E-commerce retailer Berks fills a skincare need
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
That statement holds true for Berks County native Stephen Buynovsky, who started making organic facial soap about 10 years ago.
Buynovsky has very sensitive skin and has found that many commercial soaps irritate his skin or make him itch like crazy. Her son suffers from eczema and Buynovsky said the detergents in the soap also cause his skin to become inflamed. Mild and natural soaps are therefore important. He also shared his products with his family and friends.
Buynovsky recently took her skincare products beyond her Wyomissing neighborhood. In February, he launched an e-commerce business — VACUUM soap — a range of natural, organic and mild soaps with subtle fragrances.
While the soaps are especially good for sensitive skin, Buynovsky said they’re good for “anyone looking for a nice, clean soap that’s devoid of all the bad stuff. It’s a simple formulation.
A former cosmetic chemist specializing in high-end skin and hair care, Buynovsky holds a degree in biochemistry from Moravian University.
As the pandemic continued into 2020 and 2021 — and with encouragement from family and friends who used and loved his products — Buynovsky began to think it was time to launch the business. His wife, Anna, is a co-owner of the business.
He did some research, filed his LLC in December 2021, and the website went live the first week of February.
What is VOID soap?
Buynovsky has five soaps available on his VOID soap website: Grapefruit Sunrise, Lavender Peppermint Oat Scrub, Lime and Pine, Spice Rum and Volcanic Detox, which contains 2% activated carbon. The bars are available individually or as a set of five bars.
Buynovsky said he uses organic, plant-based ingredients. Its formulas include less than 1% essential oil for fragrance.
“I use very, very little,” he said of essential oils. “What triggers allergic reactions or eczema are preservatives and fragrance.”
In addition to using organic ingredients, Buynovsky said its products are environmentally friendly and free from preservatives, detergents, dyes, synthetic fragrances and dyes, silicones, foam boosters, cleaning products. palm and plastic packaging.
Buynovsky has two additional products in development and plans to add them to the website soon.
One is a Bastille Bar, something he’s been making for years. It is mostly made with olive oil and is his favorite.
“It’s very nourishing, very high in fat, so very hydrating, without the detergent that comes in commercial soaps,” Buynovsky added.
It’s also unscented, which he says is important for those who react to even small amounts of essential oils.
The second planned bar is a honey bar.
How is it done?
VOID soap is made in small batches – 100 bars at a time. Buynovsky turned his basement into a soap-making lab. It takes four weeks to make each bar. After the ingredients are mixed, the soap is poured into silicone molds and left to sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours, he cuts the bars.
“Then I press them and let them sit for four weeks. It’s a natural cold-processed bar,” he added.
Buynovsky said her products are for anyone looking for a simple formulation to get sensitive skin clean and not too dry.
“What I’m doing is nothing new,” he said. “There are a lot of players with a lot of skin in the game, I just try to do it a bit better.”
Where are the products available?
Buynovsky opted for e-commerce over a physical location. However, he has two outlets in Berks County where people can find VOID soap. One is Mike & Joes Barber Salon, 1206 Schuylkill Ave., Reading, and the other is The Bell Tower Salon Spa, 18 State Hill Road, Wyomissing.
He knows the owner and head barber of Mike & Joe’s – Eric Rodriguez – and has sent him samples and asked him to try the products. Rodriguez loved bars and has already sold out several times. Buynovsky said he called Bell Tower about the possibility of the company selling its locally made product.
How are things going?
“So far we are doing well. I hope people love it and I hope they come back,” he said, adding that he was seeing about 20% repeat customers.
Buynovsky said he was busy and constantly shipping bars. He also talks with potential investors.
“As it is today, we’re doing really well. I’m happy with how it’s going,” he added.
Buynovsky wants to see the business grow and expand to other outlets.