Bella Lina Bath

Soap is on the mind

What I’ve learned from vending at Farmers Markets and Art Shows

I officially quit my “worker ant” job at the end of February 2013 and became a full-time entrepreneur in May of 2013. Luckily I took the leap after moving to Jacksonville, FL and applied for the Riverside Arts Market(RAM). 2013 was an amazing year thanks to RAM and a couple smaller markets. But I have to say I was still a newbie even though I’ve sold my wares at Farmers Markets since the beginning of 2012 in Orlando and surrounding cities and towns.

2014 was my first full year and it made a world of difference! I was able to see the highs and lows of seasons. I also was able to compile I list of what I’ve learned. This list is constantly changing, and it’s my own personal opinion. This could totally differ depending on what you sell and your surroundings.  So here we go:

  • If you’re goingto be in an outdoor market make sure youhave a tent.
    • As a soaper the elements can and more than likely will cause havoc on my products. In the beginning I bought a cheap $60 from Walmart that said it was 9ft but kind of tapered at the top so it made it more like 6 or 7 shaded space. No bueno. I ended up returning it for a white 10 ft. tent with walls. The walls make a HUGE difference in not only saving your products and samples but also making your whole set up look a lot more professional. Walls are also essential when you’re at a dirty market. By dirty I mean an outdoor market in a field that more dirt than grass. I made sure to get white because some shows require white tents and buying a tent isn’t a small investment. No matter what, take weights!! The last thing you need is a lawsuit because you didn’t weigh down your tent.
  • Keep a positive but professional attitude.
    • If you’re an artistic soul. Going to arts and farmers markets are like a whole new world! You finally fit in and aren’t the weird one anymore. Everyone is weird! But just like high school these shows especially if they are weekly have their own cliques. Stay out of it!! Keep in mind that you are there to sell your products and MAKE MONEY.
  • Greet every potential customer.
    • I have a whole schpeel(is that how you spell that?) within 10 seconds of someone entering my space. Always start with a smile and a hello. Then I say: “Please feel free to pick everything up, smell it, try it out whatever you’d like. I have a sample for everything. Let me know if you have any questions. I make everything from scratch.” I make sure that I’m standing, because it’s just rude and lazy unless of course you can’t stand. With that being said, it’s important to invest in a good pair of shoes keeping in mind that you’re going to be standing for an extended period of time. Also, don’t think that you’re being rude by cutting off your neighbor who’s in the middle of their life story to greet your customer. Because like I said before you are there to make money and share your passion with the world. If your neighbor doesn’t understand then obviously they aren’t there with the same goals as you are. Make sure that even if people aren’t buying something that you thank them for stopping by. They may not have the funds or need for your product now, but they will remember you and come back when they do and bring a friend that they think would love what you have to offer.
  • Pack your lunch.
    • Every dime you spend comes out of your profit. Buying food every week can be costly and really effect your bottom line. If you pack your lunch and take a Thermos of cold water will make a world of difference on your energy level and well-being. Let me tell you dying of thirst and having bubble guts is not the best environment for selling.
  • Use a credit card reader!!
    • I can’t stress this enough! The average person doesn’t carry cash with them. Most likely if they do carry cash it’s for their veggies, or it’s because they have a certain amount of money budgeted for extras. By taking credit cards you’re adding more money in your pocket. It’s pretty important now-a-days to have a smart phone. All of the card readers are free as long as you download the app. I find that having a tablet and using a tablet pen also just adds a little more professionalism to your transactions. If you’re going to invest in a tablet make sure that it has the ability to have its own internet. Never expect your show or market to provide wi-fi because if they don’t or if it’s down you just gained an edge on your competition.
  • Dress appropriately!!
    • The saying if you got it flaunt it does not apply here. I can’t tell you how many women I see selling jewelry with just a leather vest on and some tight jeans. I just want to shake them and say “you look fan-freaking-tastic but if I’m walking by with my man the LAST thing I’m going to do is see what you have to sell because I don’t want my man looking at you.” Let’s face it, I’m not the only one that thinks that way. If a woman is walking by and you’re dressed a certain way they just don’t want to look at you either. They may want to look like you but you’re not there for that. You’re there to make money. Cover up! Dress comfortable but put together. Solid colors always work best with minimal jewelry. I also find that when I wear big blingy jewelry especially when its real people think that my prices are too high. But if I dress plain with minimal makeup, jewelry, and distractions I sell a lot more. I can’t tell you how many people either don’t wear good deodorant, or don’t wear it at all. Please do yourself and everyone around you a favor and WEAR DEODORANT! Look put together, clean, and professional. You are selling a product and you are the face of that product, keep that in mind at all times.
  • Don’t give away too much.
    • I can’t tell you how many people ask me how I make my product. I used to tell them the ingredients, the process, and just basically answer anything. I found that some people really didn’t care to know, or they wanted to know so they could turn around and make it themselves. If you have a popular product the poachers will come, take it as a compliment. Guard your recipes and techniques with your life!! Poachers can also be your peers at these shows. Never tell people how much money you make! It sounds like common sense but  a lot of people out there looking for that next get rich quick scheme and you may be the answer. Simply saying the internet has some great resources is a great way to end that uncomfortable conversation.
  • Not everyone will love you and your product. That’s okay!
    • Selling natural products I’m constantly getting the “this is too expensive” or “irish spring/dove works great for me” “this is stupid” “don’t buy that I can make it for you” and so on, you get my drift. First I have to say, you get away with saying a lot if you smile while you say it. When people say it’s too expensive, I usually start with “Well if you don’t think your skin is worth it, I totally understand.” or when people say “Dial works great on my skin”. I usually say with a smile “Come back to me in ten years and lets see how great that’s working for ya.” Or if someone says I can totally make this, I usually smile and say “Well I wish you the best, I’m sure my constant research and development over the last seven years will be just as good as what you can whip up.” Be professional but at the same time don’t let people doubt your prices, work, or worth. Always ask and be thankful for feedback on loyal customers! But some people just go out looking for something negative to say, don’t let your business, listening potential customers, or your self-worth suffer.
  • Don’t say yes to everything.
    • In the beginning I was super thankful to get into any market. But I realized when it was a good time to move on and find something else. After about six weeks if your booth fee isn’t at least 10% of your profits it may be time to move on. Sometimes exposure comes into play. For example: I attend a market twice a month at UNF that doesn’t always fit into that equation but I get a lot of exposure from my target audience. With tons of market research over the years I know that my target audience are women from the ages of 18-35 married and single. The students I meet don’t always have the funds to buy but they do tell their friends and most of the time come back to RAM on the weekends with a group of friends that all buy. So in this case at the moment, it makes sense for me to continue that market as long as their fee isn’t raised. If 80% of the patrons entering the market are your customers, you’ve probably outgrown that market.
  • Listen to your loyal customers.
    • Your loyal customers may come back with reviews, testimonials, and constructive feedback. Listen. Their advice is invaluable. They take time out of their day because they genuinely care about your growth and success. You don’t have to implement everything they suggest but take it into consideration. Your loyal customers are your best form of advertisement. They will tell everyone they know, and best of all it’s absolutely free for you.
  • Spend your slow times of year wisely.
    • Your first, second, third, or even fourth set up isn’t perfect. As you grow your set up will change. Spend those slow times of year making your set up more efficient and aesthetically pleasing. Make sure your set up and products match. Your set up should reflect your business plan. For example my products are natural, biodegradable, and my logo is a mermaid. So my set up has always been very neutral. My tablecloths are muslin, I use recycled crates, and boxes that I’ve painted with paint I already had.
  • Your set up shouldn’t take away from your product.
    • Try to keep things clean, organized, and plain. Your product should be the star of the show. My banner is super colorful to attract from afar but my set up highlights my product. If someone asks you where you got your props, then that should be a good indicator that your products aren’t highlighted correctly.
  • Social Media is your friend.
    • Embrace the fact that people will forget everything but their phone. By having a social media outlet you can attract new customers, let your current customers know where you are, and remind the forgetful types. Make sure to post at least once a day. Stay relevant.

There’s so much more I can say but I think these are the highlights so far. I’m certainly not an expert so this list may change and be added to as time goes on. I will say if I had read this before I started, I would have saved myself a lot of time and heartache. The bullet points aren’t in any kind of order. I just wrote them as I thought of it. So here’s some pictures of my set up over the last few years.

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March 2012

This was probably my six or seventh time ever selling my product. This picture was taken in March 2012. I realized later that a night market in downtown Orlando while people were in and out of restaurants and nightclub didn’t work. I had to understand my target audience. Reading Guerrilla Marketing helped me with understanding my prime selling environment. I bought the book on Amazon for less than $4.

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March 2012

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April 2012

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August 2012

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March 2013

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June 2013

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July 2013

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November 2013

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June 2014

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January 2015

2014 Road Trip

So here’s some pictures from our road trip!

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So this is Angie at our first pit stop in Daytona Beach. She had to take a picture with a “real” snowman. I let that one go and the fact that it was in front of bar because she just looked so cute.

We wanted to stop to have lunch and buy souvenirs. As many times as I’ve been to Daytona I have never done the tourist bit. Almost everything in the souvenir shop had something to do with weed. Either I picked the wrong souvenir shop, or I’ve lived under a rock and marijuana has been legalized.

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I thought this was absolutely gorgeous. I never took the chance to actually enjoy Daytona. For me it always seemed like a dirty tourist trap. Guess I was the dirty tourist that day 🙂

Although as we were walking out of the beach I did happen to read the sign that said the water was contaminated, no swimming. So there’s that.

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Daytona was absolutely beautiful.

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Our next stop was Delray Beach. When I say picturesque… that doesn’t even cover it! My mother lives here, we were on our way to the grocery store. Can you believe this is the view?!!! You know I had to stop!

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This was right off of the sidewalk. It was so beautiful I can’t even explain how full my heart was. The weather was perfect!!

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There was about 10 people on the beach. This was Christmas Day, a crisp 70 something almost 80.

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Best Christmas ever! I may not have been born on the beach but that’s where my heart is always content.

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So I’m not even going to say how many pictures we tried to take together. The pictures were coming out wrong and that’s when mom pointed out we were facing the sun, so we turned around and she took the iPad. Then she kept covering camera with her thumb and we both took a minute to figure that out. I don’t know what happens when were together. But I can guarantee it’s always an adventure!!

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We bitter-sweetly left mom and headed for the west coast. But not before stopping in the Everglades!!

10967961_10203673674230089_300807828_nWe pulled over and this alligator was actually on the pavement! It was probably about 50 feet long! Just kidding maybe 4 or 5. Jeremy was like “DON’T GET OUT OF THE CAR!” Me being the awesome tourist said “I’ll just take a quick pic and jump back in”… Well the sun was shining and I couldn’t see what I was taking pictures of so I finally got a shot after he/she was already in the water, I have about 20 asphalt pics though 🙂

The air was so clean. It smelled different and all of my stress really seemed to just melt away. The Everglades seemed to just swallow up all of my problems and just made everything seem so small and insignificant. The kids had a great time too. I really do have some awesome kids. They sat in the car and enjoyed every minute.

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In this moment I felt just an overwhelming weight of gratitude. This trip was really spiritual for me and helped me mentally set my priorities. In this quiet place on the edge of the Everglades, I thanked God for blessing me with these amazing people to share my life with. I realized that I need to take more time to just tune everything and everyone else out and just spend more undivided quality time with these people.

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We stopped at the last gas station for like 140 miles to make sure that we filled up the tank, checked tires, and fluids. The last thing I wanted to be was gator bait. As we were leaving I happened to actually read an old beat up sign that said Seminole Museum with a beat up looking Native American pointing to the right. The opposite direction of the highway. But what the hey, we were on a road trip right? After 18 miles of two lane road and probably 3000 gators we happen upon this sign. I’m thinking inside that even if we wanted to make a u-turn we’d end up in a gator ditch and you know… I’m pretty delectable. So I kept my mouth shut.

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After passing some houses we ended up at a pretty awesome museum!! They had a video clip that explained how the Seminoles were never really from Florida because all of those Native American’s were wiped out and the Seminoles were actually from Tennessee and surrounding states. It went on for a bit and explained so much and I get super emotional with those kinds of things so I was totally trying to hide my tears. I would totally recommend this museum to anyone passing the Everglades! They also had a 3 mile nature walk that was kind of creepy. The first sign says to keep yourself and limbs on the actual walkway which is a few feet higher than the ground. Then they had different signs of tree species and insects. I come across a sign explaining poisonous spiders… then bobcats… then cougars. I look around and there’s a family behind us but I think that’s it. So after reading the cougar sign I’m yelling at the kids “Mush!!” Thinking OMG were back in a cheesy horror flick.

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By the end I felt glad we were out of there and vaguely like I was in the Bog of eternal Stench in Labyrinth. Without the stench of course.

After that we spent a day with Jeremy’s mom on the West Coast of Florida but by that time I was missing home and ready to sleep in my bed. Taking this road trip was an amazing and spiritual experience. I know I came back a different person. Definitely stronger 🙂 I’m thinking Tennessee or Georgia next year.

The end of another chapter…

I want to start of by saying that one of my goals for 2014 was to take a family vacation. We have never had one because we just didn’t have the money, or if we did we decided that it wasn’t the right time or correct use of our money. Especially after the ups and downs of 2013. I’m just going to put it out there because I’m just bursting at the seams to tell you! Our trip was fully funded with Bella Lina Bath profits!! Can you believe it? My little ‘hobby’ has not only turned a profit but it’s turned a profit that pays a good portion of our monthly expenses and was able to fully fund a family vacation!!

This road trip was so liberating. It proved to me that I made the right decision for myself and my family. I don’t have to explain myself or allow myself to be less than anymore. I am good enough. I know a lot of you who know me are going to be like “what”?  “Girl, shut up, you know you’re fabulous.”

It’s so hard to explain, but I know we’ve all been there. I spent these last couple of years in constant “I need the money” status. I’ll do that market, or I’ll do that wholesale account even though they make me feel like they are so much better than me because I need the money.  I worked hard because I felt like I didn’t have the funds to work smart. I allowed people to treat me a certain way because I felt like if I told them how really felt then they wouldn’t buy my product.

But taking this trip and really just allowing myself to reflect I realized that I had things all wrong. My most loyal customers knew the “real” me. They appreciated me all the more for it. Those customers that I let talk to me in a certain way ended up being the ones that never bought anything. And of course those wholesale accounts that acted like the world revolved around them ended up costing me more money than they ever paid me. I realized I was letting these things happen to me. I was saying yes to everything because I needed the money and in the end taking a hit. We were already back on track in 2014 but it was hard for me to turn that kind of attitude off.

I realized that just because certain people are friendly, that doesn’t mean they’re your friend. I realized that I need to stop focusing on wholesale accounts and getting new customers. I need to focus on growing my business internally by having more stock and variety for my current loyal customers. I need to go back to the beginning when I listened, thanked, and stayed humbly grateful. I now know that my business didn’t grow through boutiques, international accounts, big box stores, or any of that hoopla. It grew from you, and you told your friend about me and your friend ended up bringing another friend and so on. So it’s to you I say thank you.

The Real Pay it Forward

I was packing up yesterday after a rainy day at the market, a man in business casual clothes, a work badge, and an old but cared for hat approached me. I was laughing with my other vendor friends and having a good time. He asked me how I was, I replied with a smile “Hi. I’m good, how are you?” That’s when I noticed his face. He had this look, he was educated, but desperate. He smiled, he had white teeth but his smile was empty.

He said I know this is kind of an unorthodox question but I was wondering if I could help you pack your stuff into your car. I really don’t care how much you pay me, you could pay me a dollar if you want. As he was talking he must have noticed that I was studying his clothes, the fact that he was wearing a work badge, his nice but scuffed up shoes, his soft-spoken intellectual voice. He explained how he lost his full-time job, and then he lost his car, then he lost place. He explained how he sold everything he owned just to be able to eat and pay the $8 a day he needed to sleep in a shelter. He told me that he finally got another job but he just couldn’t get ahead. He explained that he had $13 for transportation for him to get to work this week, but he still needed $8 to stay in the shelter tonight.

He kept talking, but I said hold on a sec, went into my tent and took $10 out of my cash box and gave it to him. I told he didn’t need to keep explaining anything. I told him that he didn’t need to help me work, he’s worked hard enough just making his way to me. I told him there was a reason we met, I was meant to help him today. I gave him a bag and told him to get whatever he wanted from my stock, and to come back when he ran out. He started crying.

He told me that this has been the hardest year of his life. He told me that I wasn’t the first person that he tried to help, he told me that everyone before me gave him horrible looks, didn’t listen to a word he had to say, and told him to keep it moving. He told me that he knows how God is, but his faith has been shaken.

My heart really broke for him. I looked through his sad eyes, but all I could say was I’m sorry. I was angry, because his life can be anyone of ours. It wasn’t too long ago that we almost lost our house. If it wasn’t for family, I’d be in his same shoes. I was angry that anyone would think they were better than that. When I got home, I was angry that I didn’t give him more.

I was angry at myself for feeling accomplished in the “pay it forward” days at Starbucks. Really? Let me go ahead and pay for someone who can afford an expensive cup of coffee. When Mr. Rayquan needed $3 than that cup of coffee for a bed to sleep in.

As I type this, I have this knot in my throat because I expect more of myself. So if I see Rayquan again next week, I’ll buy him some fruits and vegetables, I’ll give him bottled waters, and my cooler, I’ll pay for his week at the shelter, and give him whatever he needs. Because it’s not up to us to figure out who’s telling the truth, it’s about helping when we can.

That’s what I consider paying it forward.

We don’t plan to stop using Palm Oil

I always knew a few things at the grocery store used Palm Oil in their ingredients. But I had no idea that up to 50% of the packaged everyday items include Palm Oil. From pizza dough, ice cream, lipstick, and detergent. After doing a bit of research it was pretty clear that Palm Oil used a lot of names that are impossible to pronounce. But if it starts with Palm, its palm oil.

Even with all that being said, we will continue to use Palm Oil. Because we use RSPO Red Palm Oil. By using Red Palm Oil we’re actually helping families provide for themselves. These families are no different from my own just trying to make a better life for their children. Because of this I don’t mind paying extra for this awesome oil. Yes, by using organic oils (I use organic coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil too) I make about .70 cents less per bar than other soapers because I haven’t raised my prices. But it’s worth it to me to help other families, and provide high quality products at a reasonable price.

sustainable red palm oil rspo

sustainable red palm oil rspo

I also add Bentonite Clay and Tussah Silk to all of my soaps too. Yes, not some..  all of them!

 

August Giveaway is Live!

August Giveaway, click on this link to enter.

Our Monthly Giveaway is live and ready for entries! 3 Winners are chosen each month. This month we are giving away any soap currently on our website. Good luck, hope to be emailing you at the end of the month!

Going back to Etsy

If you follow my website and Facebook page, you probably know that I’ve been running a monthly giveaway. I pick three winners every month, and I just love doing it. It’s attracted new customers, added new likes to my Facebook page, but most of all it’s allowed my customers to give me their input.

I’ve gotten more than one request for free shipping and lower shipping on one item. I checked through my website (weebly) and in order for me to run discounts or automatic deductions, it would cost me an additional $20 per month! Which would mean that I’d have pass those costs onto my products. I’m not willing to do that, so the easiest solution was to go back to selling on Etsy.

I haven’t sold anything since last year, and to be honest my Etsy site looked pretty sad. After revamping it, I realized that my website just wasn’t my style either. So I ended up changing my whole website to a brighter and simpler style. I changed my product page to automatically go to my etsy site to make purchases. The website is still there, just better 🙂

So now shipping for one bar of soap is $3.00 and any order over $30 has free shipping with coupon code FREESHIPPING

How do you like my son as the banner?

Green Tea Eucalyptus

It’s been about a year since I’ve made Green Tea Eucalyptus, that won’t happen again! These bars are 100% Organic even the Green Tea leaves are organic. I love using tea in my bars because most of the benefits you get from drinking the tea you also get from using them as soap. Eucalyptus essential oil is almost a must during this time of year. I usually wake up with a stuffy nose and puffy eyes during the winter, so this bar really helps in a steam shower.

These bars are available on the website http://www.bellalinabath.com and every Saturday at the Riverside Arts Market from 10am to 4pm.

Making of Loofah Beer

I love the world of editing. Everything just looks so quick and easy. I can just edit out my panic attacks, my kids who always want to play hide and seek the minute I press record, and of course my mother who bursts in to discuss topics that shouldn’t be repeated.

I have a panic attack EVERYTIME I make a beer soap. Because beer moves so quickly, so to pour the soap into a loofah can be a bad situation if you don’t move fast! That’s why I don’t add any color to the soap or even really stick blend it.

I scented it with a blend of Frankincense and Myrrh, Sandalwood, and Patchouli. It’s a fragrance from Crafters Choice called Three Wise Men. I like to add extra Sandalwood essential oil just to add depth. I use Intuition Jon Boat beer, which is a local brewery. I replace the water and use 100% beer. The beer is really good, and comes in a cute blue and silver can.

I package these soaps in two coffee filters and use a 2 inch kraft label for the name and ingredients of the soap. Keeping things simple and low-cost when it comes to packaging allows me to use more expensive ingredients like organic coconut oil, sustainable red palm oil, and craft beers, and still keeping the soap prices down.

These bars are available online http://www.bellalinabath.com and every Saturday at the Riverside Arts Market under the Fuller Warren Bridge from 10am to 1pm until the last week in Feb. and then 10am to 4pm for the rest of the year.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

IMG_1060When I was younger my grandma would raid the fridge, grabbing milk, honey, and grinding up oatmeal to make a kind of porridge consistency and slather it on her face. I always told her she was a crazy old lady and she’d always respond in Spanish saying “I may be crazy, but I don’t look old”. I always followed her around and she’d slather these crazy concoctions on my eczema and face too. Turns out she was onto something!

Here’s a few pictures of some of the soaps I’ve been working on. I’ll work on making more videos too, now that my soap studio is presentable.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey1660548_10201390921842706_1681163536_nThese pictures haven’t been edited at all. This is Oatmeal, Milk & Honey is a totally unscented bar made with colloidal oatmeal, milk, and organic local honey. Although it’s unscented it kind of smells like a snicker doodle. I love this soap when my eczema flares up, if my skin feels tight, or if I’m just feeling sensitive. I love using colloidal oatmeal because your skin absorbs the benefits better than regular oats. I use raw,  This bar is great for eczema, psoriasis, acne, insect bites, poison ivy, diaper rashes, and sunburns.

Raw, unheated, organic honey has antibacterial properties that speed the healing of infections and wounds, including acne. It also contains antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals to promote healthy skin. Honey also improves skin hydration, an important factor in the skin’s ability to maintain softness, suppleness and elasticity. -http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/facts/the-benefits-of-honey.htm

The last healing ingredient is milk. Turns out even Cleopatra used milk on her skin! Milk helps to smooth, heal, nourish and soften your skin. It prevents premature aging which we can really use with the harsh sun in the summer and these polar ice fronts in the winter. Milk helps with irritations, removing stains on your skin, and helps to exfoliate dead skin cells.

It’s available for purchase on my website http://www.bellalinabath.com, at Salon 5 located 14333  #28 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250, and at the Riverside Arts Market every Saturday under the Fuller Warren Bridge from 10am-1pm during the off-season and 10am-4pm after March.

 

 

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