Aaron Conner makes light of his career choices, right on his own website. “I am a college graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics. Learned about stars exploding, now I make shampoo.”
Conner’s job involves more than just making shampoo. He built an almost entirely waste-free business from the ground up.
He is the founder of Healthy Skin for a Happy Life, a holistic company making bath and beauty products out of Wexford. Not only are their products entirely natural, but the process for their production is highly eco-friendly.
Conner says that it’s a combination of his collegiate experience, his many interests, and his desire for an innovative workspace that inspired him to forge his own business. And it’s his belief in their cause that keeps their products– and their process– pure.
Healthy Skin for a Healthy Life uses an impressive list of all-natural ingredients to compose its products, which include a shampoo, body scrub and several soaps. Whole lemons are squeezed into each bottle of shampoo. Instead of fighting against the natural fragrances of cleaning agents like apple cider vinegar, Conner says they work with the scent, pairing it with a basil base.
“People ask me all the time, for example, what’s wrong with putting a fragrance in a product? It’s not truly natural. It’s not true to the idea.” Instead, Healthy Skin for a Happy Life looks for essential oils that serve the same purpose as the fragrances, that contain neurotoxins. “It’s all about finding the healthier alternative ingredients, swapping out the toxins that have been in our showers for decades for the healthiest, most beneficial and most sustainable ingredients we can find.”
Conner says that Allegheny College, where he attended, “had a different outlook on how people function and on life in general. It was kind of a progressive view on how things were done. Allegheny College is very progressive on its own. Even in physics the professors wanted us to be doing things that were green and sustainable.”
Conner graduated from Allegheny College in May of 2012. Like every post-grad, he had high hopes for finding a job within his field. But he refused to settle for a company that wasn’t thinking ahead; a company that wasn’t renewing its processes in favor of something sustainable. So he built his own.
Healthy Skin for a Happy Life was founded in September of 2013, and started selling products by February of 2014.
“We’re almost zero impact. Our products are all-natural, compared to other companies who say they are. The label of “all-natural” is not really regulated. We don’t have any chemicals. Synethetics, sulfate, lather agents, we don’t use any of that stuff. It’s good, it’s green. Your skin is a huge organ absorbing a massive amount of material on a daily basis. You’re taking steps back if you’re not using clean products on your skin.”
Conner says the inspiration for his holistic approach to business was influenced largely by his mentors at Allegheny College, and their forward thinking in taking care of your body.
“People really believe in an internal balance. But you have to pair the balance internally with an external balance as well. And cosmetics is your external balance. They always say diet is good, meditation is good. Complete the whole picture and put good things on your exterior as well.”
Perhaps most impressive is Healthy Skin’s ability to pair clean, green products with a production process that holds its own.
“Everything in our products is biodegradable,” explains Conner. “When you wash it down your sink, it doesn’t just sit there, it’s not having to get filtered. It breaks down. No impact in terms of how you use the product. The bottles are recyclable, and all tags are biodegradable. Any sort of waste we have is either recycled or re-used. Large containers we use to store other stuff. Plastics and paper all gets recycled. Anything we can compost, gets composted. We limit our paper use, and utilize the internet. Even our packaging (I think styrofoam is the worst invention ever) we use wood shavings that are compostable, giving our customers the option of having zero waste. We just don’t have trash.”
Conner says that he’s proud of the process they’ve created, and equally as proud of the products they provide the public. What’s difficult, he says, is thinking big.
“We’re aiming for environmental stewardship. We’re small right now but it’s all a logistical nightmare of how you continue to do this as you get larger. How can you do this the way we’re doing it now, but on a larger scale? Without a footprint?”
With the idea of remaining eco-friendly in mind, Conner doesn’t do a lot of advertising. He believes that the quality of his products and service will speak for itself. A recommendation between friends is paperless.
“I always think that growing isn’t the best thing. I don’t like advertising, I don’t put a lot of money into it, so that money gets put into something else. We operate largely by word of mouth.”
But Conner also concedes that the “green” label isn’t always the easiest thing to market. People tend to want the product that works the fastest, for the lowest price.
“There are some people who absolutely love our products, who write us the nicest emails. But it’s so hard for some people to break out of their normal routine. Some of our products–they have to be used a little differently, because they aren’t a traditional, no-fuss cleaner. People are hesitant to start a new routine– a cleaner, better routine.”
Conner believes people need to slow down and take care that they put as much good on their bodies as they do to what goes in.
“The first thing that you should do is look right at that ingredients label. Always.”