Stephanie Additon is obsessed with skincare. So when, a few years ago, brands from L’Oréal to La Mer began infusing products with caffeine, she wondered why she wasn’t in the beauty business herself. Sitting with a cup of joe in her husband’s coffee shop – Updike’s Newtowne in Wickford, RI – it occurred to her that perhaps she could marry her two loves – beautiful artisan coffee beans and the science behind good skin.
Although she’d been working in the non-profit arena for years, Stephanie immersed herself in the study of the antioxidant properties of green coffee beans, the vasoconstricting effects of caffeine (it helps eliminate redness and puffiness), and a slew of essential oils. Serendipitously, it was here in the shop that she also met her future business partner, Emily Johnson, in 2011 – then a student of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island and a barista at Updike’s Newtowne.
The pair began mixing up lotions, and serums in the back of the shop, and Java Skin Care was born. Today, they offer body scrub, serum, and wash; soap; and lip scrub, all of which are made entirely from naturally-derived plant-based ingredients. It also smells absolutely divine – who needs an espresso in the kitchen when you’ve got Java in the shower?
Today, the line is being sold in upscale boutiques and spas, has won multiple awards for their work, and, earlier this year, was selected from among hundreds of vendors to be included in celebrity swag bags at the Grammy Awards. In September, they also plan to launch a facial line.
Despite that success, the caffeinated duo continue to formulate and tweak recipes by hand and conduct business from the back of the “Cheers”-like Updike’s Newtowne (the moniker comes from the original name of Wickford), where regular customers come and go, chatting with baristas and each other. And although retail products are now produced in a larger facility that can handle Java’s volume, headquarters remains within arm’s reach of a charming yellow coffee bean roaster.
“Every recipe starts here,” says Stephanie, who looked at office space in Pawtucket, but ultimately decided to stay put. “It’s a wonderful process. You know you’re making something clean and healthy.”
To ensure that quality, beans are sourced from specific farms in Guatemala, where the high altitude delivers a stronger concentration of antioxidants. The beans – which are certified sustainable and bird-friendly by the Smithsonian Institute – are then artisan roasted and stone milled. (No spent coffee grounds are used in Java products – the beauty benefits aren’t found in the by-product. They are, however, used for composting at the Additon family dahlia farm.)
To meet their own high standards, Additon and Johnson require three criteria when sourcing components for their line. “Ingredients must be artisan,” says Stephanie. “The person making the ingredient has to be fully passionate about what they do. They must be sustainable,” she adds. “It has to be grown with care in a mindful, ethical way. And, finally, it has to work really well.”
“We live it. We research it,” adds Emily, an extroverted twenty-something who also frequently models the product. “You can eat everything you put on,” she explains of the line. “We like to sleep at night!” She’s referring to her conscience, of course, but it’s an ironic statement, what with baristas out front delivering beverages on-demand throughout the day. “It’s amazing what you can do with an endless supply of caffeine,” says Johnson with a wide smile, looking back down passionately at her work.
All photos by Meghan Sepe. Click any image to open the gallery.