If Tval Skincare had been operating in Newfoundland back in the day, the threat by generations of women to wash out their children’s mouths with soap if they didn’t give up the potty talk would not have been nearly as effective.
With handmade soaps featuring names such as cantaloupe and clover, strawberry rhubarb crumble, sanguigno orange patchouli and blueberry verbena, it’s difficult to know whether you should eat them or wash with them.
The names are derived from some of the province’s natural fruits, berries and plants, whose qualities are reflected in the light, mixed scents.
The smells are almost beyond words.
Walking into the little treasure trove of a store on Water Street in St. John’s on a beautiful spring day, the sunbeams flooding the large front window seems to enhance the fragrances wafting through the room.
The smell is so fresh and yummy, you might find yourself thinking for a moment that you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in a bakery shop.
And, adding to the sensory confusion, is the display in the middle of the room which is made up of products that look like cheesecakes, icecream logs and cupcakes, and which smell just as appetizing.
Tval, the Swedish word for soap, is the brainchild of couple Anna Hellqvist and Jason Bailey. They opened their first shop in 2003 on Duckworth Street in the TD Building, moved it to Prescott Street and eventually to Water Street, in a premises that the business has called home for the past eight years.
According to its website, tvalskincare.com, Bailey and Hellqvist both have PhDs in biology, and Hellqvist has many years of “almost obsessive soap making and product development under her belt.”
In 2005, Bailey’s brother, Bobby, a makeup artist, joined the team.
“It’s been amazing,” Bobby Bailey said of the success in a recent interview.
“We have a following now of customers and we’re doing well. We sell online, wholesale on the side, so that helps, too, in the slower months,” he said.
The company motto, “Life is too short to use bad soap,” is supported by the team’s philosophy that skin products should be mild, inviting and moisturize, not be harsh and drying.
The secret behind the success of the products is the use of natural ingredients, said Wendy Rose, who works at the downtown store.
But she said there isn’t anything confidential about what goes into the products.
“There’s no secret,” said Rose. “If someone asks, we tell them. All of our products have the ingredients listed.
“We know they are trustworthy. Anna and Jason have the science behind them, so that ensures the high quality,” she said.
Once people are introduced to Tval and make the switch to natural products, she said, they seem to never go back to mass-produced, big box skincare products.
“A lot of people are addicted to our facial care line,” she said.
“Once you tried something that works, and it’s so natural — ingredients that have been on the Earth for thousands of years — you can trust them. You’d have a better chance of having a reaction to a beach rock then the mineral makeup, because it’s so natural,” she said laughing.
Another interesting product is made using coffee grounds from Hava Java called Coffee Kitchen Soap, but don’t let the name fool you, said Rose.
While it was developed to get rid of strong kitchen odours such as garlic and onions, she said it is great in the shower because the grounds work as a natural exfoliant.
“It’s my current favourite and smells like mints and coffee at the same time, while shedding that first layer of dry skin,” she said.
Leslie Halliday has worked with Tval for five years. She said one day Hellqvist explained the purpose behind the line.
“She said she was having issues with her skin and wanted to come out with better products for people — moisturizing ingredients,” Halliday said.
“Our biggest seller is the cleansing milk. It’s a very gentle cleanser and a fantastic makeup remover. It’s not irritating and you literally can just wipe it away,” she said.
Given the decadent scents and textures, it’s not hard to understand why several local restaurants have been drawn to Tval and have asked the company to develop specific fragrances for them.
“Bacalao, Mallard Cottage, The Sprout, Blue on Water — these products are exclusive to the restaurants and the products are designed especially for them, such as Mallard Cottage,” Rose said. “They wanted something very Newfoundland, so we made a partridgeberry and rosemary, combination.”
Each restaurant has its logo on the bottle.
The products aren’t on the shelves for retail sale, but if people want them they can ask at Tval’s counter.
The company has also created a cosmetic line using mineral makeup that is free from fillers, synthetics, preservatives and fragrances.
Bobby Bailey said the names are inspired by Newfoundland’s unique qualities, such as its weather.
“There’s just so many different names out there that can be used for our products,” said Bailey who called one of the blushes “My Ducky.”
There are also eyeshadows in Rain, Drizzle and Fog, and other makeup products called Firecracker, Heart’s Content and Blasty Boughs.