From useless farm waste to a magnificent cleansing and healing product that has literally changed people’s lives.
That’s the story behind Utara Soaps — handmade luxury soap with medicinal properties made by Amy Arnett-Smith.
It all started when she cringed at throwing away broken mangosteens on her family’s Kilauea farm.
“Mangosteen is incredibly valuable,” drawing $10 a pound, Arnett-Smith explains. But if the purple globes drop off the tree and the shells crack, the precious “queen of fruit” inside is wasted.
As Arnett-Smith gathered up the rejects to cart away, she kept hearing her grandmother’s words: “Waste not, want not.” Knowing the rind is packed with antioxidants and xanthones, and that the naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial superfruit has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia, she researched how best to make use of the bounty left behind.
“This stuff is so good for you, and I hated seeing it go to waste,” she remembers.
Then she thought of making soap. After a year’s work — “I’m an industrious person,” she says with a laugh — she perfected the cold-process recipe: adding mangosteen rind powder to a moisturizing base of coconut and extra virgin oils, scented with a blend of essential oils (sandalwood, lavender, patchouli and orange oils) chosen both for scent and beneficial side-effects.
“The intention of the soap, first of all, is that it’s not harmful in any way,” by introducing toxins for your liver and kidney to filter out, she explains. “But it is also helpful.”
Arnett-Smith started selling mangosteen soap about five years ago at sunshine markets, alongside produce and exotic fruits from the family’s main business, Viva Rain Farms.
The soap found a grateful audience. Clients rave that it provides relief from acne, eczema, rashes and other skin ailments.
The stories are profound: the Kaua`i woman who was on heavy medication for excessive eczema, now completely healed. The tourist who had suffered for six months from a mysterious rash over 80 percent of his body, that medicine didn’t help but mangosteen soap washed away.
Still others have claimed relief from psoriasis and lichen sclerosis.
“It feels really good to know that someone, somewhere, is getting something good out of it,” Arnett-Smith says.
She now has a slew of long-term clients, many of whom picked up a bar while visiting a market and now order regular shipments for themselves, friends and family.
As the years passed, her fans clamored for more products. So Arnett-Smith got creative again, designing a jasmine and shea butter sweet and sassy beauty bar in honor of her daughter. It’s scented with fresh ylang-ylang blossoms, rose, vanilla and sandalwood oils. Other additions include a creamy honey and avocado soap; a spicy honey, ginger and tumeric soap; and at her husband’s request, a lemongrass and peppermint shaving and body soap.
The soaps have been “getting lots of good reviews,” but the list is intentionally short. “I want to keep it to a small, quality product line without adding lots of different things,” Arnett-Smith explains.
Utara Soaps are scented with all-natural oils and coloring, using fresh ingredients grown locally. Arnett-Smith is emphatic that her soaps are all-natural, non-toxic and safe for the whole family.
The soaps smell so good, one is tempted to taste them. The solid six-ounce rounds, packaged simply in small paper bags, are packed full of Kaua`i-grown goodness: fresh avocado and honey from the farm’s bees, spicy notes from local turmeric and ginger, ylang-ylang from a friend’s tree.
“Everything is stuff we have on our farm,” Arnett-Smith says. “If we don’t have it, we get it from friends.”
Mangosteen soap is also available in liquid form as an 8-ounce bottle of bath, body and hair wash that tames frizzy hair when used as a shampoo.
This month, Arnett-Smith is offering a holiday special at the sunshine markets: six bars of the soap of your choice for $30.
Viva Rain Farms sells Utara Soaps at five markets: Tuesday in Hanalei, Wednesday in Kapa`a, Thursday in Kilauea, and Saturday in Hanalei and Kilauea.
The soaps are also available at Banana Joe’s and The Healthy Hut in Kilauea; Harvest Market and Hawaiian Beach and Body in Hanalei; and Papaya’s in Kapa`a.
Orders also can be placed online at utara-soap.com, where appreciative customers can leave testimonials.
“It’s been a really fun little business,” Arnett-Smith reflects. But her face lights up when she describes how people have been soothed by something that was once considered junk.
“It’s really cool that it’s been helpful to people,” Arnett-Smith says with a warm, satisfied smile.