Being a more conscientious, ethical and thoughtful consumer is on my mind quite a bit. I am always working to be more aware of the environmental impact of the packaging I purchase and I am also trying to better evaluate and control the types of ingredients I consume or use topically. In addition I just plain want to support local small business owners and individual makers, because now that I am a small business owner myself, I can inform you that it is, indeed, hard out here for a bitch.
It’s time consuming and expensive to be an ethical consumer though. It’s really easy to Amazon Prime yourself whatever skin care thing you need, and toss the shipping box and bubble wrap and product packaging into the trash. That’s cheap and fast and easy and in some twisted way it just feels good. I am as mentally overwhelmed as anyone else, and I definitely get that appeal. It’s easy to order things and delightful to come home to boxes on your doorstep – it’s like as adults we get to make our own Christmas, anytime we want!
It’s hard to source good quality local products, get to the store where they’re sold during the hours that store is open (some stores, they do not open the whole 24 hours because the people who own them need or want to sleep, it is a Scandal I must inform you.) It sucks to deliberately pay more for a product if you’re on a budget (if you’re not on a budget, come and sit by me, I want to be friends and you can take me out for tea a lot.)
But at the same time you feel amazing about the cool bargain things you bought (packages!) you also get the creeping guilt don’t you? That feeling that you’re doing it wrong. You’re supporting giant (if not outright evil than at least completely ethics-free) corporations that exploit their workers, the environment and ultimately the country’s tax base (Amazon is obviously not the least of these offenders.) That for convenience and some spare change you’re selling a part of yourself. And how cheaply do you come, anyway?
With all these Deep Thoughts (and more, ask for details!) in mind, I toddled on off to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s 2018 Best of Missouri Market a few weeks ago. This annual event, hosted on the Garden grounds ($15 for the general public, $7 for members) is a showcase for over 120 local makers who vend anything from handmade jewelry to artisan bath bombs and local honey. Now – caveat. Though I was going to a market I also wasn’t really in the market for a lot of things. I am trying my gosh-darn-level-hardest to practice minimalism in all things, and as someone who self-soothes by shopping, it’s sometimes a monumental feat, but one I feel as if I am accomplishing. Although I knew there would be tons of fantastic things on display, I wasn’t really looking for anything in the realm of tchotckes or clothing and accessories. I determined to focus mostly on consumable personal care products, and hopefully those with minimal packaging. I really was interested to see what the local personal-care market was like, and I found a few gems! Read on for reviews.
What I Brought Home
The first few items I picked up all came from the same vendor stand – Botanicals by Anita. This vendor bills herself as making “Handcrafted, All Natural, Small Batch Artisan Products”
Botanicals by Anita Luxury Soap
The first item I bought was this “Luxury Soap” in Oatmeal, Milk and Honey ($5) I’ve been trying to switch from bottled bath gels to bar soap, simply due to the extra waste and product packaging involved with bath gels. But it’s hard. Showering is not my favorite thing to do. It’s boring, it’s a waste of time, you get all wet and have to dry off again, it’s cold getting out of the shower in the winter, I hate to wash my hair, etc. etc. So I mentally bribe myself into showering with deliciously scented bath and shower products. (All my current favorites are Soap & Glory, ugh so delicious.)
Bar soap CAN fall into that category of deliciously scented temptations, but I get bored of a soap scent about 75% before the actual bar of soap is used up. I have thrown away more partially used bars of soap than I would easily admit. So I am trying, once again, with this soap—which *may* make me feel enough of a hyper-local, handmade, organic sense of morally superior smugness that I will actually get through the entire bar. We will see. It *is* deliciously scented and I absolutely love anything with visible chunks of oatmeal in it. Makes me feel so wholesome and healthy in ways that topical oatmeal logically can’t actually provide, but whatever. I recommend.
Botanicals by Anita Bath Sorbet
Confession: I had never tried a bath melt before this one – bath bombs yes, bath salts constantly, but no bath melts. As the inadvertent owner of a Jacuzzi tub (installed by the folks who rehabbed my house, but very much enjoyed by me) I have to be careful what sort of bath products I use in it. (Please refer to the bubble bath Extreme Foam Incident Log: 2011) Oils will gum up the motor (So will hair. Learned the very hard way.) and bubble bath will create a Dr. Seuss/Sorcerer’s Apprentice level of calamity that I do not wish to revisit, so I stick to (infrequent) bath bombs and mostly bath salts (my fave here).
I was worried about the moisturizing agents in this causing a problem so I did not turn on the Jacuzzi jets when I used it. I was pleasantly delighted by the experience. It was a much quieter bath than usual and the product gave a really nice scent and texture to the water. I was also worried that this would create some sort of oil-slick situation in the tub that would result in a “falling and I can’t get up” type emergency call, but the moisturizers contained in the product lay atop the surface of the water and mostly drained away when I emptied the bath, so the tub surface was not overly slick when I emerged. There was a bit of residue, but the tub needed a good cleaning anyway, and my skin was delightfully soft afterward. The only downside on this one was the scent, which was overly sweet for my particular taste BUT since I bathed at night the scent did not follow me into the next day, so that was fine. It was a nice scent, just not something I wanted to smell like, personally, if that makes sense.
Most of the scents from this brand are a bit on the sweeter/fruity side, which I am sure is very popular with the general public. Even I was attracted by the sweet pink color and glitter, plus the adorable packaging for the “sorbets” – however in general terms I AM THE NIGHT and mostly I look for darker, woodsy and more traditionally masculine scents, so this brand did not offer a ton of options for me in that regard.
So overall, not overpowering scent, didn’t make a mess, left my skin soft and happy – do recommend. (Additionally, for $5 you get multiple baths from this product – at least 3. Similar products from eco-friendly, natural/non-packaging shop Lush range from $7-8 per bath.)
Botanicals by Anita Whipped Body Butter
Did I mention this brand had a “Spend $20 get $5 free” offer on that day? That’s why I bought so many products from them – and it was a good marketing ploy. This product surprised me the most – I was perusing the body butter bars and not finding two scents I liked (see above) and the man at the counter mentioned that they also had a whipped body butter that wasn’t out on the shelves because it was too hot (Remember when it was summer two weeks ago? Boy, those were the days.) He let me try this one in the orangey-citrus scent “Satsuma” and I was sold. This whipped body butter (with shea butter, cocoa butter and sweet almond oil) is such a lovely and surprising consistency. The entire jar weighs nothing, but somehow when you open it and slide your hand across the product it’s surprisingly solid? It has a lovely light scent that isn’t so fruity as to offend my goth sensibilities and it leaves a really pleasant, almost protective-feeling layer of moisture on the skin. The only downside is that since it’s gotten so much colder it’s much harder to use/apply with cold hands onto cold limbs, so you do need to warm it up in your hands a bit. But I very much recommend this one. (Similar natural body products from Lush average $7.95 for 1.7 oz – buy local!)
Botanicals by Anita Body Butter Bar
My last item from this brand is a body butter bar in the scent “Him” ($5). These bars are made from cocoa butter, coconut oil and beeswax. There is a vegan, non-beeswax version available as well. I loved the scent and minimal packaging for this, it looks attractive and simple in my bathroom, and leaves a delicious scent on the skin that is not overpowering. I can’t tell the top notes on this one and, as the name suggests, it’s a more typically “masculine” scent, but it’s very warm and spicy. I like it quite a bit. Same caveat as above applies, it’s harder to apply to a cold body in a cold bathroom (Thanks for nothing, non-existent autumn. February temps in October are NOT my fave.) so you need to spend some time warming it up, or keep it bedside and apply it to a warm body just before bed.
As a price comparison, similar solid body butters from Lush are between $8-13 per bar and the tin is a $3.95 add on. So in this case buying local definitely saves you money.
I have had friends recommending Sammy Soaps to me for years. This Kirkwood-based company embodies all the values I want to support, and they describe their operation as a “job creation machine for adults with intellectual disabilities”
And I really wanted to support them – if only I needed more bar soap in my life. But like I said, how much bar soap can one lady work her way through in a given year? Not a lot. HOWEVER I found several things to purchase from their stand that are of actual, practical use to me! First up is this awesome dog soap!
I have nothing but chihuahuas in my house, and they are not a particularly smelly breed, but the next time they do need bathing I am excited to use this new cedar soap on them! This bar contains both natural cedar and neem oils (neem oil is used as a biopesticide for organic farming, as it repels a wide variety of pests.) This has a mild, pleasant scent and though I haven’t yet used it (seriously these dogs just don’t smell bad unless they roll in something dead, and I wasn’t prepared to traumatize them with an unnecessary bath just for the sake of a review.) I am excited to do so, and even more excited that I could support such a great company by buying a product I really needed.
To store this soap I picked up this product (also from Sammy Soap)
This is a genius product, honestly. I love it. It’s a great place to store your soap and can hang up so the soap is both out of the way AND able to dry on all sides. This natural cotton bag is also great for collecting soap slivers so if you’re a person who’s running out of bar soap and wanting to make sure you use every tiny piece (WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE) then this will help. It also acts as a natural exfoliant/loofah, so saves you having to use and wash washcloths. Triple environmental save right here. All for $4. Git sum!
Since THAT soap storage system was going to be used for my dog’s soap, I picked up one of these little jobbies for my own shower soap:
One of the grudges I hold against bar soap is how difficult it is to use and store in the shower. I have traumatic memories of those gross, slimy suction-cup style holders in the shower in my parent’s house. Always covered in some kind of goop, and the soap was cold and slimy when you picked it up (ugh) and then half the time the slime layer meant you’d drop it on the floor and get water up your nose when you bent over to pick it up—no wonder the clean look and feel of a bottle of shower gel appeals to me. But I do understand that the plastic bottles/pumps that gels come in are stupid and wasteful and harmful to the environment (plus even more plastic coming in contact with my skin) so finding this modern-day version of those old style soap trays was way more exciting than you’d think. It’s recycled, it’s BPA free (YAY!) and the woven construction means that liquid can drain down and allow the soap to dry, keeping everything slime free! I have been using this in the shower for the last two weeks, and I have not had to pick up a moist bar yet! (I am way more excited by this than a person would normally be, I do believe.)
Gibbons Bee Farm Body Bar
The last item I picked up was from Gibbons Bee Farm which curiously exists in 2018 with no website at all. Peculiar. I’ve bought products from Gibbons before – they sell their honey and various honey-based sauces at Whole Foods, and back when I ate honey I tried to source it locally because I have heard that can be beneficial for your immune system. Though I am no longer in the market for edible honey, I couldn’t resist this happy jack-o-lantern style solid lotion bar. Made from a combination of beeswax, cocoa butter and coconut oil, this bar has the most delicious, almost non-existent but unimaginably clean and fresh scent. When I have this scent on my skin I feel like some kind of clean-living nature goddess. I wish I could describe the scent a bit better than that, but it’s just like nature and sunshine and happiness. I am having the same issue with it being harder to apply now that it’s cold, so other than continuously stashing this in my bra so it’s warm and ready to go, does anyone have any tips and tricks for better application in cold weather?
That’s it for my local products haul! I hope this gave you some ideas and inspiration for ways to incorporate locally made goods into your life, even if you’re practicing minimalism or buying as few things as possible like me. All of these products are consumable or offer real, practical utility in my life and home, so I can feel good about acquiring them, and hopefully give some support to local independent makers and small businesses. Check online event calendars for local markets, fairs and festivals in your area, and if you have a favorite locally-made product be sure to leave it in the comments so I can check it out!