COCONUT BLISS

Fashion (Canada) - - Beauty Nostalgia -

In 1965, high-school chem­istry teacher Ron Rice man­aged to score a free ticket to Hawaii. There, he ven­tured to the back side of the is­lands, where, as an out­sider, he re­calls not be­ing wel­come. “I was kind of tak­ing a chance with my life,” he says over the phone from Day­tona Beach, Fla. But, as it turns out, the risk was worth it. Rice ob­served women cut­ting up baby co­conuts and rub­bing the con­tents on their skin, and it sparked the idea for Hawai­ian Tropic, a sun­tan oil. When he re­turned home, he came up with a for­mula and then, in his garage, mixed the in­gre­di­ents in a garbage can us­ing a broom­stick. “I thought, ‘I can make one that is bet­ter than what’s on the mar­ket,’” says Rice, now 77. “It was all nat­u­ral and had a great fra­grance.” A life­guard dur­ing the sum­mer, he ped­dled his prod­uct at pools and on beaches, and it even­tu­ally took off. But if you could pin­point one qual­ity that won over a gen­er­a­tion of sun­bathers and made Hawai­ian Tropic a suc­cess, it would be its coconut scent. “It was the most im­por­tant thing,” says Rice.

These days, coconut wa­ter, milk and oil are ubiq­ui­tous in skin­care, hair care and makeup be­cause of their beauty and health ben­e­fits, but Hawai­ian Tropic was likely one of the ear­li­est brands to re­ally cap­i­tal­ize on the men­tal ben­e­fits of the scent—its as­so­ci­a­tion with as­pi­ra­tional, trop­i­cal lo­cales and the happy, stress­melt­ing emo­tions tied to sum­mer. Rice even re­calls re­ceiv­ing letters from cus­tomers say­ing they’d pour the oil in their bath dur­ing the win­ter months. “They’d smell it and lie back and dream about be­ing at the beach.”

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