It had been a few days since the end of my summer vacation. A week of sand and sun in Narragansett did wonders for my soul, but wreaked havoc on my skin. Red, blotchy and visibly irritated, it was like my face was waving a white flag and screaming "I surrender".
I had scheduled a facial at Zenabelle as a way to prolong my relaxed vacation state. But when I walked in the eco beauty boutique, I wasn’t there for R&R. Instead I was looking for an intervention. Fortunately for me, owner Deborah Ventrice was up for the challenge.
Articulate and hyper-focused, it’s safe to say that Deborah is a local expert in natural beauty. Growing up, she suffered from severe chemical sensitivities that resulted in hospital stays. While at college to pursue a career in architectural design, she was fascinated with her chemistry courses.
Two years ago this September, Deborah pursued her life’s dream and opened Zenabelle, a beauty boutique with a holistic facial treatment room. With a focus on organic and natural beauty, her product lines are completely non-toxic and use ingredients that are naturally derived. Thoughtfully designed mini departments are dedicated to hair, skin, cosmetics, baby, sun and oral care.
“We’re really like a holistic apothecary,” she says, adding that she carries everything from makeup bags made from recycled bottles to synthetic free vitamins. “I designed this store so people feel special from the minute they walk in,” she says, pointing out that her customers travel as far as Boston to shop her specialty store. And people are walking in for all types of reasons, be it medical issues like dermatitis and skin cancer, to beauty ailments like chapped lips and acne. “We want to help treat them holistically, but also educate. The skin is a sponge, and everything we put on it ends up in our bloodstream.”
So when I explained that I had spent a week slathering on drugstore sunscreen, Deborah rattled off with expertise some of the toxic ingredients and their effects on the skin and body. Alongside Alison, who was about to give me the Flowering Fountain of Youth Facial, she tried a few products on my face to monitor reactions, and customized the treatment based on it. Turns out, I did get to relax in the 80-minute aromatic and calming facial that included an upper body and foot massage. Deborah even applied some light make-up afterwards to make me ready for the rest of my day. Better yet, my skin glowed for days later.
Looking ahead, Deborah is eager to share that she’s working on developing a product line. She’s starting with key items she’s having a difficult time sourcing herself for retail, such as a natural hand sanitizer, deodorant and makeup remover. “I’m really excited about the future. When I come to work, I’m smiling. I’ve never been happier.”
Zenabelle. 573 Hope Street, Bristol. 401-396-9603.