By Megan PoehlerFeatured in Make It Minnesota's Winter 2014 issue.
For anything from soaps, lotions, and scrubs to washing gels and lip balm, Kiyi Kiyi uses a variety of ingredients, from beer and wine to pumpkins and goat milk, all made in Minnesota! Kiyi Kiyi was started by Carma Wood, a Minnesota native. All of her products are handmade and have received international recognition. Last year, her acai berry and banana leaf soap won the Saponifier Magazine design contest and was the only winner from the United States. Her soaps were also selected to be included in gift bags given out to celebrities at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards. Her products have been shipped to 42 out of 50 states and several foreign countries.
Carma started Kiyi Kiyi after she started to develop her own recipes that wouldn’t harm her sensitive skin. She searched many years to find the perfect soap that wouldn’t irritate her skin. She made do with body washes and expensive cream washes. When she finally tried a high-quality handmade soap, she realized that she had been fooled by the beauty industry’s hype. Products are often labeled as soap when in reality they are a blend of petroleum products, chemicals and surfactants. True soap is a carefully balanced creation of oils and sodium hydroxide (lye). She had previously believed that lye soap would be irritating to her skin, however a properly made soap will not. The lye is completely changed in the magic of the soap making process. Carma has perfected her soap recipes, and they were just what she needed to prevent her dry or itchy skin.
She makes her soaps in small batches which make six bars each. This allows for control of the quality of the products. It usually takes about three to four days for Carma to develop a soap idea. The soap is mixed up in about an hour and then poured into a mold for about 24 to 48 hours. It is then taken out of the mold and left to rest for another 12 to 24 hours. Then the soap is cut and stamped with her logo and placed on a curing rack for four to six weeks. After the soap is completely cured, she wraps each bar in a hand-folded paper wrapping.
One of the first soap recipes she developed was a beer soap. The natural sugars and enzymes in the beer give the soap an amazingly bubbly lather that she loves. She first used an imported German beer before she started to research the unique breweries that we have right here in Minnesota. She thought that by using locally made beer, she would have the best products possible for her handmade soap. She now uses many types of beer from a variety of small breweries in Minnesota for her soaps and says, “I would love to find a Minnesota brewery to collaborate with and create soaps made just for them, from their beer.” Carma says that her most original product is her “Tipsy Hippy” soap. This is made with a combination of Minnesota brewed beer and hemp milk. It’s colored with clays from around the world and scented with a secret blend of essential oils and dark aged Indonesian patchouli. The clay colorants give it a naturally beautiful look.
For her other ingredients, she grows all of the botanicals, herbs, vegetables, and seed exfoliants herself. Some of these ingredients include calendula, dandelions, mint, pumpkins, carrots, and raspberry and blueberry seeds. The water is drawn from a mineral-rich artesian well in Hibbing. She gets her goat milk from a small farm west of Willmar. The beeswax and honey come from her own beehives. She stresses the importance of using local ingredients. Carma believes that we have a wealth of wonderful ingredients in Minnesota. When researching soap, she found that jasmine rice facial scrubs were popular in Japan. She tried to translate that to a purely Minnesota-made product and came up with the wild rice scrub, which is now one of her best sellers.
Another best seller is the lavender soap. Even with this classic scent, Carma manages to give her design a modern twist to appeal to the customer’s eyes and nose. The almond milk and honey lotion is also very popular. This one has a very light scent, but it still brings a sweet and delicious smell. The lotion is very silky and made of a combination of avocado oil, grapeseed oil, and mango butter. These ingredients combine to make a moisturizing lotion that doesn’t leave skin oily and greasy.
She also has a soap-of-the-month club. Every month members receive a special soap, a handwritten note, and a few extra surprises. Carma tries to incorporate a Minnesota theme in every soap of the month. In each member’s note, she writes a little bit about the soap and how it was created. Past soaps have included a cherry pie soap and a coffee soap. There are people from all over the United States that are members of the soap of the month club, each wanting a little taste of Minnesota every month!
Carma’s favorite product to make is the honey bee soap. She says, “I love the scent, and I think my bees are amazing, so any recipe where I use their beeswax and honey is very special to me. I know how hard they work to collect the pollen and make the wax and honey.”
You can find Kiyi Kiyi products at crafts shows that Carma attends, including the Craft’za in Minneapolis and Craftstravaganza in St. Paul. Her products are also stocked at Amoure Cru in Shakopee, Time Bomb Vintage in Minneapolis, Bath and Body Connection in McGregor, Patina Marquet in Willmar, and available online at www.kiyikiyi.com.