Skin-care Entrepreneur Sticks to Chemistry, Finds a Winning Formula

Christi Apodaca was made for the natural life. Photo by Karin Strickland

Wander into C&Co. and your blood pressure drops. In the softly lit, lavender-scented space, music purrs in the background, rows of brown glass jars and bottles are perched neatly on the shelves, and stacks of soap tower on the tables. Pick up a bar to sniff and your fingertips come away silky smooth.

As enticing and rustically beautiful as it all is, what matters most, says owner Christi Apodaca, is what’s inside each container. She’s been a self-proclaimed lover of chemistry her whole life.

“We’ve been here for just over five years,” she explains. “And for the first three-and-a-half years, everything was made here after hours. The space was turned into a chemistry lab. It was pretty fantastic.”

One of her signature creations is also her first. Her daily face polish is a rich concoction made largely of local honey. It’s a gentle cleanser that relies on the antibacterial and moisturizing qualities of that honey and is intended to leave the skin soft and clean, but not stripped. Her voice speeds up and she smiles as she describes it: “pure chemistry in a jar.”

By the time she was 13, Apodaca had already become vegan and was reading labels at the health-food store. A competitive runner, she knew that paying attention to what she used to fuel her body was particularly important. She attended a medical magnet high school and was pre-med in college before switching to economics, a decision that would also serve her well.

Skincare is all about chemistry. Photo by Karin Strickland

After college, this same high-level love for organic led her to her a local farmer’s market in Florida. There, she used honey from a beekeeper friend to create her daily face polish, and worked to perfect four other skincare products.

She remained a one-woman show when she moved to Asheville five years ago, working as much as 14 hours a day, including weekends, until she hired two workers for her retail space and one for the West Asheville lab. That key employee is a pastry chef, something Apodaca expressly desired: “A pastry chef is all about precision. This is much like baking a cake. If you don’t have precision, it’s going to fall flat.”

Though many things have changed, her mission has not: to make affordable organic products that really work. She uses no petrochemicals, but she does include the same bacteria used to make kimchi: a natural preservative. Apodaca has everything third-party tested and is voluntarily registered with the FDA.

When she speaks about her products, it’s with a scientist’s vocabulary, worrying about pH and the skin’s acid mantle. Every product has a protocol. She also brings an economist’s shrewd eye, relying on efficiencies to grow her business at a pace she calls “dizzying.”

Apodaca remains committed to keeping C&Co.in Asheville, though.“Not many cities have and can support local entrepreneurs, but we [do]. That’s ridiculously cool.”

Christi Apodaca, C&Co.Handcrafted Skincare, downtown Asheville, 15-A Broadway. For more information, call 828-575-9144 or see candconaturals.com.

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