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By Sarah Hodges

There is something absolutely special about things we make with our hands. Perhaps the touch of care can only be translated by human intentionality, in a way no machine process can truly mimic. 

About four years ago Melanie Wood developed a rash on her face that would not go away. She tried ointments, saw doctors, and used the recommended prescriptions, all to no avail. Some medical creams brought momentary relief, others did nothing at all. After many futile attempts, Melanie began to experiment on her own, paying attention to what she ate and especially to what she put on her skin. Upon closer observation, she discovered that she was having an allergic reaction to Sodium Laureth sulphate (also known as SLES), a chemical put into many skin care products, soaps, and detergents to make bubbles. Melanie decided to take matters into her own hands – literally. She cleaned out her cabinets and dug into some research about what was actually in the “natural” products she found in health food stores and drugstores. In the following months, her discoveries proved to be life-changing.

Finding truly natural products was a tough undertaking. To Melanie’s surprise, many products labeled as “natural” were in fact filled with chemicals. “So, I set out to make a facial cleanser that was completely chemical-free. I educated myself on the chemicals in other products and learned how I could replace those with natural, local ingredients,” reports Melanie. After about six months of using her own cleanser, Melanie cleared her persistent rash, and to her surprise she started receiving comments from her friends: “Melanie, your skin looks better than ever!” It was clear, she was onto something. Pun intended!

Melanie had retired as commercial pilot and held no intention of starting a new entrepreneurial journey. Only after she began making the ointment for a widening group of friends did she realize that she needed to share her newly developing skincare line. “I feel as if I was called to this path, and the island is now guiding me through it,” Melanie reflects. Melanie named the company Oahu Organics, perfectly fit for the line of plant-based products she was crafting. She rented a booth at the local Farm Lovers market, drawing interest from both the market clients and local farm vendors. Upon hearing what she had done with a few simple, local ingredients, farmers posed the question to her: “What can you do with our plants?” One farmer brought her some cucumbers from his farm. The farmers’ questions stirred Melanie’s creativity. She was making her way into something new and exciting. 

“I just love how it all happened organically — no pun intended!” Melanie laughs. Once the inspiration landed on her, she knew she had to take action. She has met more and more farmers, finding where and how she can get the local ingredients for her next products. Some she can buy already dried and ground, such as the ginger and turmeric powders that she gets from Kauai. Other ingredients she begins from a seed on parcels of farmland entrusted to her by various farmers. She even has eager customers, intrigued by the process, who volunteer on the farms and help to pick weeds and care for the plants. Everything used in the serums and oils goes through Melanie’s touch and intention before reaching the customer, giving her clients the peace of mind that they’re really getting what is on the label: all local, organic, natural ingredients. 

Now, three years old, Oahu Organic holds a captive audience from across the U.S., Japan, Hong Kong, and as far as Europe and Australia. For this coming year, Melanie aims to bring an educational component to Oahu Organic’s mission. “I love empowering people to make good, informed decisions about their skincare,” Melanie enthuses. 

We live in a time when it’s important to question what commercial labels say. Since it’s difficult for most of us to know where to start, Melanie shares a shorthand she uses when looking at skin and body products. The first clue, she says, is to check whether a product has aqua (water) as one of the main ingredients. Products with a water base need some kind of preservative chemical to keep it from going bad. Secondly, look out for products with alcohol and “fragrance”, as neither is good for repeated use on the skin. Lastly, beware of any product with Aloe gel: manufacturers nearly always mix aloe with a chemical preservative, then add it to the product as a gel, bypassing the requirement to label the chemicals in it.

Melanie considers herself to be the middle-woman between nature and people interested in natural skincare. She works dutifully with the plants, combining dried and powdered ingredients with organic oils, making each bottle of her skincare line potent and highly concentrated. She conscientiously designs all her packaging to be reusable and recyclable. The entire process of making Oahu Organics is eco-friendly and sustainable. 

At the bottom of the mountains in Waimanalo, and across farms on Oahu, Maui and Kauai, somebody’s skincare regimen is beginning. Planted with care, hand-picked, and guided by the mana of the islands, Oahu Organics leads the way in farm-to-face skincare. Melanie has started a quiet revolution towards wellness through nature and the human touch.

You can find Melanie’s products online at https://oahuorganicsinc.com or visit her at the Saturday Farmers Market in Kaka’ako, or Sundays at the KailuaTown farmers market, both 8 am – 12 pm.

Enjoy a 15% discount from now until January 31, 2021 at Oahu Organics with the code: STILLANDMOVING

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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)