The end and new beginning of hair salves
I’ve been out of some salves and some sizes for awhile and haven’t been ready to go into why until now. But here’s the short version: I’m no longer able to source some of the components for each of my three salves and they are all going to all have to be reformulated.
You may pause here to raid my remaining stock of salves. Yes, you can toss them in the freezer, they keep a very long time that way.
This impasse sucks, so I wanted to take some time to share what happened, what my options are, what my plan is moving forward, and to get your opinions on a few things because, ultimately, my goal is to make things that make you happy.
A little history…
When I first started making Panacea’s Hair Salve back in 2008, I was pretty new to the world of making herbal products and, due mostly to a lack of confidence, relied on some pre-blended components. This has come back to bite me twice with Panacea’s already, once when the frankincense and myrrh shea butter I was using was discontinued, and a second time when the essential oil blend I was using was discontinued. I was able to make my own with the same listed ingredients, and it was a near match, but never exactly the same.
Now, I’ve run into this again, but across all three of my salves at once. The conditioner bases I was using as part of Panacea’s and Ostara’s has been out of production for over a year and I’ve burned through what stock I have left. The essential oil blend I’ve used for Freya’s, too, has been discontinued.
These ingredient outages also come at a time when I’m re-evaluating a lot of my packaging to reduce the amount of plastic as much as practically possible. What I don’t want to do is reformulate the hair salves, make new labels that reflect the new ingredients (label stock is stupidly expensive and printing them moreso), then swap packaging and have to make rework labels again that fit the new jars.
The combination of new packaging and ingredient issues just has me at a standstill and I needed to have a good think about where I’m at, where to go from here, and how to get there.
And some more history!
Ages ago, I started with Panacea’s and then someone went, “But… but it has honey in it, can’t you make a vegan salve?” So I bought a different (vegan) conditioner base without honey and made a vegan salve. Eventually “Vegan salve” became “Ostara’s Salve.” And then someone went “Oh, but my hair hates protein. Can’t you make one without protein?” So that became a THIRD conditioner base and essential oil blend, which became Winter Salve and later, Freya’s.
Clearly I was not very good at saying no (I am still bad at saying no, but I’m a little better at doing so and explaining why the request is just impractical.).
These three salves, while they proved popular, weren’t exactly crafted with these meaningful differences in mind. When I surveyed my customers years ago? There was literally ZERO correlation between who had which hair type and liked which salve best. Hair type didn’t matter, henna or not didn’t matter, people who swore their hair hated protein loved the salve with it, and people with fine hair liked the richest of the salves just as much as the lightest.
Honestly I think you were just picking which one you thought smelled best. ?
Which is the next portion–I make a lot of really freaking lovely essential oil blends that are my own creations, and this is a unique opportunity to not just try to get as close as I can to what I had before, but sit down and really think, “If the previous 3 salves had never existed, how would I approach making a leave-in hair salve?”
And then there’s the fact that I am just one person trying to keep up with all of this
The other thing that’s been on my mind, as I do silly and perilous things like consider my mental wellbeing, is that these are some of my most labor-intensive products. Making them and cleaning up after them is a nightmare and this is compounded by the fact that I have three variations. It’s three times the work and three times as hard to keep everything in stock. It’s most efficient to make one giant mess at once, do all three salves (including making, packaging, and labeling them), but that means every time I do them I have to carve out one 16 hour day on my feet (which is what it takes to set everything up, make full batches of all three variations, and clean up the resulting disaster afterwards).
When the prospect of having to rally and make these products, that I love so much and I’m so proud of fills me with dread something is wrong.
I’ll be reformulating from the ground up…
and that might end up being a very good thing.
This presents me with a very unique, if not stressful as hell, opportunity to really look at what I want to do with these salves.
To be perfectly clear, the goal of this new adventure will still be a hair salve very near to what I have now–the base ingredients and ratios and process will be the same. In the end, we’re still going to have a lovely, whipped, nourishing leave-in conditioner.
I’ve learned an awful lot in the last thirteen years of making hair salve, moreso recently with the development of my shampoo and conditioner bars, and I think that I can not only make the conditioner base myself and make it better. That means so long as I can get the base ingredients, I’ll be future proofing hair salve in a way I just can’t right now.
The salve that results from this shift will, ultimately, have a simpler ingredient list that I have 100% control over, and also allows me to make something ultimately better that nobody else has anything close to.
Things I’d like your opinion on!
I’ve gotten some test jars similar to the ones pictured here–amber glass with a plastic lid. Part of the reason I moved away from the metal-lidded jars that you saw in the 2008 picture is that, liner or no, salve was making the metal rust and I was getting customer complaints about it. I feel that an amber jar with a liner and plastic lid at least puts the salves in parity with my other packaging (for example, the amber glass bottles that have a plastic neck and rubber dropper). I’ve seen other jars with bamboo lids, but I can’t find a reliable source in the US yet and they’re still going to require liners because salve melts in the mail sometimes. Do you all feel that something like the amber glass with a plastic lid is an acceptable improvement over the current plastic jars?
When I opened up a poll for shampoo bars, one thing that stood out to me is how many people clamored for their favorite scent. What I decided to do, in the end, is have the basic Selkie Detangling Shampoo & Conditioner Bar with the default essential oils, and then do a limited run of some seasonal scents (because I’m not going to lie I really want a Samhain Spell shampoo and conditioner bar set).
I have half a mind to do the same thing here… formulate my best take on a new leave-in, building upon all the stuff I’ve learned making the older salves.
Maybe one will be enough? Maybe I won’t need a special vegan-no-protein-no-honey-my-hair-hates-X variation.
And if that’s the case, then I could more easily do seasonal runs of special scented batches because I’m altering ONE product rather than three. So if you had to pick from my many essential oil blends to become a default scent, which do you want to see in the running? (To see all the options, go to this listing, click on the “Learn More about this Item” text on the right, and expand the full item description.)
The tentative plan:
Just typing all this up has given me a path forward, I think (some of that pending your answers on packaging and essential oils).
Step 1: Formulate my own conditioner base (which, I suppose, could even be just a straight up liquid conditioner product in the future?).
Step 2: Plug the homebrewed conditioner base into the salve process with all the other ingredients you already know and love and see what comes out of my new best shot at making a leave-in hair salve.
If it’s a hit, then we can look at if there’s a specific population that it ISN’T working for and maybe make a second variation, but really, my pie in the sky goal here is to make ONE salve that 95% of you love, and then we can do fun things like seasonal scents.
ETA: I will also be offering an unscented version of this new salve! (This was a great suggestion that came from the shampoo bar poll, too!) That way people sensitive to scents can still get salve, and if you’re not a fan of the default scent, you could always pick up a dram of your favorite essential oil blend and blend that in with the unscented salve as you melt it in between your palms. This way, you can have ANY of your favorite NightBlooming oils as a salve (granted with a very small extra step).
There’s no timeline for this. I’m tempted to shelve it behind the new nightblooming.com shop and the launch of the Selkie Detangling Shampoo & Conditioning Bars because a this point I’m nearly done with those and just starting on reformulating a conditioner base to use in the new salve. But who knows. I swapped ALL the packaging on my hair colors in a week because I hit on the right solution and just went for it. Maybe this change will come quickly, maybe it will come in a few months, but this is the shitty and unavoidable first step.
I’ve been stuck on this and stressing about it for weeks, only made worse because they’re one of the few products I don’t have built into my new website yet because their future just seemed too messy.
Ultimately, you, my sweet, understanding customers are my best sounding board. So let me know your thoughts on the things above (packaging, essential oils, and one salve with seasonal variations), and anything else that comes to mind.
And I’m so very sorry. I hate nothing more than disappointing you, and the reason I put off writing this for so long was because no matter how exciting the prospect of new salve is, I know how beloved Panacea’s, Freya’s and Ostara’s salves are, and I know these are people’s holy grail products, and this change comes with heartbreak, too. ?
Just a reminder, I do moderate comments! If you’ve commented before your post will likely appear right away, but if you don’t see it, don’t fret and know I’ll approve it asap!