Even as their 4-month-old’s eczema worsened last summer, Mike Arsenault remained leery of traditional treatments such as steroid creams. So, he went into his Harrison Street kitchen and cooked up his own solution — literally.
Like a lot of first-time parents, Mike and Chi Arsenault fussed over their newborn: Is that rash normal? Should we bring her to the doctor?
Even as their 4-month-old’s eczema worsened last summer, Mike Arsenault remained leery of traditional treatments such as steroid creams.
“I was very hesitant about going to the doctor for a dermatologist appointment because I knew, basically, what they were offering were meds,” said Arsenault, a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist.
So, he went into his Harrison Street kitchen and cooked up his own solution — literally.
Not only has baby Emily’s eczema disappeared, but the salve Arsenault made sells in five states and 40 stores across the country, soothing longtime sufferers of eczema and psoriasis with just a handful of kitchen cabinet ingredients.
As the start-up business expands by the day — he still concocts, packages and distributes everything himself — Arsenault said he is just happy his little girl has been eczema-free within a month of using the salve.
“I just wanted to treat the baby,” said Arsenault, who balances his work at a clinic in Woburn through Winchester Hospital with running the impromptu business, Emily Skin Soothers.
Locally, the salve is available at Beauty and Style on Harvard Street in Coolidge Corner, Harvest Co-Op in Jamaica Plain and Cambridge Naturals in the Porter Square Mall in Cambridge.
Arsenault hinted that Whole Foods is “looking” at his products, which also includes a soap made from similar ingredients.
The proud poppa said he has no secrets about his recipe: a blend of olive oil, beeswax and three Chinese herbs, including a mint derivative and two healing roots.
“I wanted to have as few ingredients as possible because it’s a baby’s skin,” he said. “I would never put anything in it that could possibly cause any harm to the baby.”
But how did the a former Roxbury Community College professor-turned-natural medicine follower get stores and clinics in Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Florida and West Virginia to stock his product?
The journey goes something like this: dad makes natural skin remedy; dad tries remedy on clients at work; local paper in Ipswich takes notice; story gets picked up in online newsletter for acupuncturists.
“I was just kind of shocked. I never intended on going into anything business-wise with it,” Arsenault said. “When the feedback just kept coming in, I incorporated — finally — in February and started to put it out there.”
Just a look at testimonials on the product’s Web site, www.emilyskinsoothers.com, showcases pages of glowing reviews from grown-ups, too.
Sara Niland, 62, of Topsfield, is one of those happy customers. A longtime psoriasis sufferer, Niland said she was close to giving up on managing the patchy, flaky, raw skin that dotted her body.
“I would put on the steroid cream that the doctor had prescribed for me with the understanding to put it on slightly just one or two times a day,” she said. Many prescription and over-the-counter topical steroids often carry risks of skin thinning.
“It would kind of be OK for a couple of days, and then it would come back and be more raw,” Niland said.Not anymore, she said, since using Arsenault’s recipe.
“My elbows have healed to the point where they’re not raw,” she said. “I have not used the cream that the doctor had given me, I’m going to say, for probably about six months.”
And best yet, Niland added, there’s nothing to worry about when applying the salve.
“You’re not putting anything on your body that it would reject,” she said. “Most of the [ingredients] you would eat.”
The recipe has gone through some tweaking, but always contained five ingredients. One adjustment, however, was significant — Arsenault swapped sesame oil for olive oil.
“The baby smelled like a little sesame doughnut all the time,” he laughed. “And some [clients] couldn’t stand it, smelling like Chinese food.”
For more information about or to purchase Emily Skin Soothers, visit www.emilyskinsoothers.com or call 978-412-8272.
Jessica Scarpati of The Brookline (Mass.) TAB can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.