As the trend to buy locally spreads beyond food, Minnesotans can find lotions and potions to keep winter skin supple, not scaly, and they're made within our borders. Call them lotions for locavores.
A couple of home-grown companies, Thymes and Caldrea, sell products found in what seems like every gift shop in the country. The hand and body moisturizers are tastefully packaged and scented with names such as Olive Leaf, Rose Pomegranate, Wild Ginger and Basil Blue Sage.
It sounds a lot more exciting to slather on a dollop of Ginger Pomelo than Amlactin. But Amlactin, a product name that sounds as harsh as the duck in an Aflac commercial, is one of several products made in Minnesota that fly under the radar of almost everyone except dermatologists and pharmacists. Amlactin, a moisturizing body lotion that contains lactic acid, is made by Maple Grove-based Upsher Smith Laboratories, which originated in 1919.
And Vanicream, made in Rochester since 1975, was started by two pharmacists who wanted better lotions than were on the market.
The Amlactin and Vanicream products are free of common irritants found in many lotions, including fragrance and masking fragrance, dyes, parabens, lanolin and formaldehyde. Unlike some products that are recommended by doctors or pharmacists, both are relatively inexpensive.
Amlactin is recommended for anyone, but especially for people with dry, rough skin. It contains 12 percent lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy that can be irritating to some patients with sensitive skin, said Dr. Spencer Holmes, a dermatologist at Park Nicollet Clinic in St. Louis Park. Try a small container as a trial treatment, but as with any over-the-counter product that causes a reaction, return it for a refund if you're not satisfied. Because of the alpha-hydroxy, it's more expensive than Jergens or Curel, but still less expensive than "skin-ceuticals" from mainstream cosmetic companies.
Vanicream works well for people with severe allergies as well as those without, Holmes said. The products are relatively inexpensive. The Lite Lotion works well for people who find creams too thick. Customers who like the cream and lotion and prefer products with little fragrance can try other products manufactured by Vanicream's parent company, Pharmaceutical Specialties.
For those who prefer fragrance, Aveda, Thymes and Caldrea are well known locally made options. (Most of the companies' products are still manufactured here.) A less-recognized name, but one that's been around in Minnesota for 141 years, is J.R. Watkins.
The Winona company, which still puts a photo of its founder on the products, writes on the label, "We invented natural products. We didn't exactly know it at the time, but our instincts were right." The body lotions, foot creams and lip balms are scented with peppermint, aloe, green tea and lemon, which, while natural, might irritate sensitive skin. Watkins guarantees 100 percent satisfaction on all of its products.