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