Nopalera artisan bath and body products are a celebration of Mexican culture. The star ingredient, the nopal cactus (aka prickly pear), grows wild in Mexico and has been used for its nutritional and healing properties at least as far back as the ancient Aztec civilization. In fact, in Aztec folklore, as they wandered through the desert searching for a place to settle, the gods told them to look for an eagle with a snake in its mouth sitting atop a nopal cactus. They found it and established the capital of their empire in what is now Mexico City. The eagle, snake and cactus are still revered in the crest emblazoned on the national flag of Mexico.
Sandra Velasquez grew up in southern California where her parents moved when they left Mexico. Nopal grew in their backyard, and it was a regular part of their cuisine. Sandra had a natural talent for music and eventually led her own Latin alternative band that was a celebration of Mexican culture. She moved, with the band, to New York City, and while they were somewhat successful, she needed to supplement her income with “day jobs.”
One day, as a lark, Sandra took a class in soap making, gloried in it and started daydreaming about having her own line of bath products. Little did she know, that was the beginning of the beginning. While visiting her family in California, Sandra’s mother made her a favorite dish from her childhood, eggs and nopal pads. All the skin-cleansing and soothing properties came to mind. It was her “Aha!” moment—she would make the nopal the centerpiece of her bath and body line, Nopalera. A natural line of artisanal products inspired by one of the most regenerative, nourishing and resilient plants in the world.
Sandra uses every part of the plant to make Nopalera. The green part of the cactus, the pads, is featured in the soaps and exfoliants. Oil from the seeds of the prickly pear fruit is used in the botanical bars. Other ingredients found and used in Mexico are the hibiscus, jasmine, and tepezcohuite.
All products, the cactus soap, exfoliant and botanical bar are handmade, vegan, cruelty free and palm oil free and contain no fragrance or dye.
The soaps, in an easy-to-hold cactus shape, are made with a high concentration of plant butters and nourishing oils that cleanse and leave the skin moisturized. The cactus pads used for the soaps provide a soothing and gentle exfoliation.
- Desnuda Cactus Soap is completely unscented for those with sensitive skin and with a sensitivity to certain smells.
- Planta Futura Cactus Soap contains real lemongrass oil for a most refreshing scent.
- Flor de Mayo Cactus Soap contains real jasmine oil for a delicate scent and pink clay for an extra-creamy lather.
- Noche Clara Cactus Soap contains a subtle scent of eucalyptus and sage oil that clears the mind. Also, activated charcoal gently exfoliates and lifts bacteria from the pores, making Noche Clara ideal for oily or acne prone skin.
Cactus Flower Exfoliants
The exfoliants are actually a triple threat: exfoliator, cleanser, and moisturizer. The concentrated soap-free exfoliant made from wild harvested nopal cacti buffs your skin with cactus fibers, plant-based butters, essential oils and humectants, while protecting the skin’s natural moisture barrier, improving elasticity, and stimulating cell turnover. It is also used as a lip scrub and an exfoliant for hands and feet.
- The Hibiscus Exfoliant is naturally scented with a blend of grapefruit and jasmine essential oils. Like the hibiscus flower, it is rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C, and AHA’s that promote healthy glowing skin.
- The Mandarina Exfoliant with an uplifting tangerine scent hydrates while safflower oil infused with achiote seeds soothes the skin.
Moisturizing Botanical Bars
This solid moisturizing bar is uniquely formulated with plant butters, oils, and Mexican botanicals to deeply hydrate the skin. The nopal oil comes from the seeds of the cactus fruit and contains Vitamin E and K and omega fatty acids. Tepezcohuite has astringent and purifying properties and is used to care for damaged skin by promoting cell turnover.
Rub the bar directly onto your skin; it melts on contact. Or melt it between your hands and rub onto your body. (Hint: it works great on cuticles and cracked feet.) It comes in an attractive reusable or recyclable tin, eliminating those large, environmentally unfriendly bottles that moisturizer usually comes in.
- The Original Botanical Bar has a subtle scent of tangerine.
- The Flora de Mayo Botanical Bar gives off whiffs of jasmine.
Building Nopalera on a Shoestring
Sandra created Nopalera in her Brooklyn apartment during the pandemic. There were no gigs for her band with all the venues closed, so she used the empty time to seriously work on Nopalera.
She used credit cards for everything she could, such as classes in formulating cosmetics and in the art of social media advertising. She negotiated payment plans with others, such as a graphic designer. She did intensive research, which cost her “only” her time, and she reached out to people who could advise her. (It was during this phase that she was grateful she had learned how to accept rejection while in the band.)
For that first year, she made everything with the help of two production assistants—100 soaps at a time. Until she could afford a manufacturing partner.
Nopalera in the News
- Full article in The New York Times: “How a Musician Turned Cosmetics Executive Spends her Sundays.”
- Featured on NBC’s Today Show for Hispanic Heritage Month.
- Featured on When One Grows We All Grow for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.
- Named Latino Startup of the Year at the 2022 L’Attitude Conference.
- Named one of the “Women to Watch in 2021” by Buzzfeed.
- The Nopalera Podcast on which Sandra provides mentorship to other business owners in the Latino community.