How to make sure your soap’s locally handmade: Walk into Soaptopia’s boutique store in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles to see and smell the yummily-scented process firsthand. Founded by an eco-preneur called Jolie Chitwood, Soaptopia makes deliciously junk-free, natural soaps in small batches — and customers can can actually watch the process happening at the back of the store as they shop!
If allergies and chemical sensitivities have you always opting for the fragrance-free stuff, Soaptopia will bring olfactory pleasures back into your life. Jolie actually started concocting her own personal care products due to her own allergies caused by the synthetic, chemical stuff. Now, she’s got a five-year-old business, a devout cadre of customers both locally and across the U.S., and a very eco-friendly line of soaps with scents ranging from Love Thyme All The Time to Red Hot Lover (cinnamon and clove).
Customers may walk in for the delicious soaps, but the green aspects of the business can’t be missed once you step into the store. Besides soap, we’re talking body balm, salves, lip balms, and candles — all made with simple, recognizable ingredients. “We now have a fair trade shea butter we bring in that’s just delicious,” says Jolie. “Raw, organic, unfiltered, unprocessed. It’s in all of our soaps.”
Everything’s in minimal packaging — made of 80 percent post-consumer recycled waste, no less — and the store also carries cute one-of-a-kind products from other local and eco-craftsters. There’s locally made jewelry, hemp washcloths, fair trade and organic-bamboo-and-organic-cotton bath blankets, and feelgoodz compostable rubber flipflops for $20 a pair.
“In our store, we try to celebrate the community,” Jolie (left) says. “I work with the other merchants of the block and some other people in the community to make Mar Vista a little bit more of a community. We started a nonprofit — and opened a farmers market on Sundays.”
Some of Soaptopia’s ingredients are organic, but for the ingredients that aren’t, you can rest assured that a local soap expert’s is scruitinizing the quality of the ingredients. “I’ve been making soap for about 10 years now. Over time, you understand what’s what — like what a type of lavender really means,” Jolie says. “[Information on the certificate of analysis for] the lavender oils — it’s like your blood count. Like say, I have this many red cells and white cells, or my cholesterol’s this — You can see that in oils, too. So you can see if there’s been pesticides used in the oils by the certain marks on the certificate of analysis. We try to go for stuff we know we like and we know is clean and we feel good about.”
More people are looking for healthy, good-for-you products, Jolie says. “There’s a shift in consciousness in what’s important — taking care of yourself, finding the things that are maximizing your dollar. And part of our branding, our whole company ethos, is about products that are for daily use — meaning, they’re affordable! It’s not just for a special occasion. You can use it daily, you can use it for your family. It’s not like you’re putting in huge dollars to make the whole system work.”
And right now, you can get a really amazing deal on Soaptopia products — thanks to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. All August, you can get a 3 for $16, 5 for $25, or 9 for $40 deals on Woodstock-inspired soap scents, ranging from Purple Haze to Flower Power to Piece of Peace.
You can find Soaptopia at a number of Whole Foods on the West Coast, stores across the country, online, and of course, at the Soaptopia boutique at 12228 1/2 Venice Blvd., in Los Angeles. Love Thyme All the Time’s the bar I got — because, well, Its thyme.