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Body WELLNESS

A Conversation With Kristen Dunning of Gently Soap, As Seen on Shark Tank

BE WELL

We are so excited to welcome founder of Gently Soap, Kristen Dunning, to the Bene Blog! We spoke with Kristen about her struggles with eczema, what inspired her to found Gently Soap, how anti-inflammatory plants contribute to the soap’s effectiveness, and the importance of Gently’s commitment to giving back to underserved communities.

Read on to learn more!

Nina Westbrook: What inspired you to develop a line of special soaps for people with eczema and skin conditions, and how did your personal experience with eczema play a role in this endeavor? 

Kristen Dunning: Gently Soap was born out of my eczema struggle and my love for medicinal plants. As an eczema warrior with hyper sensitive skin – I was tired of dealing with the burning, peeling, and itching sensations that all personal care products products would cause my skin but also completely over waking up every single day to a morning routine consisting of clinical creams, steroid shots, and boring bathing products.

Even when I made the switch to natural, clean bath products on the market, my skin still hated me. The truth is that natural soaps utilize various and unregulated amounts of essential oils – which are proven to be too irritating and harsh for the use of sensitized skin and not sustainable as the creation of the tiniest drop of essential oil requires vast amounts of agricultural labor and environmental resources. When I was a little girl, I would cry and scream when it was bath time – just because I knew my skin would burn throughout the entire process. 

When you look up care for skin conditions such as eczema on its National Association pages, one of the first steps of care is bathing, but how can you do this effectively – for you or your child – when that integral step of your daily experience is rooted in pain? These painful moments stuck with me and, when I was 20, I set out to create a gentle and joyful bathing experience for people with skin like me. 

However the seeds for me to be able to do this were planted much earlier. I was born into a long line of agricultural legacy. My grandparents lived in a Black farming community in Dixons Mills, Alabama and I would visit their 84-acre homestead frequently during my upbringing. For them – their connection to the land around them was a way of life. After they passed – my connection to them was through the land around me. In college, I majored in agricultural communication and horticultural science. I spent years in greenhouses for classes and after hours volunteering. I even pioneered my own research projects which led to my expert research background in medicinal plants. This laid the foundation for me to develop highly innovative and proprietary herbal infusions that allow my brand Gently Soap to eliminate irritating essential oils, synthetic fragrances, and toxic chemicals while still providing joyful botanical experiences.

NW: Can you tell us more about the specific anti-inflammatory plants that you chose to grow and infuse into these soaps? How do these botanical ingredients contribute to the soap’s effectiveness in addressing skin conditions like eczema?

KD:  Before I even began creating Gently Soap, I was first and foremost interested in researching anti-inflammatory botanicals and medicinal plants. I spent most of my college career in greenhouses looking at ways to spotlight herbs in skin health. After graduating undergrad, I continued research in the agricultural industry through graduate fellowships. This solidified my title as an agricultural research scientist. I wanted Gently Soap to take a natural and botanical direction but layer clinical and scientific backing to create real solutions. I selected the botanicals of my soap meticulously and chose only ones that I had personally studied myself and that had clinical validity to their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Most people buy soap to smell nice. However many of the things that bath products use to smell nice are damaging and toxic to our skin barriers. I wanted to eliminate the pain that fragrances and even highly concentrated botanical derivatives – like essential oils – can cause damaged or broken skin.

Once eliminated, I wanted to add in comfort. Calendula. Chamomile. Comfrey. Roses. Lavender. All anti-inflammatory and infused in our soaps to combat our itchy, inflamed skin. Gently Soap is focused on anti-inflammatory daily care – our joyful and subtle botanical aromas are an added bonus. 

NW: How has the launch of these unique soaps impacted the lives of individuals with eczema and other sensitive skin conditions? Are there any success stories or testimonials from customers who have experienced noticeable improvements in their skin health after using these soaps? 

KD:  Our bath bars have honestly traveled so much farther than I could have even dreamt of as a college freshman in a greenhouse. The members of the Gently Soap community share so many heartwarming skin stories to me via reviews, email, DMs, and even phone calls. The use cases are endless – I created this for sensitive, dry, itchy skin and people with eczema, psoriasis, sensory issues, Sjögren’s, cancer, and more have all found their favorite bar soap with Gently.

Stacey left this review after receiving her Shark Tank order:

“I struggled with extremely sensitive skin for years from a Neurological/ Autoimmune illness. My skin usually feels very dry, with areas of awful painful patchy rashes and blemishes everywhere. After using one of the Gently Soap, Treasures Of The Sun Bath Bar for about two or three weeks now, my skin appears more hydrated, smooth. The patches, blemishes lessened and some have even faded away. Treasures Of The Sun Bath Bar is a perfect blend. The bath bar leaves your skin feeling luxuriously soft, hydrated and healed. The scent is a lightly infused floral aromatic not overpowering blend of pure goodness with every use from head to toe. As you shower, you can literally see the natural beautifully crafted ingredients in the soap bar. Using this soap takes your entire showering experience to another level. The scent is light, aromatic and is divine pure goodness with every use from head to toe. Thank you very much for creating such a wonderful product crafted with so much care, thoughtful, love in every bar. :))”

NW: We love that, in addition to sustainable practices and local sourcing, Gently is committed to giving back to underserved communities. What was the inspiration behind your LOVE GENTLY initiative and how is it making an impact on the homeless community and survivors of sexual and domestic violence?

KD:  Love is a verb and self care is a part of this that can be so healing, relieving, and integral to feeling love for yourself. Bathing should be joyful and soothing and for some, it may be the only moment in their everyday lives that they engage in self care. I donate bar soaps annually to give the gift of self-care to as many members of my community as possible. Whether you’re happy, healing, or without a home – you deserve a moment – even if for only a second – to love yourself gently. 1. What’s on the horizon for Gently Soap? New products for sure!! I want to build a bathing empire and bring our various forms of our “joyful relief” to as many households as possible. 

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