Pampering and Body Care with Island Pür
Denman Islander Renée Robichard creates ‘mermaid friendly’ bath and body products that are good enough to eat and drink!
Vanilla chai latte whipped body butter. Lemon balm, chamomile, fennel and liquorice bath bombs. Chai chocolate pudding soap. Orange tangerine body bar. Sweet brown sugar facial scrub. Hangover Soap, with hints of bourbon and coffee.
These bath and body products sound good enough to eat and drink—and that’s by design, says creator Renée Robichaud. This is not just only intended to generate a heavenly aroma (although it does do that), it’s about making those products healthy for both the user and the natural environment.
Mermaid-friendly Island Pür
Purity is a key value for Renée, as is reflected in the name of her new business, Island Pür, which launched at the Denman Island Farmers Market this season.
“Everything I make is chemical-free,” says Renée. She uses the tag line “mermaid-friendly,” because her products don’t contain any ingredients that would harm the ocean.
“Mass market soaps and body products contain surfactants that are highly toxic to marine life,” she says. “Regular soap contains up to 100 chemicals. Even products touted as natural can be full of chemicals and packaged in lots of plastic.
“Everything I use is truly close to nature. Aside from the essential oils, you really could eat all the ingredients,” she says.
Being environmentally friendly also means using simple, non-synthetic packaging like glass jars and tissue paper, which also look and feel so much nicer than plastic.
Renée makes her soaps out of her own special blend with coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil, and sunflower oil, all carefully chosen to nourish and calm the skin at it cleanses. She adds salts, clay, plant milk and buttermilk, cocoa butter, hemp oil, natural fragrances, and more, and then pours the resulting mix into molds to create soap bars with unique colours, shapes, and scents that call out to be touched and smelled.
Another popular product is the Body Butter Bar. This is a concentrated moisturizing and skin-conditioning bar that, unlike body lotion, does not contain water and therefore doesn’t require preservatives. As well, Renée makes whipped body butter, bath salts, lip balm, skin scrubs, and more.
The soap-making journey
Renée’s journey to being a lotion and potion maker started back in 2001 when she took a soap-making workshop at the Denman Guest House.
“It had never before occurred to me that I could make soap at home. It piqued my interest in learning more,” she says. A few years later she temporarily moved back to Ontario, where she’d grown up, to take a medical esthetics program, graduating with a diploma in 2005. After that, she worked in the spa industry for a few years, till life took her in other directions, and eventually ended up back on Denman where she ran a housecleaning business with up to 36 active clients.
COVID brought change. The housecleaning business slowed down and Renée had time to reassess her life and think about what she really wanted.
“I thought, why not pick up on a life long passion? I’ve always loved making soaps. Why not give it a go?
Tradition with modern flair
“Soap making is an ancient practice dating as far back as 2800 BC, when wood ash was first added to fats to make soap. I love practicing this tradition and adding my own imprint and modern flair. It’s pure alchemy and pure joy to create something so functional and purposeful and yet so delightful to the senses,” she says.
Renée began developing formulas in January of this year and started vending at the market at the beginning of May.
The Denman Farmers Market has been the ideal place to launch her products, says Renée.
“The community has been incredible. People are coming by my stall and they are excited. I even got a an anonymous gift—a big one, a heavy-duty Cuisinart mixer that I use to make my body bars. The support is amazing.”
Renée is interested in eventually levelling up her business and getting her products into stores, but she’s not in a rush.
“The market lets me see what’s selling, and to talk to people and learn what they want,” she says. “And I’m a grassroots gal. I eat local, shop local, work local, so it makes sense to start my business local.”
Find Renée and over 25 other vendors at the Denman Island Farmers Market, every Saturday, 9:30 – 12:30 at the Old School field.
Written by Laura Busheikin
Published in The Islands Grapevine