Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
When Kendra Kolb Butler moved from New York City to Jackson Hole in 2015, she faced every beauty industry veteran's nightmare: there were no apothecaries in town. Less than a year later, Butler opened Alpyn Beauty Bar, a boutique she stocked with a mix of clean and clinical skincare brands from Dr. Dennis Gross to Tata Harper. The store, located on the Wyoming town's main drag, instantly took off and Butler opened a second location just two months later.
Business was booming and Butler's stores were packed, but there was one problem: customers were returning products. They found that the formulas weren't moisturizing enough for their skin, especially after being outdoors in the high elevation all day. So, Butler decided to make her own products, sourcing natural, botanical ingredients from the area's thriving wildlife. And thus, Alpyn Beauty was born.
Inspired by the landscape in her own backyard, Butler turned to a local farmer to teach her about the wild plants growing in Jackson Hole's mountains and valleys. To her surprise, she was already familiar with many of them. Plants like sage and calendula are ingredients in the skincare products she had been using for years.
As of 2019, there's five products in the line, including a cleanser, moisturizer, eye cream, serum, and mask. In addition to being sold at Butler's brick-and-mortar boutiques and on the brand's site, Alpyn Beauty is available on QVC, and has Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop seal of approval.
Here, we chat with Butler about the difficulties of making natural skincare products, what "wildcrafted" means, the importance of sustainability in the beauty industry, and more.
Tell me how you got your start in the beauty industry?
From bright blue eyeliner in my stocking when I was 6-years-old to playing with lipstick, I’ve always been obsessed with beauty and knew what do to with makeup and skincare products from a young age. I did an internship at Givenchy in London after college and fell in love with working in the beauty industry. Then I moved to New York and worked for a few different brands. I spent the longest period of time with Dr. Dennis Gross, who is a Manhattan dermatologist and the creator of the cult-favorite Alpha Beta Peel. I started there as director of communications and when I left I was senior vice president of shelf and marketing, a position where I worked with retailers. It was a wonderful experience and gave me the knowledge I needed for my next step.
How did you end up moving to Wyoming and opening a boutique in Jackson Hole?
I had been working in the beauty industry for 15 years and was craving nature, fresh air, and needed a drastic life change. My husband and I had a moment where we decided we needed to get away from the toxins, stress, and anxiety of the city. Life is short, and New York wasn’t for us anymore. We decided to move to Jackson Hole as a temporary break to regroup, but the plan was always to go back to the city. That was four-and-a-half years ago, and we’re still here.
I started to miss my products and stores a few weeks after getting to Jackson Hole. There was no opportunity to go to Sephora to see what the new skincare launches were or know what makeup is trending because there was no apothecary in town. I saw it as an opportunity to get back into the beauty industry by opening a store stocked with the best skincare and cosmetics brands.
You come from a clinical skincare background. How was making natural products different?
Living in this environment was inspiring to me because there are natural skincare ingredients growing all around me with proven benefits to the skin. I wanted to translate this into a product line. When you start a skincare line, you typically go to ingredient manufacturers. I was different in the sense that I had my own plants I wanted to put into stable formulas with vitamin C, bakuchiol, and melatonin, among other ingredients. Since this wasn’t how you typically approach products, it was difficult to find a lab that would work with me. Once I did, I needed to be able to test the products. I was pregnant and breastfeeding at the time and my doctor told me I couldn’t use retinol. Other ingredients also became scary to me because whatever was going into my skin was going to go into my baby. So, that’s why I decided to make the line clean. Coming from a clinical skincare background, I was worried about sacrificing results for the sake of making the formulas natural. However, once I started using the formulas I was making with ingredients from Jackson Hole, I was shocked that my skin didn’t just look good — it looked better.
You say your the brand's products are "wildcrafted." What does this mean?
It’s the act of sustainably harvesting a plant as it grows in its natural growth environment. So, plants that grow in the wild — not something that’s been manufactured by a farmer or person. My belief is that when you allow plants to grow in their natural environment, they’re filled with obstacles and challenges that make them more fortified. When farmers plant things, I feel like we’re almost "wimpifying" them because we're providing everything they need, including food and water.
VIDEO: Beauty Now: Facial Acupuncture
Sustainability is a hot word in the beauty industry right now. How is Alpyn Beauty environmentally friendly?
We define sustainability in our own way, and it’s a three-pronged approach. First, our packaging is in glass because it’s the most recyclable element, and we use FSC-certified paper. The second thing is the way we harvest our plants. Everything is hand-picked. What’s cool about this concept is if you wildcraft the right way, the plant is never killed or harmed because you’re only taking a piece of the branch or a leaf. We can harvest the patch, make thousands of products, and if I go back one week later, it looks like I wasn’t even there because. Lastly, we just joined 1% for the Planet, so we’re giving one percent of our proceeds back to the planet that provides for us so we can make these amazing skincare products.
What product from the line are you most proud of?
We only have five products and they’re all my favorite. Right now, I’m really loving the Survival Serum, which was inspired by how the snow looks when the sun is sparkling on it. It’s a brightening serum that illuminates the skin so it’s glowing and looks totally smooth. This product is special to me, and it’s doing really well. People use it as a serum, but also as a primer and highlighter because it works great under and on top of your makeup.