The package changed, the product improved.

Since we first introduced J&L Apothecary Brand back in 2017, we relied upon packaging materials we were already using for J&L Pogonotrophics. Partly because the first items were merely a new label applied to the same product we were already making. Other items, we were not all that sure how well they would be received upon hitting the market. And then, we were not sure how to best differentiate the brand yet ensure people knew it was an extension of who we already made ourselves out to be.

Customer feedback was an important factor in how we recreated J&L Apothecary’s look from the start. The biggest factor was the necessity to make it appeal to as many folks as possible by removing any gender profile. Through use, customers also told us what they liked and did not like about our bottles or jars used.

Most of our product photographs were done before we fully implemented all the packaging changes. Some packages saw a complete overhaul while others just had a color change. We are still in the process of revamping our presentation. Soon, we will work through all Cobalt packaging for the majority of products as we transition to white or clear bottles and jars. We are moving through all unique packaging at this time, which means some products may not match their photographs. Once we have completed more of this transition, we will have our photographer work on creating all new photos for all J&L Apothecary Brand products.

Another benefit has been the refinement of production methods and an increase in new ingredients in our raw materials cabinet. This has allowed us to tweak ingredients for some products to bring in better ingredients than what was being used previously. Our move to more Certified Organic Ingredients is also a factor. We rather provide a high quality organic ingredient over a less expensive non organic ingredient if how that change improves quality if there is a change at all.

These changes have not been limited to J&L Apothecary Brand. Our Beard Care line has seen upgrades as well. When we first acquired the “tottle” bottles for our lotions, it was a perfect fit for our After Shave Cream as well. And when we decided to make changes to our Beard Wash and introduce the All New Beard Shampoo and companion Beard Conditioner, the “tottle” bottle was an ideal package to help ensure users dispense the right amount, easily and with less mess. Unfortunately it migrated away from our “signature” blue bottles.

Due to supply and pricing issues we had to change our Original Beard Butter TM package to an amber jar with black lid. Nobody really noticed, but we were sad to see the blue with aluminum lids gone. Another change that is soon to come is our move from the aluminum caps for beard oils. We loved using metal as it was easily recycled as well as looked great with the blue bottles. Quality issues from our suppliers had led to us having to recycle near a third of the caps we were attempting to use. There were even cases where the caps were popping off the bottles due to temperature changes caused the caps to warp and loosen. This increase in scrap of packaging materials made the caps too costly to continue to use. Before the end of the year you wills start to see our beard oils transition to black plastic caps. We analyzed the concept of moving to droppers for our closure and felt it was still a messier mean to apply beard oil. Our reducer “shaker” insert will still be in place to ensure dosing without spilling, and less mess if you knock the bottle over.

Behind the scenes we are working on a new Original Beard Butter formula that will be vegan friendly while still performing as awesome as it already does. There may also be the addition of an all natural plant-based emulsifier to avert a repeat of our past performance issue. We pride ourselves of always providing a high quality product at a fair price, we will always work to make our products better in formula and packaging.

Product details updating

Over this summer we will be auditing our product details and revising information as we add a new tabbed feature layout to all our own branded products.

As we have grown, it is time to convert all ingredient details to the FDA INCI standards. These are the approved botanical or scientific names larger cosmetic makers are required to use to establish uniformity and consistency to ingredient listings. Because of our size of business we are not required to use this system, using the common accepted names for all ingredients it its place. The intent was to be able to convey to consumers our ingredients in a manner that is very easily understood. We could legally still use our current system but as we wish to expand our marketplace it is sensible for us to make this change now. As always, we wish to be upfront and honest about our ingredients as well as our processes.

New Product Information Tabs

Our mission is to make our main product page easier to read and for you to get to the information that is most important or relevant to your search first. Our format always had a structured tab system, but it was one that was not editable in a manner that we felt was beneficial. We have added a back end feature that will allow us to fully customize our product information tabs.

For most products you will see 3 key tabs: Description, More Details & Use, and Ingredients. Description is the first tab all will see when viewing a product. It will contain the general purpose of the item along with basic details and call-outs for benefits and key ingredients.

Next tab will be More Details & Use. A place where we will describe the best or more common use or application of the item and dig into product details such as suggested storage, additional uses and added benefits. Our instructions on how to use a product are based upon the designed purpose of the product. Many of our products have multiple uses and it is good to know what else you can use it for. NOTE: We will alert safety concerns that relate to proper uses, if any. If an item is used outside of the noted methods of use, it is outside our Terms & Conditions and we can not guarantee its performance or safety.

Ingredients is our last custom tab. This is where all base ingredients are listed. For scented items, we keep the details concerning scent on our SCENTS page as they are shared among many products and would be far too lengthy to add into each product listing. Scents are covered under INCI as “fragrance” and are not required to be detailed. We will also call out packaging details and suggest recycling for commonly recyclable packaging components.

The Reviews tab will remain and is moved to last. Reviews are very important for sharing your experience with others. The more reviews a product receives, the more trustworthy it can become to a new customer who is uncertain about the experience they may encounter using our products.

We hope to provide comprehensive information about all our products to help shoppers get the information they want as well as set the right expectations. We do not have an in-house team of content writers, nor have we contracted a 3rd party to do this task. Like everything we do, it is by our small team of people that work behind the scenes to keep us running. By small, I mean pretty much one person. This process will take time and may have some hiccups along the way. Please pardon our “dust” as we make these changes. If there is information or details you would like to see, put it in a product review and we will address it right away.

Our take on “Utility Oils”

We get it; men like it simple when it comes to their grooming regimen. Preferring one product that can be tasked with more than one duty. We embrace this with many of our products where it makes sense; where each task is performed well and you get the best results for everything it does.

It seems there is trend out there of a grooming product collectively referred to as Utility Oils. Utility oils perform the duties of beard oil, shaving oil and skin moisturizing oil. Sounds great, right? Well, when it comes to soaps, shampoo, many creams and lotions such multitasking is sensible. A good body wash can work well as a shampoo. Even our shampoo bars can be awesome body bars. But when it comes to beard oil and shaving oil there are very distinct properties that you should be looking for in each that are at opposing ends of the spectrum.

The best beard oils are light and thin. They will spread easily and evenly through your beard and absorb more quickly into the skin as well. On the other hand, an ideal shaving oil will be thick and viscous. It should become a barrier between the razor and the skin, creating a slick surface for the razor to glide upon. Although it being an oil, it will still absorb into the skin and moisturize; but it will also feel greasy if used as a lotion.

A utility oil is either a beard oil tasked with being a shaving oil, a shaving oil you can use on your beard or a blend of the two. One may think a blend would do the trick but when you think it through you are actually getting a thinned down shaving oil that works as a thickened beard oil. Tasking one to work as the other means it is only doing one job well. Why pay for a product that only does one job well in place of buy 2 products that do their respective jobs very well independently?

An answer may be that it is less expensive while keeping down the clutter in your bathroom. And here is the GOTCHA! – these utility oils are often more expensive than buying an oil for each task. A 2 ounce bottle of a “premium” utility oil can run $40 to $80 anywhere you go. The average 1 ounce bottle of beard oil is about $20, most shaving oils are about the same for a 2 ounce bottle. In our case, each will run about $16 each and come in the same sizes.

Quality of the oils is also important. Castor oil is the ideal oil to use for a shaving oil. It is also one of the cheapest oils used in grooming products. That is why a shaving oil can be twice the size for the same price as a beard oil. A premium beard oil will use mostly argan, almond, apricot and avocado oils to give the performance punch. By the way, if your beard oil does not have at least 2 of those in greater proportion, you should find a better beard oil.

The biggest factor into pricing of any of these products is marketing and pricing to match a desired image. If we get down to the core, with all parts being equal, you are paying more for less with a utility oil. The only thing you are saving is space on your bathroom counter, or wherever you would store your grooming wares.

J&L Pogonotrophics’ Shaving Oil [2 scents, 2oz. $16] and Beard Oil [3 formulas, 17 scents, 1oz. $16]

We provide 3 great formulas of beard oils that vary in viscosity to target the best conditioning you may need. Separately we offer an amazing Shaving Oil that stays slick as a foundation to a great close shave. For skin conditioning we offer Junk Oil as an wholly different beast as well as varying skin lotion formulas. Save the money, give up a little space and do yourself a favor and buy your beard and shaving oils separately. You are likely not needed them both on a daily basis anyway.

Why keep it a secret?

We have good amount of loyal fans of our products and our values. People really seem to love that you can get high quality bath & body products without spending a small fortune. Although I personally don’t see our prices as being inexpensive when compared to your national available mass produced products. It was never our intentions to be on the same price level and there is no way at this point in time for us to even come close. When you look at luxury, salon and boutique brands that are often only sold in limited stores or online, our prices are often shockingly lower for comparable ingredients in a product.

J&L has very loyal fans and followers. Our list of customers who keep coming back for more continues to grow. They often tell us how much they love our products and our prices; and we hope they are telling their friends and family as well. But we have a favor to ask of all of you that do love our products. Please, tell strangers what you think of our products. The best and easiest way to do such is to review the items you have tried on our website and with Google.

Strangers will trust another stranger’s opinion far more than anything we can say about our products. While browsing our site they can see what other users have to say to help them decide if they wish to buy a product from a brand they may have never heard of before. On Google, it not only helps potential customers evaluate our products but helps us spread the word through our own listings. The more and better reviews we get through Google the higher they place us on searches for our products for others to find.

In a way, we like being that little secret brand that maybe folks aren’t sharing too much for fear that we may grow too big and become more expensive and lower quality. We truly wish for that to be the reason. The fact is, you don’t need to keep us a secret. We have the means to easily scale up production to provide more product. As we do so, we are able to buy our supplies and ingredients at even lower prices which will offset the increased manufacturing costs. It may even be possible to lower prices or offer more premiums, discounts and sales.

But, honestly we know you are busy people and may not have time to go back online to give a review for products they just bought. Maybe it was a gift and you hate to ask how much the recipient likes it. Maybe you’re scared that giving us any rating than 5 stars will upset us. (Actually, it will drive us to make it better).

To review us on Google, just search for us (J&L Pogonotrophics) and you should see a box to the upper right in your browser window with company details. There should then be a place where you can enter a review. For any of our products, next time you shop you can easily give a review as you browse for each item.

We thank you for this assistance and hopes this will help other shoppers to give us a try.

Advanced Skin Care is here!

We listened to what you were saying. Over the past few months we have worked on developing formulas for very specific skin care products that truly bring depth to our catalog of products. Current trends are pointing to simple and natural means to bring spa quality products to the home that are affordable. This speaks to us loud and clear. We are always trying to find ways to make higher grade, premium or even luxury level goods to more people. Simplicity and being natural is our style as well!

In mid June we introduced the first 6 products of this new branch of our skin care line. Designed to work together to be a complete face and skin care cleansing regimen. We look for this line to expand over the next year.

  • SERUM H.A. – 2% Hyaluronic Acid serum that penetrates and restores. A tiny bit of this alpha-hydroxy goes a long way to work with your skin to deeply moisturize and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
  • TONER – a simple oil-free toner to remove dirt and oil that soap leaves behind. Water based formula that is very light on the alcohol. Contains Witch Hazel, Cucumber Extract, Green Tea Extract (still to come)
  • TONER with 2% Salicylic Acid – the same as our basic toner but with added acne fighting power.
  • FACE MIST – a great way to refresh the skin and prepare it for your care regimen. Ideal for those who have dry skin to prevent a dry feel from other products.
  • CHARCOAL FACE WASH – a specialized version of our FOAMING FACE WASH where we added the cleansing trio of Activated Charcoal, Tea Tree Oil & Lemongrass Oil. Each works to ensure as much dirt, oil and residue is removed before you go forward with your daily face regimen.
  • FACE WASH – a liquid face wash built upon our organic liquid soap base. It’s light, lathers very well and rinses away super clean.
  • FACE WASH with 2% Salicylic Acid. Our new face wash with acne fighting power of beta-hydroxy Salicylic Acid.

All of these products are free of added fragrances. The formulas are kept to the fewest ingredients possible and are designed to be a total daily facial regimen.

We are very excited to introduce these new items to our Skin Care line. With our Clay Mask System, Lotions and Scrubs we offer a very comprehensive collection of total skin care all priced attractively while offering equal or better quality than most known luxury brands. Produce in small batches to ensure you get a fresher product.

New Product News for May

We have quietly been evaluating the skin care marketplace to see what the current trends are as well as what is genuinely GREAT for your skin. Some of what we have learned has already go into our existing lotions. Formulas have been tweaked to improve their benefits. We have started to add PANTHENOL to our products, a Pro-V B5 vitamin that binds with and penetrates skin and hair more easily to boost lubrication and hydration.

Our Foaming Face Scrub will have a couple new variations that will include 2% SALICYLIC ACID, a key BETA HYDROXY which aids in managing acne. Our original formula will go unchanged, but you will see at least 1 new formula by June in our shop.

There will also be a new cleansing scrub for the J&L Pogonotrophics line. This scrub is geared for men who are bald or who shave their heads. It will help remove excess oil and dirt and to prevent acne and other scalp irritations. As a bald man I have found that I needed something that will tackle these issues that are more common because of the lack of hair that protects the skin. The scrub will be awesome for all skin, so while you have it you can also get great skin anywhere you wish.

Recently we asked our customers what other products they would like to see from us. A common response was a desire to get more specialized skin care. Especially something to treat dry or aged skin. Our research brought us to ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS like GLYCOLIC and HYALURONIC. Both of these acids help with adding elasticity and moisture to the skin and more easily breaks the bonds that hold on to dead skin cells. They are a part of those “chemical peels” you hear about. In a much lower percentage they still do a great job of reducing fine lines, wrinkles and redness that occurs. We currently have SERUM H A in testing. This all natural formula that uses plant sourced ingredients is a simple serum that can easily be applied to the skin in a fine layer under a moisturizer or sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend using such a serum twice daily. SERUM H A also includes vitamins B5 and C, along with Aloe Vera to aid in its effectiveness. Serums like this can run as high as $300, although most are under $20Our plan is to introduce this serum soon at a price point that is competitive to value brands while offering a higher grade pure product.

SERUM H A is part of a new branch of our Skin Care line that will carry a slightly new look to reflect their more specialized mission and ingredients. We plan to add a face moisturizing spray and a face wash to this group for launch. Look for details to come.

We are excited about this new additions. These new products will further differentiate us from the rest by providing more options, higher quality and value-minded pricing. Choice has been the foundation we built ourselves upon and we don’t see that changing.

Product Development: Conditioner Bar Part 2

We have been analyzing recipes to see what we can do to perfect the shelf consistency of the product to remain firm, even when it when the environment is warm or humid; along with being easy to use where it will create the “just right” creamy consistency of a conditioner when being used. We are sure there is the perfect ratio of thickeners/hardeners while still being something that will melt in your hands. So far we are not having any luck.

It seems the issue for us is that we wish to consist of 100% natural/plant based ingredients. We looking at recipes we are seeing agents being used that are not derived from plants. Currently we are working with Cetearyl Alcohol and Behentrimonium methosulfate – working together as BTMS-50. The names may be scary but there are genuinely plant based products, and not synthesized versions. Cetearyl Alcohol is a thickener for fats and oils. Don’t let the alcohol part scare you as it is a “fatty alcohol”, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be exceptionally beneficial for skin and hair. It is heavily used for lotions and conditioners throughout the cosmetic industry. Behentrimonium methosulfate is made from rape seed (canola) oil, and is a very popular conditioning agent along with being a great emulsifier. Together they work as a base for creating lotions and conditioners. Designed to be mixed with all your other butters and oils to bind them with water to get the right consistency. By adding higher ratios of Cetearyl alcohol you get a thicker to even solid product.

For now we are scrapping our Solid Conditioner plans until summer. The coming weeks we are busy building up inventory for the summer. Hopes are that we can piece together the right formula and have a product ready for Autumn. This project is important to us and we know it is something many are waiting for but we do not want to rush this and produce a mediocre product.


New Beard Shampoo & Conditioner

We are really excited to bring 2 very new products to our J&L Pogonotrophics line; our all new Beard Conditioner and our improved Beard Shampoo which replaces Quotidian Beard Wash. These are all new formulations designed from the bottom up to meet the very specific demands of beard hair.

While others will take a simple shampoo formula, natural or other, and bottle it as a beard shampoo. We dug deep into the needs of the average beardsman and paired the right ingredients, in the right amounts to address those needs. We began with our organic wash base, which in itself is an awesome liquid soap and as good as any other premium wash, and added key moisturizing oils that can penetrate the cuticle of the hair and nourish it from the inside out. We also added Pro-V B5 (aka Panthenol), which is found in many quality hair care products. Panthenol works by improving effects of hair elasticity, moisture retention and flexibility; and can improve damaged hair. Beard hair often takes a lot of abuse from the environment and from grooming habits.

This new Beard Shampoo is an example of the leading edge we take when it comes to quality premium beard care products and is priced very competitively. Compare to Bluebeard Shampoo’s ingredients and right away you will see the difference. You won’t see Hemp, Avocado and Macadamia Nut Oils – all proven to be amazing hair moisturizers! Nor will you see the number of organic ingredients like we offer. You also see they use Propylene Glycol, which can irritate the skin.

A sensible pairing for our Beard Shampoo is our all new Beard Conditioner. A super luxurious and THICK conditioner that is packed with all the best moisturizing agents you can find for nourishing hair. It took months to work out the idea conditioner that can penetrate the beard hair and leave it soft and manageable. This conditioner is so amazing that you may not need to use a beard oil as often. We bring over many of the same conditioners you find in our Shampoo, but kick them up with Jojoba Oil, Mango Butter, Shea Butter and Coconut Oil. You will also find a more Pro-V B5 to help ensure those moisturizers get to do their best work. There is no serious comparison to the quality of this conditioner!

Both of these new items are in stock in our store today! Each are only $10 for 120ml – 4 fl oz bottles. While the Beard Conditioner is unscented, the Beard Shampoo comes in our 8 core fragrances.

Again, we are setting the bar high for what beard care can be!

Original Beard Butter performance issue

First, I wish to state a couple important factors that underline this post. We are a very tiny company. That does not mean we are not trying to be bigger or that we should not function as if we were. It purely means that the smallest of “hiccups” can have a bigger ripple effect than if we were bigger. And as we state in our values, we wish to always be open and honest about all that we do – the good and the bad.

The last few months have been extremely hectic for us. In essence, it is growing pains. The Pop-Up store we operated dramatically increased our customer base and sale velocity. It also means some areas of our business did not get all the attention they deserve. What I am communicating here should have been disclosed sooner under the umbrella of our honesty value.

ORIGINAL BEARD BUTTER quality issue:

First it is important to know how we make our Original Beard Butter, and many of our products. We make an unscented base in bulk that is then dispensed in smaller measured quantities to make scented variations. This is how we are able to offer so many scent options for many of our items. In the fall of 2018 we produced a rather large batch of unscented Butter base to meet the increased demand during the autumn.

The facility in which we store our bases and finished goods is not adequately climate controlled. It is an old building that uses radiant heat that is also not well monitored. This situation lead to our Original Beard Butter warming and cooling in constant cycles; melting and setting over and over again. The Original Beard Butter is a mixture of fats, oils, butters and waxes that each have their own melting point and densities. The constant melting and cooling caused the heavier components to precipitate out – in simple terms, to separate away from the rest. This mainly affected the beeswax.

We took steps to melt and re-blend the base, which is permissible by industry standards, to ensure the parts were well mixed. Then we store the base in a cooler location that is less affected by the temperature fluctuations. We also inspected all our finished goods at that time for signs of the wax “crystallizing” withing the butter. All affected units were re-batched.

It came to our attention that a few units continued to be affected and we handled each of those issues on a case by case basis. Either offering to replace or giving advice on how to handle the product – whatever satisfied the customer.

It is important to know that there is nothing unsafe about continuing to use this product when this happens. It is not a desirable experience during application, but it will not cause any harm to your hair, skin or anything else it comes in contact with. If this happens to your Original Beard Butter at any time, you can simply warm it and whip it a little. Best scenario is to prevent this product from experiencing such temperature fluctuations.

Like many of our Beard Care products, the Original Beard Butter is 100% natural and contains no emulsifiers or additives. This is by design and not something we wish to change. In our 5 years we have never encountered this situation previously and were able to deduce the exact cause once discovered. We believed we had caught all affected product but it appears we did not. We have taken the following steps to ensure it does not happen again.

  • Our remaining affected base has been destroyed.
  • All units that showed signs of being at any stage of separation were also destroyed.
  • Any customer that reports this issue will receive a fresh new like item or a store credit. We must be able to validate your purchase and see evidence of the separation in a near full jar.
  • We are looking to reformulate the product. This has been in the works as we wish to add more premium butters and switch to a vegan friendly recipe. It is likely we will add Lecithin as an emulsifier to help prevent this from happening.
  • Original Beard Butter base is now being produced in smaller batches and stored in a more temperature stable environment that is regularly below 75 degrees.
  • All current inventory is fresh and stored in the same manner as the base.

If you have an Original Beard Butter or any other product from us that does not appear as usual or as described, please contact us immediately. The sooner you reach out to us the better we are able to correct the issue. Please note, that all our products are hand packed and naturally have imperfections from our production. These imperfections are only visual as we can assure you that we are using the purest of ingredients, naturally sourced wherever possible in a safe and clean environment. As we grow, we will be able to improve our production through more automated processes that remove these imperfections and irregularities.

We appreciate everyone’s support of our tiny business and hope that you have the most positive experience when using our products and working with us when things are not up to our standards. But do give us a chance to make things right before coming to a conclusion of how we operate. We take a level of pride in our very low defect rate and the absence of “bad” reviews on social media and Google. It is with you and this support that will allow us to constantly improve and grow.

Thank you very kindly,
John C Dodge
Founder
J&L Pogonotrophics LLC


Soap Bars: Hand cut vs. Molded

When we first started making bar soaps we went with using molds for forming each bar. They were much easier for us to produce small quantities and present a very neat solid shape. We took a new approach to our bar soaps with our re-launch last Spring. The thoughts were to give them a hand made look by forming a loaf in a mold to then hand cut for individual sell-able units. This process was also thought to make the process faster and the ability to produce more bars at once. Our sales had increased enough that we needed to make a dozen or more at a time to be efficient.

We sourced loaf molds and cutting boxes and went to work producing our new bars. They were a hit right away. People loved the fragrances as much as the look. Behind the scenes we had a problem; consistency. The loaf molds were not perfectly square and would bulge in the middle from the weight of the soap. When cutting the bars we found wide variations in the weight of each bar. The cutting process also caused minor fluctuations in thickness as well. And, there was a lot of waste from trimming off the edges. Those trimmings were able to be re-batched, added to the next production run so not to be a total loss.

It is very important for us to maintain consistency as much as possible in weight or volume of our products. We still hand craft everything we sell, so there is bound to be some minute inconsistencies but these bars were varying 15 to 20 grams within a batch. Our call was to mark them at the lowest average weight. We also came to realize that the hand-crafted look is not what we want. Despite being hand crafted we still wanted to keep a smooth “produced” look to our products, knowing that as we grow it will be the natural aesthetic by default.

When we launched our shampoo bars we decided that the round molds would be best. Making it an ideal size and shape for user experience. If molds were good for the shampoos then they should be good enough for the body bars.

It became apparent that the changes we made were not the right step for us and decided to return to forming each bar in its own mold. This allows the polished edge to 5 of the 6 sides of the bar. The bottom side, which is the top side when pouring into the mold, would not have a perfectly smooth surface. We are OK with that. Having an “unfinished” side to the soaps supports the “natural” nature of our products. Having one rough side versus 6 rough sides.

By using a mold for each bar gives us consistency without any waste. The variances are minimal, with each bar being at or above our target weight. There is less labor involved, no cutting up a loaf is needed just pop the formed bar out of the mold, smooth edges and bag. We are migrating back to using block molds for each bar as we replenish inventory. New inventory is already in stock, we will get new images up to reflect the changes as all our current options convert.

With increased growth we are able to tighten up our presentation, to put forth a more polished look so we can truly put reflect a premium image along with out already premium products.