“I had no intentions of starting the skin care line,” she said. “If anything, it was the furthest thing from my mind, because I had been in the industry and knew how tough the road is.”
After more than a decade in Manhattan, she craved “fresh air,” so she left the city and drove West with her husband in a U-Haul, landing in Jackson, Wyo. — which they had once visited on a ski trip. A year later, she opened the town’s only beauty shop at the time, Alpyn Beauty Bar, and the skin care brand, released in 2018, was born after Butler discovered that her shoppers weren’t able to find products that met the needs of living in Jackson. The town sits 6,237 feet high in altitude, and has a dry and sunny climate. Customers faced issues like sun damage, dryness and hyperpigmentation.
“Women were coming in and buying skin care and then returning it a few days later,” she said of her business, whose two locations are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. “I was in double-digit percentage return rate for skin care. That’s when I started to look at the plants that were growing all around me, literally in my backyard. I thought, ‘How has nature found a way to adapt and evolve in this climate that’s just wreaking havoc on all of the human skin?’ These plants, thousands of species of plants, they were green, plump, juicy, hydrated.”
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She educated herself and began wildcrafting — harvesting plants from their natural habitat — locally.
“I quickly found that if it works in the mountains, it’s an Olympian when you take it to sea level,” she added.
While providing performance-driven skin care, now found at retailers like Credo Beauty and Sephora, Butler’s mission is to wildcraft sustainably, protecting the living plant, while giving back to environmental organizations like One Percent for the Planet and the local Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
How common is it for the beauty industry to utilize wildcrafting?
I don’t think it’s done in beauty a lot. I know that our ancestors have done it in medicine before. It’s very medicinal. Herbalists have used it. Chefs are starting to get into it, but I had never really seen it in skin care. My thing was, if you’re putting in these wild, fresh mountain actives, these raw plants, are we going to start to see a little bit of a difference? And that’s what led me down this path, just chipping away one step at a time.
What was that first step?
It was hard. I had to find a manufacturer. I knew that I couldn’t make this stuff on my stoves, but I knew enough about ingredients, so I started writing a formula, and it was for our first product, Melt. I was like, ‘What do I want in this?’ Obviously, all my wild plants, so I gathered those. I added vitamin C and ceramides. I was pregnant and breastfeeding at the time, so I needed to find a retinal alternative, and I found bakuchiol. Then I thought, ‘I need to find a contract manufacturer,’ so I started calling around to labs. I made about 20 phone calls. Nineteen of them hung up on me. I said ‘I wrote a formula, and I have wild, fresh plants that I want to bring to you to put in this formula.’ And they were like, ‘Oh no, honey. That’s not how we do it in the beauty industry. We source from our ingredient suppliers.’
I got a lucky break. The 20th manufacturer that I called, they were like, ‘Bring us your plants. We like this idea.’ So, literally we drove a pickup truck of plants to this manufacturer, and he gave us 50 little sample pots of Melt. I took them back to the beauty stores and dropped them in bags. And that was the moment that I knew I was onto something. Women were grabbing me by the shoulders and saying, ‘What was in that pot?’
From a business standpoint, how did the brand grow from there?
Next, I needed to verify it. I sent some samples to [Credo Beauty cofounder and chief operating officer] Annie Jackson and Goop. Annie was the first to discover my brand. Credo and Goop, they were my first retailers, and they actually bought into the line before I produced it. We went into production, and the first products were a cleanser, an eye balm, serum and moisturizer.
How does that happen, launching with Credo Beauty from the start?
Annie Jackson wrote my first [purchase order]. I flew out to San Francisco. I met with her, and I was just like, ‘Look, I believe that this is where we are going in clean and natural skin care. I’m doing this thing called wildcrafting, and it’s really amazing in so many ways. Most importantly, the results that it’s delivering to the skin using these plants is changing things for the people who are shopping in my stores, and I want to launch this on a bigger platform.’
What brought the brand initial growth?
I think it’s the accumulation of all of the small successes. There’s a secular growth trend right now of people looking for clean beauty but also brands that have a mission statement and are telling a story in a unique way. There’s a lot of noise right now in the space. Clean beauty is something that the consumer as a whole is becoming more and more interested in, and [they’re] looking for brands that have purpose, that are doing something to give back. We check a lot of those boxes.
We’ve seen explosive growth through the pandemic year. I don’t really know what to peg that to, if it’s the Gen Z and Millennial consumer looking for more mission-based brands that have a clear point of difference, or if people are just really starting to pay attention to what they put on their face and in their bodies. We’ve seen a triple-digit increase [year-over-year]. It’s been two years straight with triple-digit increases.
What’s next for Alpyn Beauty?
We have a really big serum launch in May. We’ve combined a wild stinging nettle with niacinamide. I actually ran into a nettle patch by accident last summer when I was harvesting, and it stung my arm. I started to research the plant, and found that it actually has very high anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Then in July we have the Grand Teton National Park Foundation set with a few products. We’re donating all the proceeds to the park. Long term, down the road, I just want to continue to grow this brand so that we can grow the contribution that we’re giving back. That’s my whole thing, this round trip if you will.