BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
Helmed by Stephanie Riden, Sudsy Sirens is a small bath and body business that creates through the magick of the joyfully macabre. Though it’s fairly new to the bathtub game, the idea behind its’ products have been carefully crafted through time, memories, and experimentation. Riden has always been an alt-girl at heart and her company offers something new to connect to. It seems fitting that I met up with her in Fresno, California’s Tower District neighborhood, a place know for its’ beautiful oddities and artistic leanings.
Monique Quintana: How long has Sudsy Sirens been in business? What led you to create these products?
Stephanie Riden: It all started more than twenty years ago. I wanted to be restorative art specialist. To do that, you have to go to beauty school, so you can learn to work on skin. I left that field because I became pregnant with my twins and you can’t be around the chemicals involved. I’ve always loved the beauty industry. Anything aesthetically pleasing. I’ve always been very visual. I still knew I wanted to do something in the beauty field, I just didn’t know what. Suddenly my kids were old enough for me to do my own thing.
Just last year, my oldest daughter got married and for her bridal shower, I wanted to make fun little soaps. That’s where it started. The idea snowballed from there. My friend and I made soaps for the shower, with a little saying, something like “From my shower to yours!” One day, we were vending at a handmade products fair and someone asked us if we had bath bombs, which we hadn’t thought about before. We developed our own recipe after researching different bombs and different bloggers. Testing, testing, testing. Last August we began making bombs full force. My friend wasn’t able to continue, so at this point, the busy is pretty much run by me alone.
MQ: How do you come up with the idea for the collections? What kind of customer are you marketing to?
SR: I’m sort of marketing to myself. Growing up, I didn’t see the things that I wanted in stores. When I was five years old, I got my first Barbie, and she came with green eye shadow. I took the eyes shadow and put it all over my face because I wanted to look like Frankenstein’s creature. That was my thing. I didn’t want to look pretty like the doll; I wanted to be green like the creature. I’ve always had that attraction to dark things. I have an eclectic taste. I’m a happy person. Dark things make me happy. If I had to look and dress like the mainstream, that would make me very unhappy (laughs).
MQ: Where there any brands that have inspired you?
Definitely Urban Decay. I loved seeing Kat Von D and Jeffrey Star do their own line. They’re not indie brands, but they take alternative approaches to marketing. What was important to me was beginning to recognize a growing interest in small businesses that create bath products. It’s an interesting community. I’m about one of twenty people on the scene that offer what I’m offering. It gets very competitive, but I talk to many of them. We bounce ideas of each other. Creating for me feels like an infusion of ideas. I suddenly get a lot of ideas at once.
I have to write them down. I have a long list of things I’m going to do and I’m going to come out with, but I have to slow down because they’re so many products already. I enjoy what I do. I get ideas from everything I see. Especially music. I made these black bath bombs in the shape of skulls, then made soap in the shape of diamonds and put them in their eyes. They remind me of the Def Tones song, “Diamond Eyes.” I also made a coffins bath bomb with a skull wearing a top hat. He was all done up and I thought, he looks like Slash from Guns and Roses or the skull face from Gothic Alchemy.
MQ: Do you have any advice for someone starting a small beauty business? What encourages you to keep creating and selling?
Be patient with yourself and your process. Be patient with people finding you. There’s a market for anything. You just have to find your people. I don’t think I’m finished finding my people. I think I’m just beginning. My shop has been seen around the world. I ship as far as Eastern Europe, the U.K., France, and Canada. People will see your products. E-commerce is the best. It opens things up it such a big way. Confidence is key. People want to know what products you have. They’re interested.
After meeting with Stephanie, I set to trying her products. Here's my fantastical week with Sudsy Sirens...
A Mermaid’s Shower
I used the Mermaid Scented Scrub in my morning showers and it was divine. You could say it’s the color of a mermaid’s scaly tail. A blend of Star Jasmine, Frangipani, Water Lilies, Ocean Mist, and Sea Foam, this scrub makes me think of the whimsy of the beach air and water. It’s feels like refreshing oil infused beauty sand. I used a bath mitt to scrub places where I’m prone to dryness, like elbows, kneecaps, and feet.
After writing my intentions for the day, I used the Bruha bath bomb to reaffirm them. I have to admit that this bomb was so wickedly beautiful, it was almost painful to use it. This bomb is combustion of color with notes of patchouli, cinnamon, and cedar. It felt like walking through a darkly elegant market infused with spices. In the water, the bomb dissolves in hues of gold, but then sets off to a light blue and white froth. All of the company’s bombs are so visually striking, that you might even use place them in a small dish or basket to deodorize your kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom.
I used the Patchouli Rose Scrub and black bath bomb from the Coven Collection during a nighttime ritual bath for protection. The shimmery black bomb dissolves into an emerald green, the black foaming out to the periphery of the bathtub. This bomb contains top notes of lemon, pear, lemon peel, pear, eucalyptus and pine mixed with notes of cinnamon, wisteria, jasmine, and clove over a vanilla, and cedar wood. The amalgamation of these many were surprisingly serene and would also be helpful when speaking your intentions for a new moon cycle. After lighting candles and turning the lights off, I could still see the dark hues in the water. The Patchouli Rose whipped vegan sugar scrub is a smoky gray color and compliments the bath bomb beautifully. It has the texture of sandy clay. Like the mermaid scrub, it left my skin feeling moisturized, but not greasy and the scrub was easy to wash off. To my delight, my skin was left with little bits of glitter from the bomb.
The Coffin Dreams Soap is gorgeous with notes of citrus and berry and the purple hued Jack O’ Lantern and skulls soaps are made with goat’s milk and smell whimsically like fruit. These soaps would make for an especially playful bath or shower time, but I also think they'd be purposeful on an altar. I like to keep small decorative soap like these on my altar to keep my thoughts focused on cleansing and also to give my space fragrance when I don’t have candles or incense lit. The company features different soaps to celebrate the holidays and you can also purchase them in gift sets or paired with one of the many limited-edition themed bombs.
This Peppermint Cream Snow Flake Bath Bomb looks like the lovechild of an icicle and an intergalactic jawbreaker candy. In the water, it becomes a bright blue and white froth and there is a tiny snowflake ornament in the middle. Though the scent is crisp and clean, it also holds a rich sweetness that is makes it feel decadent and candy-like.
Note on Clean up: As you should do before using any kind of bath bomb, clean bathtub thoroughly with a powder cleanser before and after using them. The residue from these bath bombs came off very easily, as I cleaned up immediately after each bath. The amount of clean-up will also vary depending on what materials your bath tub is constructed with.
You can shop for Sudsy Sirens at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SudsySirens
These products are manifested with love, care, and a sense of fantasy. Riden always welcomes questions, comments, and concerns about any of her products and if there’s a special creation you have in mind, she wants to hear about it. As an artist and as a business owner, she always keeps her audience in mind when she’s creating. I’ve always believed that what’s separates an artist from everyone else is that we never stop using our imagination. Sudsy Sirens is bringing imagination into what people often think of as ordinary. These are little creations that ask us to stop and recognize the magick that we could have day to day, if only we take a little time to make way for it.
Monique Quintana is a contributing fashion and beauty editor of Luna Luna and is the managing editor of the blogazine, Razorhouse. She holds an MFA in Creating Writing Fiction and her work has appeared in Huizache, Bordersenses, and the Acentos Review, amomg others. She is a member of the Central Valley Women Writers of Color Collective, the Latinx Authors Collective (LACOS), and she is an English teacher at Fresno City College.