Kim Lucian"> clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why a Former Good Vibrations Buyer Launched a Skincare Line

Jonathan Plotzker couldn't find a customizable, fragrance-free shower gel, so he created his own.

Photo: <a href="">Kim Lucian</a>
Photo: Kim Lucian

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Jonathan Plotzker is 50, but he looks 15-20 years younger. His secret? Moisturizer. A past boyfriend converted Plotzker to the school of proper skincare, and he hasn't looked back.

After years as a buyer in the San Francisco retail scene —including stints at BareEscentuals and Good Vibrations— Jonathan decided to start his own skincare line. "When I left Good Vibrations about five years ago, I knew I wanted to do something on my own. My best friend owns Poco Dolce Chocolate, so I had a very good role model. I looked at the various companies I had worked for, and skincare was the one that stuck out. I felt great being in this category— it was about health, it was about doing something good for people. It was purposeful and something I could be adding to."

Jonathan mined his network of local services and chemists to create Heliotrope, a fully-customizable bath line, with business partner Don Snider. Their collection was born out of a void of such products. "Nowhere in the city would allow me to do customization or buy something that had no fragrance added," Plotzker recalls. "We offer something that's fragrance-free, which is better for you from a product standpoint. Even though we offer the customization and you can make anything smell the way you want using natural essential oils, 90-95% of people leave it fragrance-free."

Heliotrope is made entirely in the Bay Area, and Plotzker packages and finishes the products at Acacia, his Valencia Street shop. Though visitors to the store frequently ask if it's a men's or women's line, Jonathan claims that the only difference is marketing. ("We both have the same skin, the same needs. We both need to moisturize," he explains.) Without aggressively sweet or musky fragrances, Plotzker is able to market the line as unisex.

Heliotrope's most popular products are a cucumber healing serum, (which can be used both as an aftershave and a moisturizer), and a frankincense and rose geranium oil serum. "There's a hesitation, still, for some people to use oil on their faces," Jonathan acknowledges. "They think it's going to block their pores. It won't. If it's natural, if it doesn't have any synthetic perfumes, if it doesn't have fillers, it will soak in immediately. All we're really doing with an oil is eliminating the emulsifiers that you have to add to turn things into lotions. You're left with just the true, nutritious oils."

It may be hard to overcome the mental hurdle of facial oils, but it's harder to argue with Jonathan's line-free face. And for those who remain unconvinced, Heliotrope has plenty of other fragrance-free soaps, balms and scrubs.