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Peacham herbalist wins international awards for all-natural deodorant bars

Herbalist Wendy Mackenzie of Peacham, Vt displays her award-winning all-natural deodorants.
Matthew Langham/Courtesy
Herbalist Wendy Mackenzie of Peacham, Vt displays her award-winning all-natural deodorants.

For the last 20 years, Peacham resident Wendy Mackenzie has devoted herself to perfecting natural body care products… and not just products that are good for people, but also for pollinators, and in turn, the planet.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she set out to create an organic, long-lasting, cream deodorant. After about two years of formula testing, MacKenzie perfected the recipe, garnering international awards.

Vermont Public’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with herbalist Wendy Mackenzie, founder and co-owner of the Everlasting Herb Farm in Peacham, Vermont, and winner of two international awards for her Meadow Bee Deodorants. Their conversation below has been condensed and edited for clarity.   

Mitch Wertlieb: I want to find out first about this competition that you entered your products into — a pretty big one. You were up against some big companies, some small companies — as big as Unilever, which folks have heard of, and against products as well-known and as popular as Burt's Bees. Tell us a little bit about this competition and the two awards that your deodorant won. 

Sure it's the Beauty Shortlist Awards. It's a global competition where big and little companies compete. And we won two out of the six deodorant categories in the competition. And I never would have thought to enter the competition except that I'm taking an online series of classes through a school called Formula Botanica in London. It was suggested that we enter our products, and lo and behold, this little deodorant from Peacham won!

You must have been so excited about that. What were the two categories you won in? 

We won "best natural deodorant, zero waste," and "best natural deodorant, unscented." We only sent two products, and I didn't even send our scented product, which smells heavenly.

Now this is a cream deodorant. What does that mean, exactly? Is it cream-based? What's it like when you apply it to the skin? 

So the reason why I even have a cream formulation is because I was part of a community group, and there was a woman in the community group who had had a stroke. And she couldn't apply deodorant to one side of her body with a traditional deodorant stick. So she needed a cream deodorant. And she knew I made skincare products and she asked me to make her one.

And at the time, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a cream deodorant. And I knew that to make a cream, you needed to add water. And then if you added water, you needed to add a preservative. And I didn't want to do either of those things. So what I did is I tried making a cream with the Formula Botanica method that I had learned, where you take a butter, which is pretty solid, and you add an oil and you kind of make a consistency like frosting. So that's how I started out with a cream that wasn't really a cream.

And one day I had a disastrous fail, where it had gotten really hot in Vermont. And when I went back to the jar, half of the jar had melted. So half the jar was gone. It was now a blob in the bottom of the jar. And I was horrified! But that helped me figure out how to make the cream even better. And then how to make a solid bar.

How did that failure help you to make it even better? 

I thought, "Okay, wait, I can work with you, I can make you even more solid." So that's what I've spent two years testing and trying to do because what you need to have is a product that you can ship to Arizona in the summer that won’t melt but still glide across the body. So I have a shelf by the woodstove. I just did two years of testing, testing on friends and family; testing with my children when they were willing to do it; and just trying to get the right consistency and swapping out ingredients to get the right consistency.

All-natural deodorant bars from Meadow Bee in Peacham, Vt.
Craig Harrison of Harrison Creative in Peacham/Courtesy
All-natural deodorant bars from Meadow Bee in Peacham, Vt.

Can you talk a little bit about the ingredients? Or is this kind of like a secret recipe that you just can't reveal?

Well, this is the amazing thing — I didn't start with anybody else's formulation. I didn't look to see what other companies were doing. And I just basically made my own chocolate chip cookie recipe without looking at anybody else's.

But it has nine ingredients. What's pretty cool about this deodorant is they're things that you would recognize. They’re not all chemical names and that kind of thing, they’re basic, natural ingredients, many of the ingredients in the deodorant.

And now can you produce this in bigger quantities than you thought you ever could before? I mean, how much of this are you making now?

I'm gonna be making more and more. I've recently gotten equipment to help me make a bigger batch, and I think I'm gonna. I'm just a highly efficient person. So I'm gonna see what I can do.

But what I'm finding is it's opening doors, little stores are now more willing to have my deodorant in their stores. And I am really excited because in the end of April, the Vermont Country Store and their two retail stores will be carrying this deodorant.

These products are good for people. They're good for pollinators, too. How is it that they are good for pollinators?

I thought, I'm a teacher, I have a background in education, and I thought, Oh, this is my chance to really promote the plight of the solitary pollinators right now." I could also donate some of my money from the profits of this bar back to the Vermont Center for Ecostudies because they do so much great research with these so we know where we're at and what we need to do.

And the next cool thing is it doesn't come in traditional plastic packaging. It comes in these little metal tins, which are infinitely recyclable and just so pretty too that maybe you would want to even reuse them.

Another top thing about this deodorant is it's non-irritating. It doesn't contain baking soda, which has too high of a pH for your skin. It has organic tapioca starch, and that has the same pH as your skin. And so people who have tried natural deodorants but haven't had success finding one that works and doesn't irritate them, are finding great success with this one. I'm getting feedback from people all over the country from southern states and they're telling me like how they've gone to weddings and the deodorant worked.

And that's just a big win. But the reason why it does work is that it contains zinc ricinoleate, and that's from the castor plant. It's a plant-based ingredient that traps odor.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Karen is Vermont Public's Director of Radio Programming, serving Vermonters by overseeing the sound of Vermont Public's radio broadcast service. Karen has a long history with public radio, beginning in the early 2000's with the launch of the weekly classical music program, Sunday Bach. Karen's undergraduate degree is in Broadcast Journalism, and she has worked for public radio in Vermont and St. Louis, MO, in areas of production, programming, traffic, operations and news. She has produced many projects for broadcast over the years, including the Vermont Public Choral Hour, with host Linda Radtke, and interviews with local newsmakers with Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb. In 2021 Karen worked with co-producer Betty Smith on a national collaboration with StoryCorps One Small Step, connecting Vermonters one conversation at a time.
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