With a name like “Buttnaked Candles,” candle and lotion maker Pam Weaver keeps waiting for someone to protest, but so far, no one has objected to the moniker.
Derek, Pam’s husband, was the one who came up with the catchy name because she always says it’s best to apply the lotion, or melted candle wax, before you get dressed.
“I told him ‘We live in the South,’” she says. “You can’t put that on a sign! What about church markets? But so far, no market has turned me down because of it. And, the best time to put on lotion is when you’re just out of the shower—so he was totally right.”
Pam says she lights one of her candles, usually Southern Magnolia, in her bathroom as she gets into the shower and lets it burn while she bathes. When she finishes showering, she dips her finger into the melted wax and applies the double lotion-wax everywhere she has dry skin—even her lips.
These candles and their lotion are more than just a beauty product or a clever idea. When Pam was pregnant with her second son, she developed severe eczema and an extreme intolerance for strong smells, and even the products her dermatologist recommended didn’t help her relentless battle with dry skin.
“When I woke up in the morning, I looked like a murder victim—my hands were all bloody because they itched so much and I scratched them all night,” she says. “I tried to keep them wrapped up but you can’t live life like that.”
Her mother gave her a lotion made by a local beekeeper and it worked well. But after a while, something about the consistency changed, and it was no longer effective. Pam decided that if this beekeeper could make a lotion, then so could she.
One winter when she felt particularly miserable, Pam, who has been a science teacher for over 10 years, started researching lotion products and ingredients online. She decided to begin experimenting with making her own lotion—literally playing around in her kitchen with what she had on hand. “At the time, coconut oil was the Holy Grail—it was being used for everything,” she says. “But it didn’t help my hands.”
Some Italian friends mentioned using olive oil as a moisturizer, so she tried mixing some with soy wax and landed on a winning combination for her lotion base. “There was lots of trial and error involved, but it’s not a big deal to me to experiment,” says Pam, who has been a seventh-grade science teacher at Pizitz Middle School for four years. “I went through recipes and my kitchen cabinets and experimented with different combinations of oils and soy wax and mixed until I got right ratios. I smelled like a kitchen because I literally grabbed whatever I had in my cabinets. And, I figured if the FDA approved it, then it must be okay.”
Her eureka moment came when she thought through how to get the lotion to absorb into her skin the best way—heat it before applying—and that’s how she came up with making candles and using the melted wax as lotion. “Your skin absorbs better when you’re warm—your pores close up when you’re cold,” she explains.
Pam isn’t exactly sure how or why her concoctions have worked so well, but once she got the consistency correct, she worked on finding scents that didn’t give her a headache. “Once again, I let the FDA do their work and I just picked soap scents that are already skin- and body-approved,” she says.
Today Pam buys all of her products locally from a candle supply company and continues to tweak her methods of candle making—from changing scents to trying new production ideas. Her home kitchen serves as her laboratory where she uses her microwave oven to melt the soy flakes and then mix in the oils and soap scents. As the final step, she pours the mixture into jars and then gets to the ultra-sophisticated method to insert candlewicks she touts with a wry smile. “I use popsicle sticks and clothespins to hold the wicks up,” she says. “You can buy metal flat wick stands but they’re expensive, so I came up with something better that I found in my junk drawer at home.”
Now eight years into her journey with candle making, Pam recalls back to the days when she made them only for herself and friends, until someone invited her to sell at a local neighborhood Christmas market. She estimates that she pours 9 dozen during an average week today and 12 to 15 dozen per week around the holiday season. She sells at boutiques, various craft and church markets around town, and at The Market at Pepper Place.
Not only have her candles caught on, but repeat customers have found the lotion to be healing just as she has—especially those who suffer from dry skin because of chemotherapy treatments. “I’m proud I can help them,” she says. “Dry skin is the last thing they need to worry about. They go through so much and I like knowing that I can help offer some relief and provide some comfort.”
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Pam says that she chose most of Buttnaked scents because of the memories they evoke.
Manly Man—bergamot and spruce. This scent reminds her of Old Spice which her late father used to wear. “He was outdoorsy and hunted and this smell reminds me of him.”
Southern Magnolia—floral mix: carnation, rose, gardenia. “Outside the church where I grew up going with my family, there were magnolia trees,” she says. “After church, my friends and I would climb these trees while we waited for our moms to talk.”
Spa Day—sea salt and agave. “It’s a nice, clean smell from the soap at a spa in Arizona. Someone from Arizona actually told me it smelled like home for her.”
Serenity Now—cucumber and mint. “The day I made this one I had a bunch of boys running around my house, and all I could think was, ‘Serenity now!’”
Pressed Linen—linen; “This smells like a good, clean house. I kept mixing until it smelled just right.”
Love Shack— strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit; “Teenage girls love this one.”
Buttnaked—coconut, cucumber, strawberry, banana, vanilla. “This one was just dumb luck. It’s my best seller.”
My Currant Situation—red currant and orange. “This was one of my spring scents that was supposed to be seasonal, but people complained when I didn’t have it so I brought it back.”