When Efiya Asabi started making oatmeal soap and shea butter body cream in 1994 they were to address her then-6-month-old son’s eczema. She shared them with family and friends, and soon Asabi was getting requests to sell the concoctions, which used ingredients like coconut and avocado oils along with mango butter and beeswax. Five years later, she launched IYOBA, an all-natural beauty brand whose name comes from the term for “queen mother” in Benin.
“I was always trying to make products for my household because we were vegan and using natural products,” Asabi says. “I was constantly looking at product ingredients and experimenting with formulations until I was able to come up with new products and add to my line.”
Today, Iyoba purveys a wide range of goods for the face, hair and body: lemongrass coconut soap cubes, herbal hair mist and probiotic deodorant — all developed and handcrafted in small batches by Asabi and two production assistants in Oakland. Pick up items a la carte or opt for a present-perfect set that includes a massage and bath oil, soap and bath bomb.