It all started with one vanilla bean. It was meant to be a simple 3 month project, but ended up taking a year longer than that.
In May 2020, in the throes of lockdown and uncertainty, we decided to make something beautiful and life affirming. We chose to do a Vanilla Balm, and in my head I was already formulating. I'd use "real vanilla" and we'd have it ready quickly.
Then, I started to learn about real vanilla, and to my dismay, vanilla is one ingredient that is burdened with stories. There is an industry that works hard to make components and fragrances to fulfil that Vanilla desire without actually using the bean from the plant. Or worse, the vanilla is real, but the communities that grow it are not supported.
In short, vanilla felt fraught. I turned to my colleague from Heilala Vanilla and began working directly with their whole beans. We decided to make our own Vanilla infusion, which takes weeks of tending. And so began our collaboration with Heilala.
Heilala Vanilla supports ‘The Tongan Way’ (Anga Fakatonga), with a working culture that is social, family friendly and has given its people a new industry to adopt, supporting the protection of their local lifestyle.
Heilala is building a stable, long-term industry for Tonga, redefining corporate-social responsibility by working with an entire nation to transform their future. This is a vanilla we can celebrate.
While we waited for our infusion to strengthen, we decided to explore the plant waxes. Could we make a vegan balm? I announced I would not release a vegan balm unless I liked it more or better than anything I could make with our gorgeous organic beeswax. I started to read and trial, learn and re-frame. Formulating with plant oils and waxes is not a new idea, but not much work has been done on the reliability and stability of vegan skin care products. One of my pet peeves, regardless of ingredient choice is products that do not actually take CARE of lips and skin.
We had to learn from scratch. What we discovered over months of formulating was how to create a rich, reassuring Vanilla Balm.
We developed two formulations to completion: a beeswax one, and a vegan one. And we couldn't decide. We liked them both. So, we made 100 of each of them and got them out to you through the Do Good boxes in December. We asked you to vote. Our vegan vanilla formulation was the clear choice.
Every ingredient is intentional and does a heroic job to support the vanilla to shine through. As well as supporting the taste and smell of Vanilla Balm, each ingredient truly supports lips and skin to leave them in better condition.
We completed an audit with New Zealand Vegetarian Society to successfully make Vanilla Balm a Certified Vegan product. For many of you, this is not so important, but for the ones of you who live this commitment every day, this is our gift to you.
As with all of our products, Vanilla Balm is also certified natural by NATRUE. No one had ever formulated with Bayberry wax under NATRUE, so we had to start from the beginning, verifying process and quality over many months. At one point, in frustration, John suggested we just leave out the Bayberry wax. I said I wouldn't make the balm if I couldn't included it. There's not much of it in the formula, but it is the secret to the creaminess, and a sort of soft spicy smell that elevates the vanilla aroma.
There is definitely something very light-hearted about Vanilla Balm. In the past year, I've come to really appreciate its daily presence in my life. I realised, if Happy had a smell, it would smell like this.
For each and every one of you, whether you are new to this community, not ready to call it a community yet, or you have been with me for more than 10 years of writing and product making, I say thank you for allowing me to share the best part of myself with you.
Making products that care is a key way that I show up to this world. It's my pleasure to introduce the newest member of this community, Vanilla Balm.
Becky ~ Founder and Product Maker
To celebrate, this week, the women of Goodbye got together and created an origami wrapper for a Vanilla Bean. The first 80 orders of Vanilla Balm on our online shop will have one whole bean included with the order. So cute! And yummy. Just click the image.