Rad soap, kitschy and clean

— Photo from Sue Kerber

Soap promotion: Sue Kerber, founder of Rad Soap, and her son, Zachary, sit atop a depiction of one of the soaps Kerber’s company makes. Rad Soap also makes lotions, scrubs, and lip balms with all-natural ingredients.

ALBANY COUNTY — In 2009, Sue Kerber started making home batches of soap and cream to help with her son’s eczema. Within two years, her natural soaps and lotions were on shelves in Whole Foods stores across the Northeast.

“When you have kids, you learn you love them more than anything in the world,” she said.

That love drove her to look away from the doctor’s office and towards more natural solutions for her son’s eczema. The steroid creams prescribed to him burned, she said, and, one day, in an airport kiosk, she found a hemp cream and decided her son may benefit from it.

“The hemp was actually very good for him,” she said.

Hemp is the male strain of the plant cannabis sativa, and contains 0.3 to 1.5 percent of tetrahydrocannabinoids (THC), the ingredient that makes the flowers of cannabis sativa, which contain much higher percentages of THC, psychoactive.

There is not enough THC in hemp to allow it to give anyone a “high,” and hemp has been used for a multitude of commodities such as rope, creams, and food.

The stalks of the cannabis plant, rather than the flowers, are what make hemp.

Kerber used the hemp cream she found until the company changed hands and the cream got watered down and didn’t work for her son anymore.

At that point, she delved into her own research on hemp, created her own lotion recipe, and her son “never had a problem with it,” she said.

When her son went off to college, he suggested that Kerber, whose job was “being a mom,” take what she had done for him and make it a company.

“So I put it out there,” she said.

Kerber began selling her bar soaps and lotions at the Troy farmers’ market, where she soon developed a following of people who loved her products.

“They call themselves “radsters” instead of customers,” she said.

One day, in December 2011, a woman from a Whole Foods store in New Jersey wanted to stop by her stand at the market, but each time she passed by it was packed with people.

Eventually, she made her way up to the table, and, after talking with Kerber, the woman offered to have the Rad Soaps line featured in Whole Foods stores.

Six months later, Kerber’s line of products was sitting in the Ridgewood, New Jersey Whole Foods.

“It was on my birthday that she called,” Kerber said. “It was the greatest birthday ever.”

Now, her soaps are in Whole Foods across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Kerber’s products started with family in mind, and are still made that way today.

Her selection of products includes soaps, lotions, lip balms, and “shuga-bubs,” a line of body scrubs that “suds, exfoliates, rejuvenates, and moisturizes,” according to the product page on the Rad Soap website.

Kerber wants her products to have a nostalgic feel, and uses scents such as patchouli, sandalwood, green tea, and vanilla.

She describes sandalwood and patchouli as “staples for hippies.”

The hippie motif appears on the packaging and naming of her products as well, with soaps called Rock Star, Love, and Harmony, and peace signs and hippie-style fonts on the labels.

“They’re fun lines,” she said.

Currently, the best-selling line is the chaga line, featuring wildly grown chaga mushrooms that exfoliate as a soap, and moisturize as a cream.

Kerber tries to get as many of her ingredients from local sources as she can, she said, and never tests her products on animals.

A group of “radsters” has volunteered to be sent products from Kerber to try and give her feedback before she sells them to the general public.

Kerber’s son has experienced great relief from his eczema from using his mother’s line of products, she said, and he isn’t the only one.

Kerber said she has known many people with psoriasis and eczema who have benefitted from her products, as well as a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange and had various skin problems because of it.

“His skin is normal now,” Kerber said.

While Rad Soaps are on store shelves now, they are also available on the company website, and at the Troy farmers’ market where it all began.

“My ultimate dream is to do a Willy Wonka soap factory,” Kerber said. She wants to have people come in and not just be able to buy things, but interact with the materials and learn about natural oils and get people, especially kids, excited about being clean and caring for themselves.




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