When Sherry Allen discovered that her infant daughter Lindsey was allergic to red dye, she soon also discovered how ubiquitous red dye is. “It’s in shampoos, clothes, paint, body wash—everything,” she says. “You don’t realize how much red, pink, and orange is in the world until you try to find products that are free from it.” From Christmas to Valentine’s Day to high-school color wars, every occasion was a potential source of harm. “I lived in a world of blue for a long time,” Lindsey, now 27, says.
Out of necessity, Sherry began making bath and beauty products for her daughter with natural and organic ingredients. Out of love, she also made them beautiful. She even found ways to make some of them pink and red, coloring them with mica, so Lindsey could enjoy all the colors of the rainbow. In October 2020, Sherry and Lindsey opened Rainbow Soap Company on South Union Street so that everyone—from all generations and walks of life—could enjoy a full range of artisanal handmade soaps, lotions, scrubs, and more that are luxurious and healing, free from toxins, and full of color.
Lindsey, who is a full partner in the business with her mother, loves the process of making soaps and bath products and infuses everything with a spirit of fun and intention. Clever, tongue-in-cheek names for new products trip off her tongue—Jamaican Me Crazy, “It’s Corn!” (corn-shaped bath bomb), Grinchnuts, Cotton Me Candy. Their first product, the Snozzberry Bath Bomb, was a big hit. As Lindsey dreams up new offerings for the store, she often asks: “What would I want to see as a kid that I knew was made for me and that I knew wouldn’t hurt me?”
Lindsey also thinks a lot about inclusivity. She bubbles with excitement as she describes her extensive line of custom lip glosses, with colors to naturally match every skin tone. She and her mom strive to make sure there’s something in the store to delight everyone. Their product line includes vegan options, fragrance-free products, dog soap, and more. “While many people think the store is geared to the feminine side,” Lindsey says, “there are lots of products for men. And men love bath bombs!” One of their best market testers is Sherry’s five-year-old grandson, Gavyn, who also loves bath bombs and has commissioned a Shrek bath bomb.
The art and science of soap
Rainbow Soap Company is a feast for the senses—full of enticing scents as well as beautiful designs, colors, shapes, and textures. There are soaps with luscious looking swirls, soaps inlaid with stars and glittering mica, jelly soap, crystals, unique bath bombs of every description. Sherry’s favorite is the “Magical Rainbow Cloud Bath Bomb”—a white, cloud-shaped bath bomb with hidden embeds that shoot a rainbow of colors into the bath.
Sherry and Lindsey combine care and thoughtfulness—keeping their customers’ physical, mental, and emotional health in mind—with a deep knowledge of their ingredients and the careful calculations required to make soap. “It’s an art and a science,” Sherry says, that entails lots of trial and error and requires perseverance and patience. “And it’s a lot of math,” Lindsey says. She laughs as she describes her time in high school as an “art kid” who did, thankfully, pay attention in chemistry class.
Several of their soaps take many months to cure, including some that tie this modern enterprise to its ancient roots. Aleppo, the oldest known soap, is made with olive and laurel oils and takes eight months to cure. Bastille, a fragrance- and colorant-free soap made with pure olive oil, takes a full 365 days, as does African Black Soap.
“Bath bombs are the most difficult to make,” Sherry says. The slightest change in humidity, which is a constant variable in Kennett Square, changes the solid bath bomb to “fairy dust” (which comes in a bag and is also a fun addition to bath time). While some of their products do contain dyes, “Every product is carefully labeled,” Sherry says.
There’s science, and art—and something else, too. “The scents for our Metamorphosis manifesting spray came to me in a dream,” Sherry says. She smiles. “I wrote them down as soon as I woke up.” The spray, which does everything from neutralizing odors to promoting calm, clearing migraines, and inspiring creativity, does indeed appear to contain a bit of magic.
Made with love
One important ingredient in every product at Rainbow Soap Company that’s not listed on the labels is love. Sherry, with her kind and generous spirit, wanted the shop to be a warm and welcoming space for everyone. She also wanted this positive energy to radiate out into the community. One visible manifestation of this that always brings smiles is the shop’s trademark trail of bubbles leading pedestrians down from the corner of State and Union.
The kind of practical, caring community collaborations that are integral to the ethos of Rainbow Soap Company also bring hope and help. From partnering with local organizations to raise funds and awareness to collaborating with area businesses, Sherry and Lindsey love being part of making a difference for people and for the environment. A lip balm, for example, is made with Walt’s Swarmbustin’ Honey, and they use tea from Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Shop in milk baths and bath bombs.
The store also stocks products made by friends, some of whom are facing challenging situations. “We support a lot of people,” Sherry says, “and what you’re buying is the love, quality, and care of the hands that made it.” Rainbow Soap Company also stocks a “Tree of Life” sculpture by Sherry’s husband, Jesse Allen, owner of the local metalworking company Fabric8 and whom she describes as her knight in shining armor.
Part of this passion to help others has grown out of a painful chapter of their own story, fleeing a domestic violence situation when Lindsey was a child. “I lived in a shelter for two months, so I’ve been there,” Lindsey says. She underscores the link between good physical hygiene and how we feel about ourselves. “Having quality products helps create a healthy environment,” she says. “Everyone can leave Rainbow Soap Company with something, whether they can afford to buy anything or not.” She gestures to a bowl full of wrapped and colorful soap samples, free for the taking.
Giving out of gratitude is a way of life that extends beyond the store. Sherry has a new hairstyle and look, as she recently donated 30 inches of her hair to her friend’s daughter, who has alopecia. Lindsey smiles with love and pride as she describes her mother. “My mom became the mom to my friends—the stragglers and strays I’d bring home,” she says.
Sherry’s inspiration in naming the store came from the rainbow in the Bible, which she sees as a symbol of love and healing. “My intention for the store is that everyone receives something for their best and highest good,” Sherry says. Sometimes, that’s more than soap. Both mother and daughter also share a desire to bring healing that goes deeper.
Cleansing that’s more than skin deep
When Sherry was 17, watching a program about the healing power of reiki resonated with a deep sense of spiritual connection she’d always felt. She told her father that she’d like to do that as a job and needed to make a long-distance call to get more information. She laughs as she recalls how many household chores she had to do to earn the cost of calls—first to Illinois and then to Hawaii—to inquire about programs that taught this ancient art. When those courses proved inaccessible, she learned faith healing in the context of her church.
Sherry exudes a sense of humble wonder and excitement as she describes miraculous healings and as she recounts her journey, step by step and over many years, to study under many different master teachers and to become certified in reiki. Her passion for learning and for helping others have brought her to a place where she can now offer reiki sessions at Rainbow Soap Company.
This journey also led Sherry to meet her friend and mentor, Zing Nafzinger. Zing, a third business partner, is currently in Florida opening another branch of Rainbow Soap Company. An author, healer, and artist who also offers reiki sessions at the shop, Zing creates beautiful mandalas from natural materials on local beaches as well as paintings and tiny fairy gardens.
Reiki is an ancient Japanese technique that involves gentle touch as the practitioner helps direct energy to promote healing and relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. Many approach it with skepticism, but Sherry and Lindsey have witnessed countless people reevaluate their preconceived opinions. Most of those who experience reiki come away with a heightened sense of awareness and appreciation for the power of a kind of transformation for which there is no “rational” explanation. Reiki can be freeing, bringing light from shadow and a tender touch to painful wounds and memories. It’s in some ways indescribable and, Sherry says, the experience and process is unique for each individual. Sometimes being freed from blocked energy and past wounds is that simple—and that complex.
Sherry, Lindsey, and Zing welcome everyone to Rainbow Soap Company—whether they’re coming for a bar of soap, a moment of calm and joy in the midst of a hectic day, or deeper healing.
Find Rainbow Soap Company at 107 South Union Street, Kennett Square, and online at https://rainbowsoapco.com. Follow them on social @therainbowsoapco
Photos by Dylan Francis