Robin King and Lynn Till had been running in the same social circles for years before the two sat down and realized they shared a passion for beauty products. "She just randomly said to me one day, I don't know why I'm telling you this, but would you like to make lotions together," Till says with a laugh about King's approach. "I pretty much freaked out on her; as a creative outlet, I had been mixing teas and flower essences at home for years. It kind of just took off from there."
The duo's skincare line R.L. Linden -- named after Robin and Lynn and the Linden tree found all over Colorado -- took shape early in 2013 and they began putting products on very select local store shelves last August. Focusing on all-organic products, Till and King create their small-batch line by hand, using formulations they have perfected through many cycles of testing and trying things on themselves.
"We started mixing things together and just nerding out -- both of our bathrooms were filled with hundreds of little containers of lotions called like "1A" and "1B" and "1C," says Till of the company's start. The hobby quickly became a business, and the women got to work creating facial cleansers, healing teas and lotions from plant-based materials. Neither of them have any formal chemistry training, but King is a certified Master Nutrition Therapist and Till has worked in the beauty industry and herbal medicine field for years. The two have taken basic pharmacology classes.
"Our formulas are very much steeped in Western herbal tradition -- but from a more 'high end' cosmetics side," says Till. "Our formulating is sort of split down the middle -- some product formulations are mostly Robin and some are mostly me, but both of us tweak each one. She may have an idea and will come up with the prototype and then we'll work on it together to get to the final version. Sometimes it takes two or three tries and sometimes it takes over twenty tries. Each formulation is a little bit different."
Till shares that her years working the beauty industry taught her that many commercial product lines touting "organic" and "green" labels aren't what they seem. "Looking back at what I used product-wise and thought was 'natural' versus what I know now -- there is so much green-washing that goes on with companies. A product will say "oh, it has an herb in it!" and it will be the last ingredient, and it is often under an unrecognizable name."
In contrast, R.L. Linden lists all of its ingredients in its online store for the customer to see. No chemicals or unpronounceable contents -- just natural ingredients like organic coconut oil, herbs, flower essences and spring water. The packaging, which is all recyclable or compostable, is also eco-conscious. Items are bottled in protective, ultra-violet Miron glass and come with paper-less, tree-free labels made from calcium carbonate run-off from construction sites.
"One of our pet peeves is paper labels -- if you keep your products in the shower, then the labels just kind of disintegrate and it don't really look pretty," Till shares. "As silly or frivolous as that seems, when that's the only thing we're treating ourselves with, we take it very seriously. The stone labels were one of the only fully natural label options that didn't curl up and look yucky in the shower."
R.L. Linden's products are currently available online and in a handful of local stores, but the small-but-mighty operation has recently benefited from buzz via organic beauty bloggers -- and some Hollywood exposure.
Last January, R.L. Linden's Thousand Petal Beautifying Mist was used by green make-up-artist-to-the-stars Katey Denno on Lizzie Caplan at the Golden Globes and on Isla Fisher at the SAG awards. Business is definitely booming, but Till and King made a promise early on to take part in the making of each product, start to finish.
"The largest amount of one product that we've made at one time is 48 (individual containers.) In general, we tend to do much lower amounts, or if we have a big order, we do a couple of batches back-to-back so that we can ensure quality," says Till of the at-home production line. "We're still fairly small, but it is one thing that we've talked about as our line grows -- Robin and I always want to have a hand 100-percent in formulating and always have a hand in manufacturing. That is a choice we made at the beginning -- we hope that it grows much bigger and that we're able to make a decent living off of it, but we're not willing to let the product quality go down or change to make big orders. It is much more important for us to have a hand in it and take care of the people that carry us than to make a huge order for a company that would lower our quality."
In addition to R.L. Linden & Co., King and Till have recently formed Witch & Bitch with fellow local herbal entrepreneur Shae Whitney, proprietor of DRAM Apothecary. This new endeavor combines the three's love and appreciation of herbal alchemy with the spirit of community connection and education. A "badass Girl Scouts for grown women," Witch & Bitch offers classes from foraging and tea blending to beer making and ax throwing.
Witch & Bitch's first two summer classes on foraging, tea blending and plant medicine sold out quickly and the trio is planning more classes for the fall. This first edition of Witch & Bitch will take place in Silver Plume, where Whitney's apothecary operation is based out of.
"We just wanted to offer a really fun and accessible plant-based medicine and folk knowledge course," says Till of the classes. "We've all taken a bunch of amazing herb classes, but sometimes it feels slightly outdated or for lack of better terminology, more "older hippy." It feels like there is a whole new generation of women that are excited and interested in this. Our thought was to make something similar to how Stitch & Bitch made knitting and crochet accessible and about community learning -- bring these things back around and in a hip, cool and accessible atmosphere."
R.L. Linden's products are currently available online and in select stores; the brand also exclusively makes the products used by local chemical-free Base Coat Modern Nail Salon X Gallery. Find out more about DRAM Apothecary via its website; information on Witch & Bitch classes can be found at its homebase.
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