Hawke’s Bay based business launches during Covid and sells out

“There would always have been a reason not to do it.” Kiwi company that launched during Covid sells out of “cult” product.

On Friday 20th March, as Covid-19 was grasping at our country, Mel Lewis took a deep breath and pushed the button on her new business, Ultrella. “I had all the stock ready, my website was ready, I’d launched my social media. I just thought, ‘I have to give it a go.’ Because even if the country hadn’t been in chaos, there would always have been a reason not to do it.”

Just five days later, New Zealand was in Level Four lockdown. Luckily, however, people were still sweating.

Ultrella makes New Zealand’s first ever demi-perspirant – 100% chemical-free deodorant using a revolutionary natural Botox-like ingredient called IBR-Snowflake®, derived from summer snowflake bulbs. The ingredient acts as a sweat deterrent, with a clinically proven 36% reduction in sweating.

Ultrella is not the only natural deodorant on the market, but Mel – and her fan club of thousands – are convinced it’s the best. In 2019, with the benefit of funding from Callaghan Innovation, Mel engaged Stacey Fraser (the brains behind Trilogy’s formulations), taking a journey through nature to find ingredients that would actually solve the problem of sweaty armpits, without using aluminium, parabens or baking soda. “Our ingredients had to be safe, clean, irritant-free, soothing and smell really good,” says Mel, who is based in Hawke’s Bay. “The women and men who use our products lead interesting, active, busy lives. They are in the boardroom one minute and the gym the next. Ultrella needed to perform in any situation and reduce sweat – not just mop it up.”

The deodorants, housed in colourful, fully recyclable pouches, contain lots of natural goodies such as Mānuka and sweet almond oil, shea butter and coconut as well as prebiotics, magnesium and zinc. You just squeeze a pea-sized dab out the top onto a finger and glide it over the skin. “We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to use – no dipping fingers in jars or patting on a powder. It’s smooth as silk and dries in a flash.”

The deodorants come in three varieties – Mānuka Meadow, Vanilla Bean and Sunshine Lime. There are also two body sprays – which come in 100% recycled plastic – perfect for a quick freshen-up. And then there is Ultrella’s beloved “cult” product, the CalmPits Detox Mask. The mask is the ideal transition for those using Ultrella for the first time, or for those who find their skin is easily irritated.

Why use a detox mask at all? “I sometimes think of natural deodorant as a bridge too far for some people,” laughs Mel. “There’s a bit of a fear factor, because if it doesn’t work, you smell bad. You stress about that and sweat even more! But often, the reason your natural deodorant ‘isn’t working’ is that when you’ve been using antiperspirant for years or decades, your body has learned not to sweat. You switch to a natural product, you sweat, and you panic. It can be a vicious cycle, blaming your sweat on the natural product not working, not the fact your body is acclimatising.

“CalmPits reduces the capacity of your sweat glands and lightens any hyper-pigmentation. We use pink clay, rose, hemp, aloe vera and kawakawa – it’s a beautiful, antiseptic product that draws out toxins and prepares your armpits for using a natural product like ours.”

Within weeks of launching, Mel’s CalmPits product had sold out and she found herself hastily arranging to manufacture more. She puts the success of her unique armpit mask down to the fact that it truly works. “I’ve had the most amazing feedback from people who have finally found success with using a natural deodorant after sometimes years of missteps. They are really generous in their emails and messages – which I really appreciate!”

Ultrella’s range of 100% natural deodorants, sprays and the restocked CalmPits mask is available at selected Life and Unichem Pharmacies, RRP from $15.99 to $21.99, and online at www.ultrella.co

What are people saying?

“Love these products!! Thank you. Finally I can use a natural deodorant that works.”

“This product is genuinely brilliant. I am so impressed. It’s been hot, I’ve been sweaty and I have been known to be a sceptic. But seriously, Ultrella’s Sunshine Lime deodorant is the best thing I’ve ever used and has seen me through all three of these afflictions. I’ve had a terrible experience with a natural deodorant in the past – it turned out I was allergic to the baking soda component which isn’t uncommon but it left me gun-shy about trying something new. No baking soda in this baby – keep it for your banana bread people. This new kid on the pit block is a total winner. Highly, highly recommend.”

“Just wanted to let you know that I saw you on FB recently and bought your mask, deodorant and spray. I’ve had real trouble with other natural deodorants but I thought I’d give them a go. So I used the CalmPits for a week and I swear it has made such a difference. It smells so beautiful and I have not had any reactions. I’m a convert. Thank you.”

“Wow it’s awesome! Went out on a massive mountain bike ride & it truly minimised my sweat & no odour. Excellent product. Smells divine.”

“CalmPits Detox Mask sorted my armpits out in 3 days. Miracle!”