Ahwatukee Foothills is home to Scentcerae, an innovative company selling beauty and hygiene products developed to be good for people as well as the planet.
From shampoo to lip balm to muscle rub, everything is made on-site by Sherae Christensen in a room of her home that looks a little like a scientist’s lab.
They’re sold online on Scentcerae.com and in a few brick-and-mortar stores around the country.
Christensen began making the products for herself when she lived in Japan and China for her husband’s job from 2010-17.
Due to autoimmune issues, she can’t use anything with endocrine disrupting chemicals or microplastics, which are common in personal care items. So, she translated labels to avoid anything that would give her problems.
“That’s when I realized how bad our ingredients are,” she said. “Because I lived overseas and was a traveling spouse, I did have the time to do the research, and it became a passion of mine to solve these problems.”
Christensen learned to formulate natural products that would work for her own skin using things like plant butters, herbs, organic essential oils, clays and botanical extracts.
She even created dental care using coconut oil, calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, mineral clays and more to clean, scrub and polish teeth and aid in oral health.
When she got back from Asia, Christensen continued making her products and earned diplomas in organic cosmetic science and organic hair care formulation from U.K.-based Formula Botanica. Using her background in design, she created labels and molds for the products.
In 2019, Christensen started selling Scentcerae on Etsy, and in 2020 she trademarked the name, which is derived from her late sister’s name, Soncerae.
Prices are similar to better mainstream brands found at drugstores: For example, face cleanser is $8.75, face moisturizer is $16.50, and shampoo and conditioner bars are $6.25 each; all prices are online.
Adamantly against using any plastic — not only for her own health, but to help the Earth — Christensen committed to using zero waste packaging.
She got the idea while living in Japan, which was much more environmentally aware than here: There, a family’s trash for the week has to fit in a small can.
Scentcerae uses biodegradable and refillable packaging made out of things like cork, cardboard, and refillable glass or tin. When people re-order products that originally are sent in glass or tin, Christensen sends products in compostable bags, and customers clean and refill their own items.
Products such as shampoo come in solid bars, which Christensen shapes to resemble rocks from various places she’s traveled.
“You can take it and go traveling with it,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about a bottle. It lasts longer than a bottle of shampoo.”
And, she added, regular shampoos contain about 90 percent water, so they’re heavier to ship and thus use more fossil fuels.
Loyal customer Roseanne Cheng of Ahwatukee said, “I really value zero waste. Sherae is really careful about not having wasteful packaging, wasteful shipping practices. I always know if I am getting something from her, I know at the very least I’m carbon neutral in terms of my footprint.”
Cheng’s favorite products are the sun base and pain relief lotion. “My kids always ask to use her sunscreen because it smells the best and works the best,” she said.
“Everything Hurts,” meanwhile, is “a really great lotion to put on for sore muscles or pulled muscles, which happens more frequently than I would like to admit,” Cheng remarked. “It’s also nice to give as a gift for anyone who might struggle with chronic pain and doesn’t like to take a lot of medications.”
Many Scentcerae products are also vegan, but Christensen does use beeswax if someone prefers it because it’s more nourishing and spreads easier on skin, she said.
Everything is cruelty-free, and she goes to great lengths to make sure her ingredients live up to that billing.
“There’s a lot of hidden things that you don’t even think that still have animal [products] or are tested on animals,” Christensen said, such as red dye made from insects used in many lipsticks, foods and textiles.
Christensen often develops products based on customer feedback.
“That’s a lot of how my tooth nibs’ flavors came about,” she said. Someone asked for star anise, and initially she was baffled that anyone would want to brush their teeth with a licorice flavor.
But after researching it, she realized star anise has many dental health benefits, and it’s now one of her six flavors.
Although no place yet in the Valley carries Scentcerae, Christensen does have some wholesale customers that sell from their websites as well as hair salons, dentist offices and zero-waste stores. And, she’s set up to use a company in Utah that can make larger orders if she gets them.
Christensen hopes that will happen so she can spread broader awareness of zero waste and eventually get Scenterae carried in major retailers.
“That’s my goal, is to get to that point where I can reach more people,” she said.
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