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Baking with Beeswax

Janet Urquhart

Petrolatum, paraffin, aluminum stearate and methylchloroisothiazolinone.What sounds like a chemistry experiment is simply a partial list of the stuff you may have moisturized your face with this morning. Unless, that is, you reached for a jar of Becca’s Butter – straight from the laboratory of Mountain Meadow Naturals in Carbondale, also known as Rebecca Hodgson’s kitchen.The Mountain Meadow Naturals line has captured what is no doubt a minuscule segment of the growing all-natural skin-care products industry, but devoted customers are keeping Hodgson busy.What began with one woman’s attempt to make her own beeswax cream has turned into a line of 20 products and counting, all handmade with certified organic and “wildcrafted” ingredients.

There’s no ingredient on Hodgson’s signature blue bottles and jars that a consumer can’t pronounce. That may have something to do with how quickly they’re snapped up from her booth each week at the Aspen Saturday Market.”There’s a huge niche for the natural product,” Hodgson said. “I’m surprised at how many people don’t want chemicals in their stuff.”She probably shouldn’t be. Hodgson herself has long shunned commercial skin-care products. The Kentucky native was living in Louisville when she purchased a jar of natural beeswax cream from Colorado.”I saved it because it had the ingredients on the top of the jar. I thought, this is so simple, I can make this,” Hodgson recalled.

The cream contained just four ingredients – organic olive oil, distilled water, beeswax and borax – but the latter two aren’t exactly found on grocery store shelves. They are, it turns out, readily available on the Internet. She ordered borax and beeswax and went to work.”I thought, how hard could it be,” Hodgson laughed. Fairly hard, as it turns out.

“Did you know you can melt glass in the microwave? Then when you take it out, it explodes.” she said. “I’ve done that about three times. It isn’t pretty.”After perfecting the recipe for Beeswax Body Crème, Hodgson branched out, experimenting with other products.By this time, her family had relocated from Kentucky to Colorado, where a jar of beeswax – good for dry skin – lasts her a couple of weeks, instead of a year.”I moved out here from 100 percent humidity. I felt like a raisin,” she said. “I started seeing wrinkles I never saw before. I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ “

Family affairThree years after Hodgson’s first experiments, Mountain Meadow Naturals is a family affair with Hodgson at the helm. She has been selling her products for two years. Her grown daughter, Kristen, is working on a Web site for the product line, adult son Jason designed the labels (which Hodgson cuts out with scissors and affixes to each jar and bottle by hand). Her husband, Lee, is in charge of the heavy lifting and daughter Jen, a college sophomore, has the “nose” for the business – she’s the one who blends the scents in the essential oils. Lady the dog helps to “man” the Aspen Saturday Market booth and was the sole user (or victim) of Hodgson’s one attempt to make shampoo.By day, Hodgson works at Aspen City Hall as executive assistant to the city manager and as the city’s procurement officer. By night, she’s likely to be in her kitchen, where a typical evening may have her whipping up batches of cuticle crème, facial wash, facial toner and lip balm.For every product, she has two goals – it has to be easy to use and affordable.

— continued on following page– continued from previous page “It needs to be priced so that I can afford it. That’s the way I look at it,” she said.Ingredients and experiments

Her Shea Butter Crème – relief for dry skin, according to Hodgson – contains shea butter, cocoa butter and avocado oil. Shea butter, by the way, is a vegetable fat from the karite tree – Hodgson buys the raw product from women’s cooperative in Ghana. Her 60-milliliter jar of the cream sells for $10.Grapefruit Body Butter is a combination of cocoa butter, olive and sweet almond oil, beeswax and essential oils. It comes scented in tangerine, grapefruit and lime. For the Facial Scrub and Mask, Hodgson combines French green clay, organic oats and almonds, organic calendula flowers, lavender and St. John’s wort.With each new product there is experimentation and failure, at least initially. Sometimes, Hodgson not only discards the results of her effort, but the whole idea – like her attempt at a massage oil/cream made with shae butter, avocado oil, rosehip seed and kukui nut oil.

It actually worked pretty well, but it was unappealing in the extreme.”Oh, it was bad, because it looked like snot. It was gross,” she said. “I didn’t even save it to use myself. I threw it away.”On the other hand, a chance request from a customer at last year’s market led to Hodgson’s top-selling product, Becca’s Butter.The customer, a pregnant woman, asked Hodgson if she had anything that would prevent stretch marks on her expanding belly. Hodgson told her to come back in a week and began researching the possibilities.

What resulted was a salvelike product of cocoa butter, organic rosehip seed oil, kukui nut oil, organic sea buckthorn oil, vitamin E and calendula. It’s great for the prevention of wrinkles and signs of premature aging, its regenerative properties help fade scars and it soothes dry skin, according to Hodgson.The pregnant customer didn’t return, but Hodgson sold out the 15 jars she brought before the day was half over.”I started using it on my face twice a day. I’ve used it every day since,” she said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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