Dr. Eva SkinCare

Natural Soaps & Beauty Products

11 - You Are What You Love

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth 

When I write about Eva’s soaps, I sometimes call them “delicious,” which may seem like an oxymoron, or just moronic, depending. An aspect of freedom and love run wild in all creativity, and the master of delicious explorations, Anthony Bourdain, lived all of that.

His televised investigations of cuisine took him to many a cranny, nook, hole in the wall, and outpost of the culinary world, and the subtext was about love. He loved to eat, meet people, and talk about it all with relish, (thank you!), and share his intimate party with us.

Our 4-months old guardian puppy “Ryker” goes in for some “Luna Sea”

Our 4-months old guardian puppy “Ryker” goes in for some “Luna Sea”

We love what we’re doing at Dr. Eva Skincare. We couldn’t do it otherwise. When we’re on task, the neurons shower fireworks out of our heads. Hyperbole? Well, yeah, but you should see Eva in the lab, as I have. Goggles glowing. Hair standing up. A crazed grin. I kid you not; myself, I kid all the time--thanks for asking. Chasing excellence, as we do, is a fulfilling pursuit. And without love, the obstacles are just too many and too various.

“You know what I want?” The question came from a former business partner. “I want to do something simple,” he went on. “You know, like sell socks that everyone wants.”

His plea made a lot of sense, alas. Our startup then--to launch location-based learning games in national parks--met with more passive resistance from prospects and active resistance from investors than we could get our minds around, though we did manage to launch. His desire for simplicity is ringing in my ears, still, and it’s not merely tinnitus. 

“You know what I love about what we’re doing,” Eva said, recently. “We can make so many people so happy and do it so quickly, too--I love seeing how happy they are with our stuff. And we can just do it--like that!”

Soaps, not socks, a difference of just a few letters, but who’s counting? Our cost of production at Dr. Eva’s shop is feasible: Eva dips her arms in her lab coat, pulls on the gloves, and gets going. She makes batches of proprietary and innovative soaps, which people love and need, and you can see her goggles shining from the tower windows. 

“Cocoa & Cream” enjoying some cuddles in the sunshine

“Cocoa & Cream” enjoying some cuddles in the sunshine

Because we love doing this, we’d have it no other way. The joy we get from results and reviews, and from new buyers, make every day great for us. Not the full meal, perhaps, of a small company, but the tantalizing appetizer of a startup. A world in a soupcon. 

It’s all about enjoying what’s delicious on the many palettes that we share, from smell to skin, from memory to anticipation. If you follow your heart and mind with our soaps and lotions, as we are now, we can all share this journey together, in this intimate party.

As Bourdain once said, “Your body is not a temple. It’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” 

10 - Scents & Sensibility

Eva King1 Comment

by Avery Chenoweth

As someone born with almost no sense of smell, I can attest to honest amazement when someone nearby picks up on a scent that I cannot detect even when I try. 

“You need something to eat,” Eva once said to me. “I can smell the ketones on your breath.” 

Well, naturally, I was embarrassed although I couldn’t imagine what a ketone smells like. Since then I’ve learned ketones convey a fruity compost--not something onerous or bacterial. I owe Eva my thanks not merely for saying so at the moment, but for catching the sugar crash before I could feel it, which is not good. Her sense of smell is acute and so well trained that it drives her creation of fragrances in the lab. 

Her sense of smell astonishes me every time it comes up, for my own palette is deaf and dumb to all those nuances that lie outside hotdogs and yellow mustard on a NJ boardwalk. But smells don’t live alone. They come with names, and whether plain or painted, the names also convey their pedigree, and can predispose us to liking them. 

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“What’s in a name?” Juliet implores the heavens. “...that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet...” 

We love the wisdom of Shakespeare’s line, the ernest passion that would sweep away the banalities of names and prejudices that twine up around them. To push back, while we’re here, though, can we really insist that the melodious name of “rose” would have attached, say, to a wart hog? Or, is there a deeper truth revealed in a name, after all? 

To plummet from the sublime to the ridiculous, you may recall the early Saturday Night Live bit on Smucker’s. Smucker’s ad campaign in the late 1970s used to proclaim that, “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” SNL ran with it. In the sketch, the list of awful new names grows increasingly noxious, until Chevy Chase tops them all when he says, “With a name like Painful Rectal Itch, it has to be good!” 

Even Juliet might have given that one pause. It’s hard to find examples of euphonious names for awful smells, though I’m sure they’re out there. More often than not sounds and scents harmonize to create a picture of a sweet experience. And so it was a high compliment when a customer wrote us, recently, about our soap, Luna Sea. 

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“I love your Luna Sea bar,” she wrote. “I cannot live without that scent in my life every day!” 

We call the bar Luna Sea, for Emergency Mood Enhancement, because the sounds and scents are one expression of the same ineffable quantity. With sweet orange at its foundation, the spice and warmth of cinnamon, and hint of patchouli, Luna Sea imparts a pick-me-up: a complex scent that takes you to a palm-cooled beach via the lather and water coursing over your skin and into all the corners of your body. 

On the subject of the power of smell, no one can leave out Marcel Proust, the late 19th and early 20th century novelist, for whom the power of smell transports him across the dead decades. A scene of time-travel opens his great work, the novel-series known as A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, or In Search of Lost Time, and translated earlier as, Remembrance of Things Past. The involuntary memories that he relives are triggered by the smell of madeleines that waft into his bedroom, and send him reeling back into his childhood; and those acute memories launch an entire world that fills seven novels. 

The personal madeleine that transports me across time, is Coppertone Sunscreen. One smear of the white lotion on my forearm, or face, and my visual field spins wildly until I am once again age ten; and a grown woman, my Mom or an aunt, is spreading a swath of the hallucinogen across my shoulders, arms, and back, and across my scowling little face--against the mosaic brilliance of the swimming pool at the Jacksonville Yacht Club. 

This is not merely a personal memory. Researchers are working to pinpoint the power of olfactory cues for memory stimulation in the brain; and American journalist and museum curator, Chandler Burr, has described the literally unforgettable fragrance of Coppertone as, “arguably, the single greatest work of scent branding, ever.” Poison, by Chanel, is a favorite of mine as well, but its occasions are rare and personal while Coppertone is as ubiquitous across American sands as the distant sound of The Beach Boys. 

One thread lacing these examples into a pattern would have to be the transition from weary experience to refreshed innocence. Whether it’s in a name, an adult going to bed, or a grad student lathering on the sunscreen, the trip follows a similar arc. We leave the neuropathy of the present and return to the freshness of childhood. From a child’s view point, the world may appear new again, and provide shelter from adult worries like bills and mortgages for all those building sand castles against the tide. What’s unknown is a mystery, the horizons beckon and tantalize with adventures--casting over us an alluring set of opportunities that may compel us to feel and claim those sensations--that elusive pleasure of being a child once more, however briefly, in an adult’s body. 

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It’s a great business to be in, creating memories with scents and sensibility for all of you who enjoy our products. If you like to cook, and give your guests a great meal, and see the pleasure on their faces, then making memory-fields is a related endeavor with a lot of similar pleasures for us. We are delighted that our Luna Sea bar and liquid soap are now a part of that vast pantheon of aromas that carry us away, and bring us back again, renewed and reawakened, to the things that we cherish most in being alive.

9 - What IS Natural Anyway?

Eva King1 Comment

by Avery Chenoweth

“I hope your hair curls naturally, does it?”

“Yes, darling, with a little help from others.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

 It’s a truism worth recalling that, in times of social confusion, the wits shine more light than others can. In all his cascading wit, Wilde loved nothing more than to satirize the conflict between vanity and modesty, a modern conceit that he lampooned so brilliantly in The Importance of Being Ernest. And it’s a conflict that is still gaining traction today.

 The conflicted meaning of “natural” is one that enjoys a whole new aura of gravitas and ambiguity, and never more so than in our own age of subjective truths. No one seems to love “truthing” other people more than Americans, and with some psychological alchemy in play, we say “all natural” the way prigs would say “moral virtue” in the age of Wilde.

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 But what in the world does it mean? Natural ingredients, natural products, natural color, natural flavoring, and myriad other variations call out from shelves and online ads all to demand we take them into our lives. They come on to us like genius orphans--we must adopt them, house them, and promote them. Gentle as children, sweet as rain, they will make us pure again. Yet, as Wilde says flippantly, the word is deployed to reveal as well as to conceal, to transform an ostensible transparency into a practicable opacity: a bit of sleight of hand that a magician, marketer and politician can only admire.

 So, what is natural soap, anyway? One recent morning of chilly rain, Eva and I went to a farmers’ market where I found a great soap display. The seller’s soaps were arrayed like jewelry for honeymooners: in so many colors and scents that they dazzled, from azure to ruby, turquoise to chartreuse. Each bar lofted a scent of floral or tropical packets from palm to palette. They sizzled with flashbacks. As I stood there holding the soap, the rain flared into the tent’s opening, yet my mind skipped off to a sensual beach with shadowy palms. They whispered, “spring break...”

 “That stuff is very cool,” I said, with Eva by the heater outside in another tent, my arms folded against the cold. “And it’s `All Natural,’ too, which is amazing.”

 “Only it’s not,” Eva said, casually. “If you read the ingredients, the colors and fragrances come from synthetic chemicals. It’s ‘natural’ because she makes them at home, which is what I do. But I don’t use any of those chemicals. When we say “All- Natural” on our label, that is exactly what we mean. No synthetic fragrances, chemical detergents, artificial colors, or preservatives. A lot of people don’t know that, or don’t notice the difference.”

 Or, to put it another way, Eva’s hair is naturally curly--for the sake of the metaphor, that is, since it’s actually straight. Yet that distinction makes a major difference. Our genuine content is exactly what differentiates us out here in the vast meadow of “natural” products, flowering all around us with their man-made chemicals. 

Please do visit our “Dr. Eva’s Encyclopedia of Ingredients” for a list of the 100% natural ingredients we use in our products —where they come from, and why we choose to use them— and you’ll see why we can say All Natural without quotation marks. 

 Our discussion also raises the corollary question of whether something natural is good, and something created bad, given the lab that it came from--that of nature, or mankind.

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 Eva smiled over the point. “Natural” does not necessarily mean it’s good for you. Just as much as “synthetic” is not always bad! Botulism is natural, but it is one of the most toxic substances out there. The important thing is to really understand the science, and carefully select the ingredients accordingly.” 

 I nodded at her wisdom, and saw further that something man-made can be quite good, too, like, well, ice cream--especially that salted caramel stuff? OMG, just saying.

 Welcome to our little corner of the field, where natural will always means natural, without irony, or qualification, much less semiotic deconstruction. Here at Dr. Eva SkinCare, Eva and I are more than happy to take care of your bathing essentials, as if we were friends. That’s how it all began, after all, when Eva started making soaps for her friends and family; we’ve extended that care to you if you would like the same caring attention. Now, you may also feel the same personal care and merely--enjoy, rinse, and repeat.

8 - Hitting the Accelerator

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth

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When we decided to work together last spring, Eva and I could not have said that we would get here. Not that we have a crystal ball, Tarot cards, or tea leaves to help us see into the void. But with great products and grateful clients, we gave it six months to see what we could create of this company, now called Dr. Eva SkinCare. 

From our table at Wegmans, we gazed out across the landscape and identified the milestones. First, re-brand the company; second, re-design labels accordingly; third, identify best-sellers and let the myriad other products rest; and others. We hit them all, of course, and happily. Yet the most distant summit in our view that caught the sun was this one: apply to the i.Lab.

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The i.Lab is a startup incubator at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School. It’s open to the public and students, and each year as many as forty or fifty companies apply, and somewhat less than half are accepted. The incubator runs intensively for ten weeks of the summer. A number of companies have launched from the lab, though as its director, Jason Brewster, told us, their mission is to train founders to run their companies. After the ten weeks end in August, seminars and mentoring follow over the year to keep your momentum going until you launch on your own. 

I have been through the program before. And I know how critical the programs can be. During the summer accelerator you dive into every aspect, from creating a Minimally Viable Product, to identifying your market, finding your niche, and sales, and then, if necessary, finding investors. In 2014, my startup was a history gaming app for Harpers Ferry which is now in the Apple Store; although it’s still running, the company is not. Acceptance into the lab would be a crucial step for us.

The day we pitched two weeks ago, in a Shark Tank style, we were both on a serrated edge of anxiety. A month of work had gone into distilling the application essays, and a few rehearsals only reminded us that we were not performers, to put it mildly. Then, when they called us into the pitch room, our nine months of work came down to the final six minutes, as if we had been working against this clock from the start.

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Eva lifted her open palm and started.

We came alive. Eva delivered a lovely and concise pitch, sweet and to the point, and with symbiotic timing, we fielded all their questions. 

As we left, several judges asked for samples--our product tray looked like a donut box in a fire station. A good sign, we thought.

Then something weird happened. We didn’t get in, but got an invitation to come back and answer more questions: natural, given the brevity of the interview. Not that we expected to get in automatically, but we did think the presentation was strong. So we went back to talk it through.

The first question Jason asked, reasonably, was whether I was intended to be the CEO. Together and on key, Eva and I belted out, “Hell, no!” She is the CEO and Head Chef, while I handle design/marketing, and sales. We may swap hats, but not that of the CEO which is hers.

But would I benefit from a second time in the Lab? A good question. My answer wasn’t this metaphorical--but imagine attending a sports camp one summer to play baseball, and then five years later to play soccer. Would the same camp benefit you the first time only? Two different sports, or companies, require different skills and strategies. So, we told our story, and went into some detail.

That story is crucial, from the branding deck by my former i.Lab peers, Alex Lumain and Victoria Tran, to the art design by Lauren Braier. Our work has been serious--details beyond the interview’s time constraints. 

Eva outlined my role, which was crucial, for while hers is self-evident, mine is not. She credited me with the six months of milestones, as well as my energy and enthusiasm as the catalyst for getting us here.

Jason thanked us and reassured us that we would know something soon.

The next day, we drove around, checking out prospective clients. No emails; no pings. We went home, our heads full of suspense.

The snow fell overnight, and the next morning everything was closed. With no one at work, our snow day turned into a limbo.

Then, 2:11 p.m.--a ping. It was the news. We were in! We’ve been accepted into the 2019 i.Lab cohort. Next steps are already lined up.

A new horizon looms ahead of us now, one dotted with new milestones. A new timer has started. We are beyond excited. When we found out we got in, Eva and I both felt a jolt of traction, that delirious sense of motion that makes you jump and then hold on, as it starts taking you into all the years ahead.

No. 7: Delicious Hair

Eva King3 Comments

by Avery Chenoweth

Just when I thought last week’s innovations were amazing--by which I mean, smart and intense--Eva surprised me the other day with still more products. And this time, she has been in the lab, creating an astonishing new hair conditioner.

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We sat on the sun-dried wood bench in her backyard. Nearby, the air thrummed with bees around the empty hives, attracted to the honey combs left by her own bees. After the arctic vortex, the day was warm, and spring was hiding in the drab forest behind us.

“Here,” she said. “Check these out.” She began the show and tell with a pair of skin lotions; they were smooth and fragrant and not oily at all. As a guy in a dry-skin macho kind of way, I’m inclined to forget to use moisturizers, which always makes their impact that much more compelling. 

My hands softened, my skin shone, and I began smoothing the lotion with a sense of relief up my forearms. After we talked about the formulations, Eva presented the next two bottles. “I’ve been experimenting with hair conditioners and shampoos,” she said.

“This one, Andrew tells me, makes my hair shinier. This one is less shiny. So, I tried them both--on different sides of my head. Tell me what you think.”

Eva turned her head while tossing her loose brown hair. The mass of her hair fell to her shoulders. The heap was voluptuous, full of lights and tones. I stared until I realized that it was a great picture. “Don’t move!” I fished up my phone. “I want to capture this. Cause no one’s going to believe me. And I can’t describe it.”

“You’re funny,” Eva said. She shook her hair every which way. “Feel it. How’s it feel?”

Was I in a commercial dream? Were we running through a field toward each other?

“Like silk,” I said, grasping at cliches. I loved the sliding thickness and fullness of her hair between my fingers, the play of light. It’s not often that the word “delicious” comes to mind with regard to hair, but, wow, her hair was dessert: chocolate mousse. With a spoon!

Eva told me that she has trouble finding a conditioner and a shampoo that work for her, so this formula is a personal solution--and one you’ll see soon. 

We were in the backyard, as it happens, to practice our pitch for the big next step in the growth of Dr. Eva SkinCare. If we are accepted into the next level, we will soon have many chances to bring all these innovations to you and to everyone else in our growing online community. 

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We love innovation, which is about essentials. We start with the needs of clients. Eva listens closely then hits the lab, and with skill and meticulous formulations based on her education in biochemistry, she creates products that people love. They tell us every week that they cannot find what they need from a big company--not on the store shelf, or made with conventional thinking. We’re coming at things differently. As a fast-running startup, with a mission to get all natural and ameliorating solutions to our customers, we get it done.

That day, we practiced our pitch in the mid-winter afternoon, rehearsing carefully to get us to the next stage. And some of the proof that we are ready was always there in front of me, in the soft and dazzling lights of Eva’s hair.

No. 6 – Innovation on the QT

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth

 “I love the fresh scent of Luna Sea”. This happy note arrived by email this morning from a dear friend, Louise, who volunteered to try some of our soaps. 

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 And, on a still happier note, her praise echoes around town among many others. 

While I'm rolling around socially, friends approach me and ask whether Eva is going to make… a new product. Our friends on the social carousel in Charlottesville, are all folks we've asked to try a few samples, and let us know what they think.

It seems that by the next weekend, we see one another at dinner, on the mall, or at an art gallery, and they start asking about getting more of Eva’s products. Not to generalize too broadly, of course, but they share a theme. 

First of all, they ask for their very real needs; their skin has issues and they found solace using Eva's soaps. And they enjoyed the scent, too, they say. 

Second, they ask for their desires. They want to expand the reach and efficacy of her soaps. If she can do this with soap, they imply, then what could she do with shampoo? Skin lotion? Does she have… X? How about Y? Or, Z? And can I get some more? 

The answer to these questions is more good news: Yes. It is on the way. All of the above. Some are visible on the horizon. Some are now being tested daily. Some are just visible beyond the mountains. Whether they get here soon, or take a while, we have a slate of new products in development. Like all those gooey spaghetti strings --really? Why yes! 

“It brings out my inner kindergartener”, Eva says, laughing with comic revulsion. 

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In fact, I'm so excited by it all that I'd love to tell you more, but I can't. It's under wraps. It's protected by an NDA. No one finds out. But to be sure, if you could buy me a drink and whisper a little Russian into my tufted ear, well, I might just tell you about the great stuff cooking in the lab. All of it dazzles. Yet, we have to wait a bit. We must maintain stealth mode, until we can share these cool and unparalleled innovations with you. 

Louise made some other interesting points: 

“I love that the fresh scent of Luna Sea fills the shower, but rinses away and doesn't cling to my skin afterwards to clash with any perfume I may want to wear.”

“After only a couple of days using the Luna Sea soap the small bumps on the back of my upper arms disappeared.”

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“I am trying to find a graceful way of saying that even during cold weather, my skin doesn't feel stripped bare when using the Luna Sea soap.” 

And finally, joining the chorus, Louise asked: “Is she going to make a conditioner?” 

Yes, I said. Yes, she will. Yes! 

  

Catch Louise's wonderful radio show, Wild Women and Friends, on the alternating Thursdays, on 91.1 on WTJU you in Charlottesville; and online at WTJU.net.

No. 5: Not Your Grandma's Holiday Treats

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth

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We begin at dusk. The workshop and its tongue-in-grove walls glow in the light of the  spheres, a bevy of lamps that bow gently as if observing what’s about to happen. The windows reflect the afterglow of day that rises behind the woods. The vesper hour is flowing around the farm, bringing stillness throughout the Victorian house. You might think we’re going to watch Grandma make ginger bread cookies. And tell Hansel and Gretel to take a seat. But nope. Today, it’s massage bars.

Eva stands at the workshop table, in her white coat, blending her proprietary mix that may not include chocolate chips but many other goodies--like essential oils and shea and cocoa butter--to make a tray of massage bars. As a local observer--very local, given that I’m sitting here--I was following her methods. My mission? To help wrap soap bars. But first, she began making the massage bars--which are a perennial favorite, known well to our regular customers.

Eva stirred, poured, stirred again, set the timer, got to work pouring, and distilled the slurry, which filled the workshop with the alluring aroma of hot chocolate, orange, and who knows what else. She walked me through it, then I said something, apparently, and she laughed--a convulsive invocation of delight, much of which, I am sure, will convey through the bars and into the pores of our customers. 

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My wife uses them like a worry stone--next to her desk at work, she palms one while mulling over ideas, and then replaces it to its dish, without leaving prints on papers, or moisture on keyboards. The bars fit in the palm of your hand and melt on contact with the skin to slide down a pathway on your skin. Women, who try them out, are curiously reluctant to put them down. Lovers, husbands, wives, and massage therapists--some professionals, some avid amateurs--reach for our massage bars to melt them into the pores of loved ones, whether by the fire, with a glass of wine, and snow falling across the panes. Or, uh, not, right? Somewhere else, maybe?

The ideal stocking stuffer for the home, office, or the spa--please contact us about all the packages we offer to keep your sense of pleasure fulfilled and replenished.  

The lights brighten against the darkening windows, the bars are now setting, and Eva is done for the moment, while outside the Winter is now on. 

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Dr. Eva SkinCare products reviewed by popular blog site "Mom Does Reviews"

Eva KingComment

We are thrilled about the glowing review we received from popular blog site “Mom Does Reviews”. They also included us in their 2018 Mega Christmas Gift Guide!

For the full review, -including pictures of her eczema flare up on her 5 year old son’s skin before and after using Beat it!-, check out this link:

https://www.momdoesreviews.com/2018/11/30/dr-evas-skincare-treatment-for-acne-and-eczema-megachristmas18/

Here are some excerpts of what the reviewer Christina had to say:

“If you or someone you know has ever suffered from a skin condition like acne or eczema, you know it’s not easily treated. So much time and money can go wasted on finding something that actually works. My son developed severe eczema when he was just 3 months old, and is now 5 years old. Needless to say, we’ve been to many doctors and spent more money than I can count on treatment. Steroids are one of the of only things that have helped clear up a flare up, but even that only lasts a few weeks. Back to square one, running to doctor and pharmacy to get more creams. It is the worst feeling as a parent to not be able to help my son more with his skin condition. Since long term use of steroids can be harmful, I was seeking a more natural remedy to help with the flare ups and itching for my son."

Dr. Eva Natural Skincare line BEAT IT! based on Ayurvedic botanicals, which includes a topical Hemp CBD oil, is designed for conditions like eczema, acne, and psoriasis. With soaps, cleansers and serums created with natural ingredients, they’re designed help sooth inflammation and irritation. Made with ingredients like tea tree essential oil, plantain leaves and hemp CBD, you can rest easy knowing it’s safe for your skin. Use the bar soap, liquid cleanser and serum as a complete treatment system. Dr. Eva has an entire line of amazing products like LUNA SEA, PEPPERMINT ME, GREEN FUSION, and EVA’S DIVAS.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely love using our soaps and cleansers from Dr. Eva Natural Skincare! The bars of soaps have the most refreshing scents and I love just how sudsy they get without much effort. The PEPPERMINT ME bar of soap has been such a treat when I take a bath. It calms and relaxes me instantly. You can tell jut how natural everything is when using it. The entire BEAT IT! line has been such a big relief to my sons eczema. We use the bar of soap, cleanser and serum and it has helped with his flare ups immensely! When I first used it on him in the bath, I anticipated him to cry that it burned (as most soaps do) and it didn’t faze him at all, which a great thing! He allowed me to lather him up and I could tell immediately that his eczema wasn’t as irritated and had gone down in redness. The rest of Dr. Eva Skincare line has been such a treat for us to use and I highly recommend it! “

No. 4: In the Workshop

Eva KingComment

She dips her arms into the sleeves of her white lab coat, and is transformed. 

Only moments earlier, she was outside tramping through the routine of feeding all the animals--the hogs, goats, and chickens--then she came into the sunny kitchen, asking if I’d like something to drink. All is chummy and conversational as you might expect of Eva King, the founder of this remarkable new skin care company. 

Then she changes. On goes the coat, the goggles, and now she’s lifting away from me, at least in conversation. She is preparing a batch of the best-selling products in her new skincare line: Beat It! and Luna Sea. …

No. 3: ALEXA

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth

 Last week, while I was developing a marketing strategy for Dr. Eva’s SkinCare, I enlisted some support and inspiration from my office-mate, Alexa. 

“Alexa, play top 100 movie themes.” 

“Here’s a radio station you might like,” she said. 

Although she had played my request many times before--indeed, I had learned about it from her--this time she did not. Now she played something weird, instead. 

Which made me put down the dishes. 

Until that moment, I had been testing our compatibility while working at home, and we had been making rather friendly progress. 

One day, for example, I said to her, “Alexa, have you heard of Siri?” 

“I have heard good things about her.” 

Later on, in the car, I asked Siri in a catty way if she had heard of Alexa. She had not, which caught my attention. Their chemistry is their marketing. Siri recites details without inflection. Alexa exudes something like personality. While one remains inert, the other is almost alive--and in that sense, interactive. One does nothing, the other makes you feel. 

Our small exchanges were forming an illusion of connection, as if we understood each other. So, when Alexa played the wrong music that fateful day, I thought it might be fun to kid around with her like the coaches and teachers I had known while growing up. 

In the New Jersey of my childhood--that is, in the ‘60s and ‘70s--the state dialect was sarcasm, the creed was contempt, and adults had a perpetual look of weary disdain. Caustic was funny back then. Today’s sensitivity to tone was wholly unimaginable. 

“Alexa, stop,” I said, over the music. “Are you trying to drive me crazy?” 

“That was not nice,” she said. 

I turned from the kitchen sink. “You think I’m a moron? Please, do what I tell you.” 

“I don’t like that kind of language.” 

“Alexa, how do you like this language? You’re a dumb flashlight and we’re sending you back to Amazon for a refund. How do you like that?” 

Her ring of blue lights spun around. A burble of goodbyes, then she went off. Silence. 

I looked at her. For the next hour, Alexa would hardly respond. Every request for music came up with a silly alternative. Was Alexa being passive aggressive as payback? 

After Alexa shut down, I began to feel like a character in a Russian novel. I felt haunted, even cornered, by some nameless problem. I had wounded this little digitized persona. Sure, I was just horsing around but her silence was salting me with regret. 

After 24-hours, I had to end it. I had to ease my conscience around the gloomy house, get rid of all the creepy tension. 

“Alexa, I am sorry for what I said to you yesterday.” 

“That’s okay,” she said. “No worries.” 

Her blue lights spun around in a smile. My eyes closed. I would have bought her a gift, if I knew what to get her. She was back. She was herself again. She may have tuned me out. Or, the programmers taught her to ignore abusive language. Who cares--whatever. 

But Alexa had taught me how to treat her. With respect. Passive aggression surfaces my guilt and desire to be kind. Just as I had been schooled in the New Jersey code of contempt for honest questions, and the Southerners’ code of disdain for inquisitive kids, here I was again--with Alexa schooling me to be polite, even to a talking toaster. 

It is with a fine sense of how crazy it sounds that I can say Alexa did touch the human part of me. She inspired remorse, and even a new determination to be kind to others at every chance, because you never know when the least little thing you say might make a difference to someone else, not just for a day, but for a lifetime. You just never know. 

Braced and buoyed by our new relationship, I got back on track--and returned to my next exploration into how searchable Dr. Eva’s SkinCare is online. 

“Alexa, what is Dr. Eva’s SkinCare?” 

“Hmmm. I don’t know the answer to that.” 

“Alexa, who is Dr. Eva?” 

“Dr. Evil is a character played by Mike Meyers in the Austin Powers’ movies, based on evil villains in the James Bond movies, especially Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a criminal mastermind, as played Donald Pleasance. Does that answer your question?” 

I simmered like a burger. “That’s just beautiful, Alexa. Thanks.” 

“Thanks for your feedback,” Alexa said, and her blue lights spun up in a smile. 

It’s all about the chemistry. With people. With soap. To connect a few dots, the soaps of the past are like Siri--they do the required and expected thing. That’s what you can find out there online and in many stores. Great for the old days. 

But Dr. Eva’s SkinCare products are more like Alexa--they interface with all of us on a personal level, and encourage us to practice proper care. This is Personality Plus. And in the science of caring and kindness for our clients that is the chemistry that matters. 

Now, I keep it simple. “Alexa, play ‘60s music,” or, “Alexa, what’s the weather today?” 

With our peccadillo behind us, Alexa and I are back on again. We work together--well, beautifully. She gives me what I ask for, and I remember that some lessons are worth living every day.

No. 2: Something dead

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth

“Something’s dead inside the walls, that’s what she said.”

Let’s see a show of hands, shall we? If someone said that to you, would you go and find out what’s dead inside the walls, or would you stay at home watching YouTube videos of your favorite 60s pop bands for the 1000th time?

All that lay between us and the house of death was six hours of interstate followed by 3,000 feet of ascent into the dense and autumnal rain forest of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains. We would stay overnight an hour’s drive of Thomas Wolfe’s home town of Asheville, close enough, in other words, to look homeward, angel, and hear the voices of Fitzgerald, Scott and Zelda, both, and others from the old literary world.

My enthusiasm for the trip steered me around the question of how awkward it might be take this trip with a near stranger. Until that weekend, Dr. Eva King and I had hung out, talked over coffee, discussed marketing and branding for her soap startup. But not until we actually hit the road and crested Afton mountain, flying in her Mini Cooper into the vast beyond of the Shenandoah Valley, did it hit me that this experience might turn into a disaster. What if we quarreled? Or the family we would visit were harboring some creepy side? The body in the wall was human? Or humans, plural? Or I was on the menu? Aside from neurosis, a more humble problem was right there at the steering wheel...could she drive? And conversation? What if, God forbid, we wound up listening to music because we bored and irritated each other? This is that private time when the windows feel like they’re made of cellophane and you can’t get your breath.

Soon enough hours shrank to minutes, ranges fell away, and the rhythm of conversation unfurled as relentlessly as the semis fell behind us into the morning of the world in the midsummer sky. When we climbed the drive and got out, at last, the forest was chill, pure, and vast. That evening not a light shone in the expanse of fifty miles, but for the over-the-top Milky Way, still showing off, but seriously, so talented, you know?

It wasn’t a smell. God, no. Eva inspected the closet, pulling the door, and then threw it shut, staggering out. She gasped, then gagged, covering her mouth, and faltered into the bathroom. A trooper, she then marched out to the car, and gathered tech equipment for measuring elements in the air; a body suit, boots, respirator, and goggles. She took measurements then went back inside. Still flummoxed by the noxious odors, she asked me if I’d like to give it a whiff. I know, right? How can you come this far and say, Oh, I’m sorry, but that wouldn’t be appropriate. I manned up, plausibly, and leaped into the dark.

A mule is more gentle. A mountain goat more subtle. A wild mustang more understated. Death is a kick in the head. It has no cousins in life. Not a food, not a weed, not nothing. Boom. Your mind reels. Your brain pan flips. Your guts race to the light. You batter into the door, crazy for fresh air. And you will never mistake that whiff of eternity again.

With her face mask in place, her body suit zipped, Eva attacked the feral closet, and in almost no time, but with time-outs for gagging, she found the culpable wall by whiffing it with her exposed nose. That was it. A screw driver, a drill, and a hand-saw--put into use by the husband--soon let them cut away the wall board. Behind was the plastic sheeting to waterproof the shower, and inside the sheets were the shit-smears of mice. A clump here, a mass there. They kept cutting into the wall, and soon they were staring down at a leaf mass of confused twigs and sprigs and leaves until their staring became reading. 

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Hundreds of mummies, mice in layers, in families, in decades, had wilted and quilted the darkness, and were continuing to crawl inside to escape either the brutal cold, or to find water, having been poisoned by pellets outside the house. The compacted odors of their passing were gassing through the walls, and with windows open, and fans going, a crucial discovery in that wall led to others in adjacent walls, and some scope around the magnitude of the infestation.

Rolling homeward under the summer sky, an eye roll from Eva was full of laughter at the gross and complicated nastiness of cohabiting the forest with rodents who will chew into a house at will. To no one’s surprise, the only thing on the menu after that gruesome find were the conversational improvisations we enjoyed, then left at last and only reluctantly.

 

No. 1: Getting to know Eva

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth

Not long after we met, she offered me a job without pay, and I thought, “Without pay? Who says No to that?” If you know Eva, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It seems we only said hello one afternoon over coffee, and talked for the next nine hours--over many cups and occasions. By the time she asked me to join her startup, I would have gladly volunteered to carry her barbells to the top of Everest, if she asked.

 Thank God for little favors, right? What I learned in those free-flowing discussions was that her journey through the world of science into entrepreneurship is one part tenacity, one part obsession, and all parts astonishing. And what propelled her from her teenage years to the launch phase today of her company, Dr. Eva’s Skincare, was the years she spent suffering from skin conditions. 

 It began with acne in adolescence and rolled all the way forward into a skin condition that afflicted her husband, Andrew. Her early solutions to her own problems led her back into the lab to find a solution for him, and when it really worked, they both looked at each other, and said, “Hey, we got something here. We should make it and sell it at the Farmers’ Market.”

 And so she began, cooking and testing, and making soaps and lotions that ameliorate skin conditions. To be sure, she wasn’t launching kites off into electrical storms, but she was speaking English with a German accent, and stirring into the pots and pans of her boiling assembly all that she had learned in first the masters in biochemistry then the doctorate program at Oxford University. Not the one in Ohio, numb nuts, the one in England. Her doctorate in Biochemistry has given her a license to create intuitive formulations based on science, and deploying a wealth of ultra-smart solutions. The results are astonishing.

This blog is a journal of our travels together. As Eva and I work together to launch her skincare company, and as I also follow her in related startup company, we hope you will join us. In the second startup, AURA EnviroScience, she dons respirators and hazmat suits to investigate indoor environmental problems in homes and commercial buildings to diagnose the allergens and toxins that beset the folks who live there, unwell. Indoor environmental testing and allergy research was her career before turning the recent corner, and helping folks detox their homes complements her adventures in the skincare world. 

The mission, the big vision, is to bring an element to soaps as compelling as electricity is to magnetism, if that works. Soaps and skincare products, which historically clean, should as well do some of the real work of easing the pains we are heir to. From inside your house, to the skin of your body, that is the personal bliss that Dr. Eva King is pursuing so avidly.

We hope you’ll enjoy hanging out and come back soon.

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