In a neighborhood tucked away behind Texas Woman’s University, Jason and Alex Schreiber work out in their carport. Both wear gas masks and gloves as they break up chunks of white powder on the trays in front of them.
No one says anything. No one seems concerned.
“It kind of makes me question our neighbors, that they don’t ask questions,” Alex said.
Though they may look like extras in Breaking Bad, the pair dons masks for a much different reason than Heisenberg.
The powder they crush is homemade laundry detergent and soon, it will accompany nontoxic soaps and dish detergents to the Denton Community Market as part of the Lion Bear Naked Soap Co.
The Schreibers began manufacturing, bottling and selling liquid soaps and cleaners two years ago after they realized most of their name-brand household products contained harsh, potentially harmful chemicals.
“Your skin will soak up about 60 percent of what you put on it. It’s basically like a second mouth and the largest organ,” Jason said. “What you put on your body is just as important as what you eat.”
They aren’t alone in their thinking.
In recent years, consumers have begun to analyze the labels of their favorite products only to find known carcinogens, parabens and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients listed.
Because the cosmetic and cleaning product industries aren’t regulated like food, phrases like “natural” and “organic” don’t hold any legal meaning and can be affixed to almost anything as a marketing tool.
“We realized that if we wanted to make a truly safe product, we needed to make it ourselves,” Alex said.
The two set up shop in their 700-square-foot home, squeezing shelves and equipment into a living room that also functioned as a bedroom. Alex, a kinesiology graduate, already knew the basic chemistry behind soap, but it took quite a few failed five-gallon batches to perfect the formula that would become the base for all their products.
“It was frustrating because it was money literally going down the drain,” Alex said.
“A little paperwork and a lot of trial and error got us there eventually,” Jason said.
After giving samples to friends and family and gathering feedback, the Schreibers dove into entrepreneurship and began selling at the Denton Community Market.
Today, Lion Bear Naked has been shipped all around the country and even beyond its borders, winding up at a military base in Japan. Products are sold online and in more than 30 stores nationwide, including Earthwise Gardens in Denton.
“We try to support local business in whatever we do,” said Earthwise co-owner Christina Treviño, who also stocks Peach Tree Hill Goat Milk soaps and lotions from Azle and Mami Creations bar soaps from Fort Worth. “Their product is very clean and it’s nice to not have to worry about what chemicals are in there. I love it.”
Lion Bear sells six base products with different scents: the Every Thing Cleaner, Face and Hand Soap, Head to Toe body wash, Nuttin But Suds soap, Dish Powder, and Laundry Powder. All of its products are billed as nontoxic, vegan and nut-free.
“Almost every single natural soap has coconut oil in it, so if you have a nut allergy, you can’t use it,” Alex said. “That’s more of the reaction we’re getting nationwide is from customers saying, ‘Hey, I can’t find anything to use on my daughter because of her allergies but I can use your products.’”
“People with these allergies are kind of the canary in the coal mine for all of us,” Jason added.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental organization, compiled a cosmetics database that rates the toxicity of more than 69,000 products.
Lion Bear Naked scored between a 0 and 1 on its scale, meaning the ingredients had the lowest hazard levels.
Alternately, the popular brand Burt’s Bees scored a moderate hazard level of 3 because of irritants in its fragrances. Neutrogena, often praised for its mild soaps, has a few products with a hazard score of 7.
While Jason and Alex celebrated their company’s two-year anniversary Saturday at the community market, the two look forward to expanding their business to all 50 states by the end of the year and finding a larger space to create.
“We’re making gradual changes to scents based on what customers want,” Alex said. “We’d like to expand to more stores in D-FW, and some stores in Frisco are interested.”
“Right now, we’re looking for a trailer to store all the equipment so we can get our house back,” Jason added.
Walter White approves.
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6845 and via Twitter at @Coj9211.