Less is More

Personal care, radically simplified: That is the mantra of Boulder-based Akamai Basics.

Akamai soaps and products.
Photo by Cassandra Stiltner

Anyone who has stood in the toothpaste aisle at the supermarket, baffled by the endless array of products—whitening? plaque-fighting? both?—will be intrigued by Akamai Basics. The Boulder company, aiming to fight what co-founder Vince Cobb cheekily calls the “industrial personal care complex,” has developed a line of multipurpose, natural products that simplify how we stay clean and healthy. Cobb’s presiding philosophy (borrowed from Einstein) is: Make it as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Problem solver

“I like finding a problem and fixing it,” says self-described “free thinker” Cobb, who went live with the company, cofounded by his wife, Marni Shymkus, in 2017. “My prior company was helping to raise awareness about the problems with single-use items, like plastic bags, water bottles, and food containers. This was a similar situation; I thought I could wake people up to a new way of approaching personal care.”

It all started with toothpaste

“My wife is a tinkerer and bench chemist. I said, ‘I want to have one thing that works incredibly well, then set it and forget it.’ We both had periodontal disease—receding gums—and thought, What if we could create a toothpaste with natural ingredients to help heal your gums? You need to brush and floss, but you also need proper nutrients in your body, because your teeth are living and have roots. So our first product was a medicinal, all-natural toothpaste.”

On to soap…

“The next product we created was a three-in-one body soap, shampoo, and shaving soap; if formulated right, one product should be able to do all three things. The third was Skin Fuel, an all-body, all-purpose replacement for your body’s natural oils; it closely resembles sebum. We introduced seven more products last year, so we now have 10. One is a stainless steel tongue cleaner, what I call ‘the $8 cure for bad breath.’ Americans spend $2.5 billion a year fighting bad breath, but most of the products deal with symptom management, and do nothing about the underlying problem, which is bacterial buildup that thrives in a dry mouth and emits sulfuric compounds that smell bad.”

Making things simple

“Our products fit into this overall push toward minimalism—as well as a push toward getting products sent directly to you. Buyers can either subscribe on our website or buy our products a la carte.”

The response

“We now have about 3,000 customers. We hear such great things from them: ‘I can’t believe my eczema has gone away’ or ‘My dentist was amazed at how much better my receding gums got after I used your toothpaste.’ ”

Akamai Basics
All-natural personal care products produced in Boulder