body scrub, face scrub, foaming sugar scrub.  Then go to your kitchen sink and get your dish soap. Go to your kids bathroom and get the liquid hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste they use. Get your cleaning agents. Go to the garage and get the floor cleaner. I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing.
Have you gathered all of your products up? Look at all of their labels for the ingredients Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). And because there is more than one way to skin a cat, (in other words re-name an ingredient) also look for these: Sodium dodecyl sulfate; the combination of the words Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, and sodium salt; Sodium salt sulfuric acid; Monodedecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid; A13-00356; Akyposal SDS; Aquarex MD; Aquarex methyl. 

How many of them have one or more of these ingredients? I’m betting A LOT. I once read an article that stated that SLS can cause mouth ulcers. I then went to my grocery store to change my toothpaste but was stunned to find that SLS was found in EVERY toothpaste on the shelf of my local grocer except Sensodyne. I've been using Sensodyne now since I originally wrote this blog in 2011 so would have to back and conduct this survey again. I will do so soon and report back if things have changed.
So no, a little might not hurt, but there is no way to know how much exposure a single person may have in the course of a day, week or year to SLS when it is found in so many products. Then think about your child. A five year old child uses shampoo, hand wash, bubble bath, etc. but weighs much much less than an adult resulting in a much higher ratio of SLS in their system versus their weight.
Need more information?  The following is a compilation of information about SLS that I found in 2011 in one brief Google search, I'm sure much more information is available now in 2014 and invite you to search on your own:
-     Both Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and its close relative Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.

-     Unfortunately, both Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are very dangerous, highly irritating chemicals. Far from giving "healthy shining hair" and "beautiful skin", soaps and shampoos containing sodium laureth sulfate can lead to direct damage to the hair follicle, skin damage, permanent eye damage in children and even liver toxicity.

-     A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations of SLS as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation.

-     National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain SLS and SLES. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".

-     Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. This is highly characteristic of sodium laureth sulfate and almost definitely directly related to its use.

-    Both SLS and SLES are known to have many effects that can potentially be detrimental to health. Among the possible dangers are the following
·         Hormone Imbalance
·         Protein Denaturing
-    Another report states that "Other studies have indicated that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain from skin contact. This poses question of it being a serious potential health threat to its use in shampoos, cleansers, and tooth pastes."

“But it must be safe!!  The FDA would never allow this!!” you cry. The FDA says SLS and SLES are safe…IN SMALL CONCENTRATIONS. Once again…how many times does the average Mom use products with SLS or SLES in the course of a day of cleaning, washing, etc.? I have been unable to find any studies showing the results of long-term usage of multiple products containing SLS by an average person. And also, consider that this is just ONE type of known problem-causing ingredient found in the cosmetics industry. Now add in your SLS and SLES to all of the other ingredients in your products and their potential to cause harm. 
The Brown Barn Bath Company has made a commitment to offer the safest alternatives we can locate and to work diligently to continually decrease the amounts of any ingredient that has even the slightest hazard potential. We use an all natural alternative to SLS called SLSa. It has a perfect safety record. We are happy to answer your questions about ingredients and to work with you to produce custom made products that do not use specific ingredients you know you are allergic to.  Please ask!
Have a great weekend and look for our new store in Medford, Wisconsin opening soon!  Chris

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chris and Alyssa's Cha-Cha-Chakra Adventure

Greetings!  Chris writing again this week...

As most of you know, Alyssa is my daughter and business partner.  One of the perks of our job is that we can justify any opportunity to get a massage and facial. One day a few months ago Alyssa returned to the store from the post office excited to have found a poster advertising a "Health Retreat" being held here in Holcombe. I immediately translated this into "opportunity to relax, get a massage and a facial"...I'm in! 

This was by far and above the most interesting spa related experience we have ever had. Alyssa loves yoga and we both are interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle (even though I struggle to actually follow thru with that interest...). The poster for the retreat advertised massages, reflexology (foot massage!) and Chakra Clearing with Number Readings. I didn't know what those Chakra things were but this sure sounded good to me.

The day of the retreat I prepared by scrubbing my feet using our Pumice Foot Scrub followed with our Hand and Foot Lotion (which left my feet tingling happily all the way to the retreat). I even shaved my legs in anticipation of a massage on the deck (I was envisioning a traditional full body massage). We arrived at a lovely A-frame home on a lake that is an off-shoot of the Holcombe Flowage. The owners welcomed us and made us feel quickly at home in their renovated walk-out basement/retreat center. They gave us a tour of their home and allowed us time to sit on their second story deck to enjoy the view and a refreshment while we waited for the other guests to arrive.

Eventually we all mosied on down to the retreat area where we settled into couches and chairs around a fireplace. At this time we were introduced and received instruction from each of the service providers who would be working with us that day.  It was great to learn about the services we would be receiving and I have to say surprising to find out what those services were!  Gary Hansen of Ladysmith gave an interesting lecture about Reflexology and what it can do to assist your body in detoxing and cleansing (as well as the awesome foot massage you get...), Carol Rudd discussed Amma Massages and how they help to re-energize you and she discussed Cranium Massage (which was given by Jane Wolf) and Mary O'Brien gave a very interesting talk about Chakra clearing.  (I'd never heard of Chakra clearing and didn't know anything about Chakras. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about Chakras in case you would like to learn more: ) Mary's daughter, Lisa, was also available to help us discover and decipher our Numbers.  That was something I found very interesting!

When lecture time was over we all signed up for the services we wanted.  Even though I had originally gone into this day expecting a facial and a massage I was hooked on the fun of experiencing new things so I did not sign up for the massages, instead opting for the Reflexology (yes, okay, that was a foot massage!!), Number Reading and Chakra Clearing.  First up was Number Reading with Lisa. I entered a bedroom where we sat across from each other at a card table with a pretty tablecloth. At first I thought this was going to be like a movie-style seance but it wasn't. Lisa is a farm wife from Ashland and very down to Earth. She asked for my birthdate and then figured out my numbers from there. I am a "5" meaning I was born in the fith year of a nine year cycle. She then explained to me that we live our lives in cycles of nine years and that I am in the ninth year of a cycle. When we reviewed the literature she had (and I got to take home) I was surprised by how accurately this reflected where I am in my life right now. Being in the ninth year of my life meant that I am moving into a new phase of my life. We have just opened our first store with a second coming soon...I guess that qualifies as moving into a new phase in my life!

I then wander out onto the porch where I find Alyssa, feet up and head down in the Reflexology chair.  She's reading the information while Gary works on her feet. Interested, I begin to strike up a conversation with Gary only to be quickly quelled by a look from my daughter that says something like "Hellooooo...trying to relax it!" So I do. 

Shortly thereafter it's my turn to get my feet done. All I can say is Wow! Sign me up for more!! Not only did I get a much needed half hour of relaxation and pampering I received a very interesting discussion from Gary about the benefits of reflexology and detoxification and had fun comparing our businesses as well. I fully intend to visit his shop up in Ladysmith soon. I struggle with chronic problems with my stomach, gall bladder and liver. When I'd feel something in these areas I would ask Gary what he was doing at that moment and he'd answer with something like "I'm working on your stomach center". Every time I asked it was accurate to the area of my body I was feeling something in. I'd recently gone thru a Homeopathic doctor to receive an eight week body cleanse that was very intense and used supplements to achieve. That night I went thru something akin to the same results as what I got with the supplements but this time it was 100% chemical free (and about a quarter of the price!) I can't wait to visit Gary Reflexology in Ladysmith for a full hour treatment soon.

Following my reflexology treatment I wandered back into the basement retreat area to find many of the guests gathered around the table in the kitchen area where Mary O'Brien was conducting Chakra cleansing. This looked really interesting to me but I decided to wait for Alyssa to finish her Cranium massage so we could experience the Chakra thing together. Alyssa returned from her massage describing it as extremely relaxing with a light touch, different from the more traditional type of body massages we usually get.

Reunited with Alyssa, I made a B-Line for the open chairs at the Chakra table. We watched Mary use a crystal pendulum to "talk to her higher self". She asked the pendulum a question and it answered yes or no by the direction it swung. We watched another guest get her Chakra's cleansed. First Mary consulted a sheet of paper with an outline of the human body with the seven Chakras outlined on it. She asked her pendulum if the woman's first, second, third, etc. Chakras were clear. The pendulum said yes or no throughout then Mary went on to have the woman stand while she used her hands and prayer to open the woman's chakras. Afterwards she again consulted the paper with the pendulum to find all of the woman's chakra's had been opened. Mary ended with a few words of wisdom, the ringing of Tibetan symbols near the woman's body and a hug. 

It was Alyssa and my turn next. First she asked if we'd like to purchase some pendulums of our own...You Bet!  We cannot ever resist things like this! I chose a yellow and crystal pendulum and Alyssa chose a pretty pendulum made of seven different stones to represent the chakras. We could not resist immediately trying them out but they didn't work for us like Mary's did for her. Mary told us to spend time with them and put them under our pillow for a night to see if that would help.

Next Mary had me come over to get my Chakras opened. I sat in front of her as she stood with her hand on my shoulder and consulted the Chakra chart with the pendulum. She tells me all of my Chakras are closed (I think one might have been open if I remember correctly). She also tells me that because my first/lowest Chakra is closed that is a sign that I am dealing with some type of issues from my childhood. I reassure her I've had a normal childhood with no known issues and she tells me perhaps it is something I've carried forward in birth. Mary then proceeded to use the technique of prayer and passing of hands over me to clear my chakras. I have to admit I did not feel much different during the process. She sat me down and yes, the pendulum says my Chakras are now open. Mary ends with prayer and ringing the Tibetan symbols. That feels pretty neat as I can feel the vibration of the symbols on my skin. I thought the best part was the hug at the end.

Even though I didn't feel much different during and right after Mary's Chakra clearing I have to say I did feel great after the retreat ended. I was relaxed and happy, not feeling a bit of my previous stress. So I will call the Chakra clearing a success, as well as the rest of the retreat! I even made arrangements with Mary to come and do something similar for a staff inservice sometime...and maybe see if she can do something about Bobbie Jo's relationship with the sewing machine surger....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Skin Care Primer

This week's blog post is brought to you by The Brown Barn Bath Company's on-staff licensed esthetician, Katie Giencke.  Katie is a graduate of the Aveda Institute in Denver, Colorado and works at Veda Salon and Spa in Denver. She also is The Brown Barn Company's skin care Research Analyst and Consultant. Katie is available for free consultations for Brown Barn Company customers! To request this service send an e-mail to or call the store at 715-595-4570 to arrange for a telephone consultation.

Did you know that skin accounts for 15 percent of our body weight and contains half of the primary immune cells? In each INCH of skin there are millions of cells, 15 feet of blood vessels, 12 feet of nerves, 650 sweat glands, 100 oil glands, 65 hairs and 1,300 nerve endings.

Skin is the largest organ in the body which includes layers of skin, nerves, cellular functions, hair follicles and glands. It is meant to protect the body from outside elements in many complex ways such as with melanin, which protects from the sun, amazing self healing properties which fight against infections as well as trapping water into the body. The skin has sensory nerve endings which respond to touch, pain, cold, heat, and pressure which sends messages to the brain. The skin has heat regulation for the entire body using hair follicles, blood vessels and sweat glands to keep our bodies at the temperature it needs to be. Sweat glands in the skin excrete sweat and detoxify the body by discharging excess salt and unwanted chemicals. Our skin in constantly excreting sebum and oil onto the surface of the skin to protect and keep the skin soft. The skin also has absorption properties, which is limited but includes absorbing oxygen as well as products.

We are born with the skin we are born with, that is an important thing to remember when treating skin. Genetics and ethnicity determine skin types although skin is very fickle and is forever changing. The body replaces billions of cells daily but it takes about six weeks for adult skin to completely turn over and show results of product usage. There are five different skin types: dry, normal, combination, oily and sensitive. Dry skin does not produce enough oil and needs assistance in creating a barrier to protect. Normal skin is balanced, it may be a tad oily or dry at times and is basically blemish free. Normal skin should be treated for maintenance and prevention. Combination skin is both oily and dry, either in different areas or with overall dry skin with too much oil production, overlapping. Combination skin needs to be balanced by either treating the separate areas differently or frequent exfoliation to break down dead skin and allow the oil production to balance out naturally. Oily skin has excess oil and sebum production and frequently has blemishes. Oily skin is tricky to treat because over maintaince can strip the skin and irritate it however it is important to find a balancing routine and one should seek assistance from a professional to determine a correct routine. Sensitive skin is easily irritated by touch or products. Sensitive skin should be treated with nonirritating, minimalist products to calm and nourish. Every skin type needs to use a sun protectant daily.

Aging skin is influenced by heredity, sun exposure, the environment, health habits and lifestyle choices. The sun causes about 80 to 85 percent of aging which is why we should be protecting our skin daily from birth. Aging skin is typically sensitive, dry and showing signs of fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmintation/hypopigmitaion(dark spots/white spots). Elastin and collagen, which are what keeps the skin firm and smooth, do not replace naturally after time, however, there are product ingredients which stimulate elastin and collagen growth.

Healthy nutrition and a healthy mind is very important for skin. Diet and water intake directly effects the status of skin regulating hydration, oil production, and function of cells. A lot of acne, especially cystic acne, is caused by something going on inside the body and those with severe acne should seek assistance from a dermatologist.  The skin is the last organ to receive messages of stress and other emotions. Some skin shows signs of stress in many different ways such as “breaking out”. It is important if you do struggle with stress breakouts or other challenges from stress to take time out for personal wellness such as meditation, yoga, massage, facials or what ever it is that relaxes you.

At The Brown Barn Bath Company we strive to treat the skin with natural balancing products. We have products to assist all skin types in finding balance. There are products to target balancing acne/oily skin, sensitive skin, dry skin, aging skin and of course normal skin. For assistance choosing the correct products for your skin please stop in and ask or even email me with your skin challenges and description for a personalized routine. I can be reached at

The Brown Barn Bath Company wishes you a "blemish-free" weekend!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Typical Day At The Brown Barn Bath Company

Hello!  Chris here this week!

I stewed and thought and fussed over what to write about in this week's blog.  I could not decide between a post about Bath Tools (I decided to wait on that until I do my spectacular definitive bath post!) or introducing our employees (I decided it would be more fun to have each employee write a blog about their job and introduce themselves that way). 

This morning I still had no topic! Then today happened and I suddenly had a topic: A Typical Day At The Brown Barn Company. I had intended on spending the entire day making Soap Suds to rebuild our alarmingly low supply, but here is what happened instead:

5:00am:  Wake up to my two cats purring on top of my head.  Fall back asleep.

6:00am:  Wake up to my Border Collie talking quietly in my ear, telling me she really needs me to get up.

6:30am: Check for web-site orders and e-mails.

7:00am: Arrive at the Lab to find I left my cell phone back home on the charger.

7:15am: Arrive back at the Lab, cell phone charged and in hand.

7:15-9:00am: Package twenty Three Flower Eye Creams; Make two pounds of Soap Suds in White Tea and Ginger (oh, heaven!!) with Sweet Almond Oil; Clean up the work station, take out the garbage.

9:00am:  Meet with Bobbi Jo (our Textiles Manager) to get the final kinks out of our herbal eye masks design and help her move into her new space in the offices at the Meadow Creek Mall.

9:10am: Watch Bobbi Jo's face as I tell her we'll need approximately 200 of these and about 600 other items in the next six weeks on her two days a week of sewing time, HA HA HA.  I love that stunned look!!

9:30am Inform Jessica (our Administrative Assistant and my Right Hand) that I have forgotten the password to the telephone answering system and she needs to call CenturyTel to let them know her boss is getting too old for this new technology (and change the password to one we won't forget). ( that stunned look!)

10:00am: Work with Bobbi Jo to decipher the manual for the new Surger we purchased and to change the thread...Have you ever tried to do that????  I need an engineering degree!!!

10:30am: Telephone conference between myself, Alyssa (my daughter and business partner) and Steve (my husband and business partner) for weekly general planning meeting and report for both of our businesses (Steve's is located in Abbotsford). 

11:00am: Print labels for Three Flower Eye Cream and take them to the store for Jessica (who clerked the store today) to apply and inventory. Be informed by Jessica that a large group came in.  They had called ahead with a courtesy call to us to warn us they were coming...but unfortunately the call was on that answering machine that I had forgotten the password for!!

11:30am: Alyssa and I travel to Ladysmith for a bite of lunch, a planning meeting for the Honest Approach line (Alyssa's pet project which will be unveiled this EXCITED!) and a supply run at Walmart.

1:00pm:  Return to the office, pick up boxes to be shipped.  Go to Post Office.  Receive a certified letter (was that REALLY necessary???) from the Town of Holton "Smart Growth" planning commission requesting I appear before them to tell them our plans for the Abbotsford farm.  Evidently someone has been spreading rumours that we are going to sell the farm!!We had a small portion zoned commercial two years ago when we first started out, however things have changed and I have put off letting Marathon County know they can change the section back to Ag land.  In my defense I did tell them last Spring that I would not know our final plans until this Fall and August is NOT Fall.

1:15pm:  Call Marathon County Zoning office to have a lengthy discussion with the Director about our plans and what we can and cannot do under different zonings.  Finally agree to allow the parcel to go back to Ag land.  Inform the Director there will be a letter forthcoming with my thoughts on the process....

1:45pm: Come out to the sewing area to find Bobbi Jo ready to throw the new Surger out the security door.  There is a problem with the locking stitches and she's been struggling since I went to Ladysmith.

2:15pm (or later):  We finally figure out that we've somehow managed to mis-thread the machine...again confirming my need for an engineering degree to use the Surger.

2:30pm: Alyssa and I purchase plane tickets and make hotel reservations/plans for Alyssa's journey to Steamboat, CO next week to scope out store sites and our trip to San Francisco, CA in October where we will become certified in making all natural fragrances, product testing and much, much more! (We cannot wait for this!!!!)

3:15pm  Cindy (our Print Media Manager) stops in to get approval to go ahead with entering Kid's Items on the web-site.  We all exclaim over how cute the Bunny Pouf looks on the web-site. (Cindy is my personal Elf.  I rarely see her as she works from home but every night wonderful new things magically appear on the web-site!)

3:45pm Go into outer office to stop Bobbi Jo from detonating the Surger with a hand-sewn bomb.  The Surger has now sucked fabric into itself and is gagging on it.  Bobbi Jo performs CPR and gets it back running smoothly.

4:15pm Drive to Lab to check for deliveries. None yet but we know they are on their way!

4:30pm My son, Tommy, shows up at the office with the deliveries.  He happened to see them sitting outside the door as he drove by...I just missed them!

4:45pm Open cases of bottles, Fall Scents, Candle Wax, Candle Jars and more....Jessica says it's like Christmas every day at the shop....I roll my eyes.....

5:00pm Load up the van, bid farewell to Bobbi Jo who is now petting the Surger and saying sweet nothings to it because it is working well again and say Good-night to Jessica who is wielding the heat sealer like a gun slinger at the O-K Corral as she seals jars of Three Flower Eye Cream.

5:15pm Unload van at the Lab, excited to dig into the new bottles of scents for a quick sniff before I head home. 

5:18pm Realize I left the box with the bottles of scents at the store.

5:35pm Return to the lab with the bottles of scents.

5:45pm Oooooooo,  Aaaaaaahhhhhhh, Yuuuuuummmmmmmmmmm  I love the new Fall Scents

6:00pm Make it home just in time to make dinner and enjoy a little down-time with my son before I settle in to write this blog.

7:00pm Realize we have 401 "Likes" on Facebook (YAY) and talk on Facebook with a new customer who has a great scent suggestion.  (I love Facebook, all of you who write nice things are genuinely making my matter how hectic it is to come home to this makes it all so much fun, thank you!)

9:40pm DONE!! and Happy!!

Does this sound like an atmosphere you'd enjoy?  We are currently advertising for one full-time employee to work full-time in our Lab as a Formulary Assistant.  If you have good computer skills, can work independently, enjoy activities like baking (i.e. can follow a recipe), and perform well under pressure this may be a job you'd enjoy!  Call 715-595-4570 for an application!  (Pay is $10/hour with review after 6 months, confidentiality contract required).

I hope you all have a Fun and CALM weekend!!  Chris

Friday, July 29, 2011

Odor de Door County

This week we made our first sojourn to Door County, Wisconsin to scope out a possible future store location. But also, as life-long Wisconsin natives with a nomad’s love for travel, it had been gnawing on our conscious for years that we had never visited one of the most well-loved travel destinations in Wisconsin.
The things that I enjoy most when traveling are of course the things I can’t find at home: Cherries, cherries, CHERRIES!!!! (Eh-hem…avid fruit lover here) Beautiful, big, blue bays nestled between green, wooded cliffs. Charming shore-side towns filled with shops, galleries, and eateries. Harbors adorned by a smattering of sailboats that when silhouetted by a setting sun, cause you to stop and stare.
But as a naturalist, what I found most striking were the cedars which, coming from an overly deer-browsed community, are scarce to non-existent back home, but here were fairly large and plentiful, softening the shorelines with fans of lacy, green leaves, and also, the tiny dead alewives that dotted the white rocks along the waterline of Washington Islands’ beaches.
Both visually striking, yes, but as you can imagine, odorously striking. Slightly malodorous in the case of the fish, but for me smelling fish kind of enriched my experience on the lake…where it just had my mom near gagging.
This got me meditating on the diverse effect of smell on people, which I so often see in the store. One customer can open a jar of body butter and hungrily breathe in whatever scent wafts from that particular jar, and then the next customer may pick up that same jar, start to take a smell, and quickly jerk their head away in distaste.
We are all unique individuals, with unique personal chemistries and what smells wonderful to one, can smell like dead fish to another. Even more confounding, what smells great ON one person can smell like…well, maybe not dead fish…just not great, on another.

So while we promise never to make a product that smells like dead fish to anyone (we do, however, make a soap that will make fish like how you smell) I encourage you to remember, all smells are not the same…because people aren’t.
Wishing you only good smells! Alyssa