Issue 20.1: February/March 2017
Native Intelligence: O‘ahu

Natural Scent

Story by Noel Nicholas. Photos by Kyle Rothenborg.

They say motherhood changes you—but they don’t always say how. Shortly after her second child was born, Mele Kalama-Kingma noticed that her scent had changed. Friends assured her this was common among women who’ve recently had a child, but Kalama-Kingma wasn’t willing to wait for her old self to return. The health conscious Kalama-Kingma, who was working as a dietitian at the Waimānalo Health Center, didn’t want the aluminum and preservatives found in run-of-the-mill deodorants on her skin. So she took her aroma into her own hands and decided to create an all-natural alternative. While brainstorming the recipe, she had a memory of her late grandmother Kekauilani “Mama Lani” Kalama lovingly bathing and powdering her as a child. Today, four years later, Kalama-Kingma produces a line of certified organic powder deodorants and body products named Mamalani.

Mama Lani’s portrait smiles down on the sunny workshop Kalama-Kingma built in her home in Kailua, O‘ahu, where she mixes, pours and packages all of her products by hand. Her signature body powders are a soft, silky blend of aluminum-free baking soda, organic pia (Polynesian arrowroot) powder and kaolin clay. She adds essential oils—patchouli, lemongrass, lavender and others—to produce five scents, each named for a traditional Hawaiian value. Lōkahi (unity) with its blend of lavender, clary sage and grapefruit essential oils, is the best seller. Kalama-Kingma recently expanded her product line to include a deodorant stick made with coconut oil and Mānoa valley beeswax, a sleeping aid powder made with Kailua-grown ‘awa root and chamomile, a roll-on perfume made with Ocean Vodka from Maui and a moisturizing body balm made with shea butter.

Once Kalama-Kingma makes the product, her children, husband and parents are likely to pitch in, packaging and labeling together around the dining room table. The products make their way to retailers across the state, as well as boutiques and health food stores in Washington, California, New York, Japan and Germany. “Growth has come primarily through word of mouth and luckily at the perfect pace for us,” says Kalama-Kingma. “I love making the products by hand, working from home and balancing time with my family. I designed our labels to say ‘Handmade by Hawaiians’ and my hope is they always will be.”