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Jefferson County woman soothes skin woes with line of natural soaps

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Photo courtesy of Christine Snyder. Crystal Peace sells her all-natural Peace of Nature soap products at Black Dog Coffee in Bardane as well as online. Photo courtesy of Christine Snyder. Crystal Peace sells her all-natural Peace of Nature soap products at Black Dog Coffee in Bardane as well as online.
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By CHRISTINE SNYDER
For The State Journal

CHARLES TOWN — Crystal Peace believes she isn't the only person who prefers wholesome ingredients such as oatmeal, coconut milk, carrots and honey to ammonium lauryl sulphate, dimethicone, sodium benzoate and other exotic chemicals.

Peace says interest in her hand-made line of restorative, gentle soaps, shampoos, lotions and other products continues to grow.

Unlike commercial shampoos, soaps and body washes that contain chemicals that many believe may be harmful to health, Peace — owner of the home-based business Peace of Nature — chooses only soothing, healing substances for her products.

 "For me, it's not enough for something to be natural; I want it to be better than natural," said Peace, who grew up in Seattle and moved to the Eastern Panhandle in 2000. "Why not use ingredients that are actually beneficial? When you're using something made with coconut milk, Vitamin E and aloe juice, you're able to promote healing and good health."

 Peace came to her line of work about five years ago after her daughter, then a preschooler, began to have problems with dryness on her scalp. 

The 45-year-old didn't take the child to a doctor or seek out a remedy from stores. 

"With my daughter being so young, I didn't want her given a prescription steroid cream or be advised to use a harsh shampoo formulated for adults," she said. "I didn't want to put her system through all that."

 Peace turned to natural products sold in stores but found they focused on the hair, not the scalp, and actually made matters worse. 

Next, Peace went into research mode, searching for oils, herbs, extracts and time-tested home remedies that might bring about the healing her youngster's scalp needed.

 Peace began concocting a diluted baking soda mixture for cleansing. She chose mashed avocado and mayonnaise for conditioning and finished with an apple cider vinegar rinse to restore the hair's pH balance.

She also discovered herbs from India that are known to heal naturally. 

"Ayurveda herbs have been used for centuries," she said. "There are herbs that strengthen hair at its roots, nurture the skin, stimulate hair growth, fight against hair loss … so many different benefits. 

"It's all based on promoting good health rather than fighting disease." 

 In just a few weeks, her daughter's scalp was healthy again and her hair felt soft, looked beautiful and proved easier to style, too, Peace said.

The positive outcome nudged Peace to begin crafting more and more homemade products for hair and skin — creations that she initially shared just with family and friends.

But in the spring of 2012 when Peace was laid off from her job as a virtual office manager, she decided to transform the sideline hobby she found so satisfying into her main occupation. 

"I'd been hearing from friends and family for a while that I ought to sell my soaps and hair products," she said. "I knew I had something that was very good, that worked well and that there's a market for.

"So many people are dealing with allergic reactions to all the chemicals that are in the typical off-the-shelf product or they just don't want to expose themselves and their children to all the chemicals that are in the products you find in stores."

Now Peace makes some two dozen products that she sells on her website, www.peaceofnature.com, and at local stores, including Black Dog Coffee Co. in the Jefferson County town of Bardane, the Local Source in downtown Shepherdstown and Petrucci's Country Market in Hedgesville. She's also found a welcome audience for her products with a booth she mans on Saturdays at the Charles Town Farmers Market.

"The response has been incredible," Peace said. "I'll have a customer try my soap and then they're back for more. They tell people they know about me or give some of my products as gifts. People like that my stuff is natural."

With the arrival of winter, Peace has been busy creating products that will help her customers keep their skin and hair nicely moisturized. 

"The cold and dry air rob us of the natural oils that our skin needs to stay healthy," she said. 

One of her most popular wintertime items is her body butter made with unrefined shea butter. The thick and rich mousse —lacking any wax or binding agents — doesn't get made during the summer because heat messes with the mousse's texture, even once it's cooled back down, Peace said.

She's also seeing more customers seek out her bar soaps. Coconut milk, the soap's primary ingredient, has a high fat content that allows it to clean deeply but doesn't over dry the skin, strip away natural oils or create irritation.

Peace also makes seasonal varieties of soap as well as a peppermint foot scrub, a natural deodorant cream, leave-in hair conditioner, scalp massage oil, lemongrass rosemary body polish, herbal salves, lip balms, facial soap and moisturizing cream.

Other popular Peace of Nature items include gift sets, air freshener, bug spray, sun block and even a laundry detergent that comes in a charming retro drawstring bag. She also offers a Soap of the Month Club for members to receive a bar of freshly made, seasonal soap in their mailboxes 12 times a year.

Though Peace makes all her products with the highest quality possible ingredients, she also buys in bulk, negotiates with suppliers and takes other steps to ensure her prices remain competitive. 

"I work really hard to keep everything $10 or less," she said. "It's important to me to keep my products within reach of people even if they're on a budget."

She sees the soaps and other Peace of Nature items as a chance to introduce more good into the world. 

"It's very satisfying work," she said. "So many people don't want to use products with harsh chemicals, but they feel they don't have the time, knowledge or expertise to figure out another way.

"That's where I come in. I've done the research and so now it's easy and convenient to turn to Peace of Nature to take care of yourself and your family with things that are actually good for you. 

"It feels good to be able to provide that service."

More Info

What: Peace of Nature soaps, skincare and more

Where: Order online at www.peaceofnature.com 

For details: Call 888-676-6541 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, email crystal@peaceofnature.com, go online to peaceofnature.com or find Peace of Nature on Facebook.