Alpyn Beauty Utilizes Wild-Crafted Ingredients from Jackson Hole
Kendra Kolb Butler was driving and listening to NPR when a guest said something that stuck with her: "Sometimes you have to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down." This was in 2015, and Kolb Butler was living in New York and feeling burnt out after over a decade of working her way up in the beauty industry. "That [phrase] really resonated with me," she says. "I was scared to leave behind the security of everything that I knew, but I was also more terrified of staying in the same place and just continuing to work in this corporate hamster wheel, for the rest of my life until I'm dead."
Not long after, Kolb Butler and her husband decided to jump off that proverbial cliff, moving to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with their 4-month-old in pursuit of fresh air and a tighter-knit community. Hoping to continue working in beauty, Kolb Butler opened up two local apothecaries. And when speaking with her customers, she noticed a pattern. "Women were coming in with very dry and dehydrated skin," she says. "It's a result of the external factors of the environment; we have very little humidity in Jackson Hole. We're 6,200 feet above sea level. The oxygen is very thin. People are outside all the time. Women were coming in and I was selling them the best skin care in the business, and they were returning it." (Related: 8 Ways to Seriously Hydrate Your Skin)
Then one day while sitting outside, something clicked. "I was looking at the forest in my backyard, and the greens that were growing all around me, wild," recalls Kolb Butler. "I was like, 'how have these wild plants found a way, not only to adapt in this extreme climate but [to also] thrive?'" She decided to start studying wild plants. "What I quickly realized is that what was growing literally in my backyard were skin-care ingredients that I had been exposed to in my time as a skin-care executive, like arnica, borage, sage, and calendula," she says. After learning how to sustainably harvest plants from a local naturalist and botanist, Kolb Butler wrote a formula for a moisturizer that combined the wild plants she was harvesting (sage, arnica, borage, calendula, and camomile) with bakuchiol, ceramides, squalane, and vitamin C.
Kolb Butler found a contract manufacturer to create a few iterations of the formula and began dropping these lab samples into her customers' bags with their purchases. "That's when I knew that I was onto something because not only were women in the community stopping me in the grocery store and grabbing me by the shoulders, like 'what was in that pot?' but I started to get calls from people in other parts of the country saying, 'Oh, my friend has this moisturizer that she said is like crazy, can I buy it from you?'" says Kolb Butler. "So I started thinking, if it worked for us in an extreme climate, on [some of] the driest skin in the country, it's going to perform at rockstar level once it gets to New York, and Los Angeles, and Miami, and a more forgiving climate." (Related: The 10 Best Hydrating Skin-Care Products for Melanated Skin)
From there, things started to snowball and Kolb Butler realized she wanted to build on the success of the moisturizer and create a full-fledged skin-care brand that uses ingredients harvested from Jackson Hole. In 2018, she launched Alpyn Beauty with that original moisturizer — now known as the Melt Moisturizer (Buy It, $60, sephora.com) — a Line-Filling Eye Cream (Buy It, $62, sephora.com), and a Creamy Bubbly Cleanser (Buy It, $36, sephora.com).
Kolb Butler believes Alpyn Beauty products largely owe their appeal to the wild-crafted nature of their botanical ingredients. "When something is farmed commercially, a farmer is trying to achieve abundance because that's how they make money," she says. They'll baby the plants, so to speak, putting additives into the soil, shading them from the sun, watering them regularly, and protecting them from animals, she says. "The plant becomes very conditioned to getting what it needs when it needs it. So it never has to tap into that deeper will to survive. In the wild, it's the exact opposite. This plant is getting nibbled on by animals. It's getting baked by the sun. It has to hold its hydration until the next rainstorm, which in the summer in Jackson Hole could be three and a half months down the pipe. It knows it's not getting rain anytime soon." And that allows for more powerful skin-care benefits, according to Kolb Butler. "The plant is constantly evolving and trying to keep itself alive, and it's always on fight mode," she says. "It's that fight mode that translates directly to benefit when we put these plants on our skin topically." In fact, research suggests wild plants tend to be higher in antioxidants — which help protect your skin from UV rays, air pollution, and other factors — and omega-3 fatty acids — which keep your skin supple and moisturized — than farmed plants, possibly because they must amp up the production of each in order to thrive in harsh conditions.
Last week Alpyn Beauty hit Sephora stores and also launched its newest formula, a Triple Vitamin C Bounce Cream Moisturizer (Buy It, $49, sephora.com), which banks on the benefits of chokecherries (a red berry rich in polyphenols, which fight free radical damage and regulate skin's blood flow). Alpyn Beauty is one of 16 brands that's earned Sephora's new Clean and Planet Positive seal, which is awarded to companies that meet Sephora's clean beauty guidelines and have committed to sustainable sourcing, responsible packaging, carbon-neutral operations or greenhouse gas reduction, and donating to an environmental cause. In terms of the latter, Alpyn Beauty donates 1 percent of every sale to the Grand Teton National Park Foundation to aid re-wilding efforts in parts of the park that have been damaged by early settlers. (Related: These Innovations Are Making Your Beauty Products More Sustainable)