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!
23 thoughts on “The hair salves are dead, long live the hair salves.”
Guilty as charged scent wise, though I do find I use Panacea as a deep conditioner before a wash and Ostara the rest of the time (I find Freya’s scent too much and almost find myself wanting to sneeze with it). Due to being fairly hesitant when it comes to scents I haven’t tried many of the oil mixes you make, so it’s hard to say which ones would work for me. I do know that plainer and less floral is usually better.. I also get on okay with Selkie as it comes in the detangler, at least.
Beyond this your suggestion as a work around sounds fine. Living further away I’m not likely to buy often, and I do wonder what impact glass will have on shipping but I can consider that when the time comes. Worst comes to worst, if I’m not a fan of the main scent I can hope that some of the seasonal blends suits me any better…
Those are all very valid considerations, and ones I thought of going into this. Initially I’d started with glass packaging, swapped to glass because of the shipping weight, and now I’m looking at moving back. The good news, on that front, is that salve lasts a very, very long time. When I surveyed my customers, just the half ounce sample lasts most people 3 months and the 2 ounce jar more than a year–I feel the tradeoff for the slightly higher shipping weight is okay because it doesn’t need to be purchased super-often.
And that is the hope with seasonal scents! A soap company I love has 4 rotating seasonal scents in addition to their main offerings, and I think something like that might be possible if the base experiment here works. So if the base scent isn’t working for you, maybe you stock up on Samhain Spell come autumn (this also goes back to them keeping and lasting so long!)
Melissa, could you please do a salve with no essential oils or other fragrance? You could do a fragrance-free/essential oil-free as your main offering and have rotating scents. That is literally the only reason why I’ve never bought a salve from you.
That’s another perk I forgot to mention! Yes, this can and will finally be an option! Before, because of the conditioner bases I was getting, there was already some either herbal infusions or essential oils in them and so no way to make something fragrance-free / EO free. This was a resounding suggestion with the shampoo bars, too, so what I’m thinking is a default offering of:
– Unscented Salve
– Scented Salve (default EO blend)
– Seasonal Salves
This will be possible now because the base on all three is the same and I’ll be building everything up from scratch. This would also mean that someone could pick up a dram of their favorite essential oil blend, the unscented salve, and blend the two together in their palms. So, in a round about way, everyone could get their favorite scent!
Awww, too bad – I love the salves (also guilty of scent-shopping!), but I’m sure you will come up with something at least as good, probably even better! 🙂 While I live in Europe and have to consider the shipping cost, I’m totally in favour of glass and I’m absolutely willing to pay a little extra. As you already said, the salves last a very long time, so I don’t mind at all.
I’d be curious of your seasonal scents. However, as the salves last so long, I’m not sure if I’d be ordering regularly (at least in the first year to get to know all of the scents). So I would be interested in a sample pack, maybe in very small sample jars like 2 ml / 0.5 oz., with all of the seasonal scents (at least eventually, not during the first year, sure!).
A scent-free version sounds also good, although I’ll probably always go for a scented one. But it’s a very good idea for people who are sensitive or just don’t want a scent.
I’m so glad to hear you’re keen on the glass jars and on the seasonal scents even as an international customer! That’s so helpful for me to know 🙂
I really like the idea of the glass jars. As far as favorite scents, my votes are Sacred Forest or anything with Dragonsblood. I love the idea of seasonal scents! I’ve never found a blend of yours that I disliked, and especially with the unscented/ scent-your-own-at-home option, I’m excited to see what comes. I adore the current salves’ scents, but the possibilities with the new ones are exciting. And maybe (only if it’s not too much work on you- I know you’ve more than got your hands full!) you’d be able to release EO blends for the current salve scents at a later date so people don’t completely lose the scents they love.
hahahaha I had a feeling I’d be seeing requests for blends with Dragonsblood! And it’s reassuring to know that while the former sales are much-loved that there are exciting things to look forward to 🙂
Amber glass jars yes please.
Unscented products that we can purchase and then add scent blends to – double yes! I am more and more sensitive to various things so unscented has been my default lately but there are a few yummy essential oils I can still wear. It would be nice to have the option to add it as part of the application ritual.
I have fallen in love with shampoo and conditioner bars. My 3a/b hair loves them too. Currently using a conditioner bar as a leave in. It works as well as any other leave in product I have used and better than many of them.
Brightest blessings on you and your new endeavors!
I love the phrase “Application ritual!” And I’m glad to hear you’re onboard with the glass jars and unscented / scent your own option 😀
Hi Melissa, sounds like you’ve got us covered. I like the glass jars with plastic tops. I save glass jars afterwards and use them for other things. Come in very handy!
I’m not able to access your Etsy site. Etsy keeps on giving me a 429 error code, and I’ve written them, and nobody responds. They’ve turned into a disaster.
Hope you’re well.
Oh goodness! I’m so sorry about Etsy! The good news is I’m working to get my stand alone site up asap, but if there’s anything you need between now and then just let me know and we’ll get you sorted. 🙂 And I’m relieved that it seems like I’ve got the big areas covered!
I’m all for glass jars! It’s what I use for making my own hand salves and when I made beard salve for my SO. One great thing about them is that you can put them in the dishwasher and reuse them. That’s how I got some of my jars :p
You know that I love the smell of Irel, Aurealia and Raven Queen. But if you want to please more people, a selkie salve would probably be a smart choice. It’s a nice subtle smell that a lot of us love. And we can get an entire selkie set! Spray, bars, oil and salve. Would be great!
And as you mentioned you can get your own smell with the neutral one. I’ll admit that I’ve done something similar for a long time. First I put my favourite oil in my hair and then the Freya salve on top of it.
Just one thing. I would like to see a small sample size jar. I only use salves during the winter and not a huge amount, so a sample size has worked well for me.
Those are all great ideas, especially the point that the glass feels better to re-use 🙂 Right now I’m leaning towards Ullassa as a scent–it’s not unlike Selkie, and would play very nice with it. And so far, doing the back of envelop math, I’ll save enough making my own conditioner bases that I can swap to my own EO blend AND to glass jars with no price increase!
Forgot to mention. Seasonal salves (in sample sizes) sounds great! Could perhaps also be a patreon perk?
That could for sure be a Patreon perk! I am for sure going to ask my Patrons to do some advanced testing on these, too!
I’m not a hair salve user (super short hair, I’m mostly here for the EO blends) but I wanted to say I absolutely love your approach to this I fully support the packaging concepts you’ve been working on, including this one. I love the concept of a reusable glass container. This whole blog and taking stock of your customer base and their needs is the kind of business practice that keep me coming back.
Now, all this is making me want to try a salve and mix in my Raven Queen EO! Agree with tiny jar options, my hair is so short even that would last forever. Wonder if the salve would be a good product for a beard that needs conditioned..could serve a multipurpose on my household!
Aw that makes me so happy! I always want to hear from my customers first and foremost, and that the packaging changes and salve changes are being received so well is a relief. I can’t tell you how much I dreaded breaking this news to everyone 🙁 I’ve made Raven Queen scented salve in the past as a custom order and it smelled fantastic! It would for sure work well with your hair and also for sure beards! My customers use salves for everything from conditioner to beard conditioner to lip balm, cuticle treatments, foot balms, eczema treatments, etc. At one point I wondered if people were actually using them for their intended purposes!
If you do decide to throw us patreons in for testing once it’s time, I’d be happy to pay for shipping and test it out! 🙂
Your plans so far sounds great! And I’m sure that at least 95% of us will be happy with everything 🙂
Melissa, I’ve tried all 3 salves and I don’t have any preference. “One Salve to rule them all” sounds perfect, I love the idea of always Unscented, plus seasonal blends!!! Amber glass, squeeze tube, ziplock bag, I don’t care what it’s in, I just want it?. I have have used prob 10 of your oil blends and my all time favs are Hot Cocoa, London Fog and Coffee Shop❤️❤️❤️ If I could add that to unscented salve, great! I could bath in your oil blends? Good Luck!!
Hahahhaa “One Salve to Rule Them All”? I love it!
When I first read the salves are dead my heart broke. I truly hated reading this, though after our recent conversation about the difficulties getting ingredients, I wasn’t totally surprised. I literally credit your hair care advice & Freyas for totally rehabilitating my once horrid & damaged hair. In fact, I did a botch job at home layering recently to the point where it broke me into seeing a masked professional for a trim to fix it & she was so in love with how healthy my hair was that she didn’t even want to wash or dry it because she didn’t want to damage it’s wonderful condition.
That said, I was over the moon with happiness when I read that you will be making a new & seemingly improved salve & it just may have seasonal variations!!! Oh the joy! I honestly can’t wait for this. So im going to go vote but those jars are perfect & I’d love them. I think one formula with an unscwntwd option, a main scent and possibly seasonal scent would be the best idea ever. Also I did want to second something you mentioned about the unscented…I actually mix a few drops of your oils in with an unscented body lotion as I apply it & it works beautifully…so well that recently when out & about I was complimented for how soft & lovely I smelled…it was the Aurelia blend. ❤️
Aw I knew this would be upsetting because these salves are so beloved, but I’m glad the prospect of One Salve to Rule them All turned the sad read around. Aurelia is one of my favorite blends (and it smells great with Selkie) and I’ll cop to having made myself a custom Aurelia-scented batch of Freya’s salve.
The next step is figuring out jar sizes. I have half ounce, 2 ounce and 8 ounce sample jars, but I’m wondering if I don’t got 1/2 ounce, 2 ounce, and 4 ounce and then save the 8 ounce ones for custom orders for the bigger sizes?