For many women the words "natural" and "beauty" in the same sentence will raise both eyebrow and red flag, followed by a suspicious "but do they actually work?". And I know why that is - because many don't. Where does a woman who is used to high end, luxury skin care brands turn to when they are looking for comparable beauty products that aren't loaded with synthetics and toxic ingredients? Good question. That's exactly what Tata Harper wondered and had trouble finding when she searched the globe over five years ago and came up empty-handed.
Woman Behind The Brand
Tata Harper is a thirty-something, Colombian-born, wife and mother of two. As an industrial engineer she had no plans to step into the world of beauty six years ago. That is, not until her Stepfather was diagnosed with cancer and his doctors told him to immediately stop using conventional personal care products, because they were loaded with body burdens and toxins. Tata was curious about the association, began investigating and learned about the Skin Deep database. She was shocked to learn that the expensive luxury beauty cream she had been using for over ten years was loaded with toxins. She went on a worldwide hunt to find natural, non-toxic, luxury beauty products that wouldn't compromise health but would produce comparable results with what was being offered in the conventional beauty market. Five years of research, formulating and testing culminated into a beauty brand that seeks to change the face of high-end, luxury beauty and educate women about products that are compromising our health in the name of beauty.
Tata works in her beauty lab, a converted dairy barn
on her Vermont farm, where products are handmade each month
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Tata for an hour about her company, mission and products. You may have spotted Tata Harper's Revitalizing Body Oil in this month's issue of VOGUE or Allure but up until this point the brand's only advertisement has been through word of mouth. "I chose to spend my money on high quality ingredients rather than packaging and marketing, which is usually the opposite of what other brands do" says Harper. Even before they had their new packaging , they received letters asking if they would ship the product in Ziploc bags. If that's not a testimony to product performance, I don't know what is.
Why did you decide to create your own natural luxury beauty brand?
I had no intention of jumping into the world of beauty. It wasn't until my Stepfather was diagnosed with cancer six years ago and his doctor told him to immediately stop using all of his conventional personal care products. I wondered why and did some digging, which is when a friend recommended I check my products in the Skin Deep Database. I was shocked to find the very high end products I'd been using for at least ten years rated highly toxic. I wondered how this was possible - how were companies getting away with this?! I told my family and friends about it and urged them to switch but they kept asking me what they should switch to. I didn't have any good answers so I tried to find comparable natural beauty products, searching around the world during my travels to places I frequented like Paris and Madrid. I couldn't find any that completely met my standards or suited my needs, they seem to be too greasy, didn't do anything or they contained ingredients I wanted to avoid. With my scientific background, I knew I could make my own products - so I did, with the help of a small global team of experts. But, I knew they had to actually work. I first had the intention of making them for myself, but soon after my family and friends wanted to try them and then their family and friends were asking for it and its all been word of mouth since then. The response has been amazing.
Why do you feel the beauty market needs yet another brand?
When I decided to stop using the synthetic-filled products I had been using for years, I was determined to find products that were comparable, yet naturally-derived. I searched the globe for my ideal products that met my ingredient standards, but also gave me results. I couldn't find any. I knew that women would make the switch to healthier products if the products actually produced results and performed like their old synthetic versions. This is unlike any other line out there - there's definitely a need for it.
I use only the highest quality ingredients that I've personally sourced from around the world. For example, the Sodium Hyaluronate I use in my Hydrating Floral Essence is a long-lasting moisturizing agent but it can be produced synthetically or naturally, depending on where it comes from. I only buy mine from Czechoslovakia in powder form because it is the only place in the world you can find it produced naturally by fermentation. I use ingredients in a concentration that will produce results. As an example, the Arnica Montana I use in the Eye Cream is a medicinal herb known for its anti-inflammatory effect but it must be used at 65% concentration in order for it to be truly effective; so I use the highest quality I can find at the highest concentration. I buy the Rosa Damascena, or Rose Otto, that I use in my Moisturizer from a small organic producer in Bulgaria because I found it to be the highest quality.
I also think there's a need for a woman to be representing a beauty brand that's for women. Not just the face of the brand like a spokesperson, but the founder and formulator who has the same needs and wants in terms of performance with her products. I know what discerning women want their beauty products to do. I want the same things. So often I attend beauty conventions and events and I'm surprised at the huge sea of men making decisions about beauty products for women. Women are the ones who need to stand up and tell companies we aren't going to tolerate being their guinea pigs anymore. We are the ones who are going to make this revolution happen.
The Harper Family on their organic farm in Shoreham, Vermont
Who is on your global team of formulators?
Judi Beerling, President of the UK's Society of Cosmetic Chemists and Organic Monitor's Technical Research Manager (UK) was one of the lead formulators. I have a small team of experts from Paris, Madrid, UK and US who I worked with to develop the line over the last five years.
Is your line targeted towards the conventional consumer or the conscious consumer?
My line is for any woman who wants high performing skin care that is based on nature, instead of filled with synthetics and toxins. I will say, though, that most of our customers so far have been women who have been using conventional products and they are throwing them out when we are able to teach them about the harm they could cause and after they use them and experience amazing results. We are teaching women that they really don't have to sacrifice performance for healthy products.
Why are your price points higher than most natural beauty products?
I didn't create my products with a final retail price in mind, I created them to be effective using fresh, potent ingredients found in nature. I was told by many along the way that I could not do what I wanted to do - create a line using naturally-derived ingredients and get the performance I wanted. Because the goal is results, I first sourced the finest ingredients around the globe and only when my product formulations were finished, did I consider their retail prices. This is the opposite of what many brands do. I didn't have a price point in mind and then outsource the production to a lab. My products are created in-house to produce noticeable results with high quality, non-toxic, healthy ingredients. These are luxury beauty products. Women who are used to using products like La Prairie just don't have comparable healthy options to chose from. Women will pay for results and if you give them a natural product that works just as well as their synthetic counterpart, they don't have a problem making the switch - as long as they actually work.
Tata Harper helps with the harvest of the organic ingredients
she uses in her beauty line at her farm in Vermont
What percentage of the ingredients you use are organic?
Approximately 70% of our ingredients are organic and 30% are grown on our organic farm in Vermont, where our headquarters is. I've searched the globe to find the highest quality ingredients because they produce the best results. I buy from many small farms in other countries that are not necessarily certified organic farms, but they are farming without the use of harmful pesticides in soil that has never been treated. I also use wildcrafted ingredients, meaning the plants grow in the wild and therefore have never been touched by pesticides. I use natural and naturally-derived ingredients as well.
Where are the products made?
Me and my small team make them by hand in small batches every month. Every product bottle has a batch number on the bottom. These are not mass produced and we do not outsource to a lab to create them, like most companies do. When you receive the products they are no more than 30 days old which means they are also more potent than products that have been sitting on a shelf for months.
Is your packaging eco-friendly?
The "sleeves" which are the packaging and are actually being updated to be an adhesive that you rip open instead of being taped, are made out of 100% Post consumer fiber paper. We do this so we can eliminate the need for boxes which are so wasteful. The outside of the sleeve has the INCI listings and then inside is description, directions and how to use. The labels themselves are limestone which are tree less and soy ink. The bottles are recyclable glass.
What is your personal daily beauty routine?
In the a.m. I use the Regenerating Cleanser, Hydrating Floral Essence, Rejuvenating Serum, Rebuilding Moisturizer and Restorative Eye Cream.
At night I use Regenerating Cleanser, Hydrating Floral Essence, Rejuvenating Serum, Replenishing Nutrient Complex.
What is your favorite product?
The Rejuvenating Serum and Replenishing Nutrient Complex.
Do you plan on launching more products in the future?
I'm currently working on a sunblock and a teen line, both of which are difficult to find in a healthy, natural form.
Where can your products be purchased?
Right now they can be purchased at http://www.tataharper.com/. We'll be placing them in holistic spas and wellness centers as well. We're also talking with a few online retailers and high-end department stores, those that truly understand and appreciate our vision.
6/23/09 Update: Tata Harper Skin care can now be purchased at Spirit Beauty Lounge.
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My Personal Experience
I used the entire skin care line for 30 days. Fine lines appeared to soften by the next day and appeared to be greatly reduced by the end of the month. My skin was smooth and completely hydrated. Dryness was a thing of the past. I was immediately struck by the pure floral aroma of the products. Though no artificial aroma is ever used in any of the products, these smell entirely feminine infused with a floral aroma and packed with powerful naturally-derived ingredients that produce real results.
Tata Harper Skin Care product line - A fresh start in Skin Care
Regenerating Cleanser ($50): This unique concoction looks like peach yogurt, has a light, pleasant floral aroma, and feels like a cream cleanser with powered apricot seeds that provide just the right amount of gentle exfoliation and moisture. My skin is left completely clean, smooth and moisturized. Great for normal, dry and/or aging skin. (Note: Not recommended for sensitive skin types or those with rosacea or eczema, per Tata)
Hydrating Floral Essence ($65): I used this as a toner, but it can be used by those with oily or blemished skin as a light moisturizer. Contains willow bark extract which is a highly potent ingredient with the ability to heal blemishes and reduce redness. Witch hazel helps reduce pore size and it definitely appeared to work. This makes a great base for the Nutrient Complex, Serum or Moisturizer. I sprayed this over my makeup and during the day for a refreshing pick-me-up as well. (Note: Not recommended for sensitive skin types or those with rosacea or eczema, per Tata)
Rebuilding Moisturizer ($100): I really love the smell and feel of this product. Its lightweight, absorbs quickly and not at all greasy or heavy. Provides complete hydration while leaving a matte finish, great to use under makeup. Love the smell!
Replenishing Nutrient Complex ($45): I immediately recognized the distinct aroma of rosehip seed oil, which I love. This botanical concoction of skin-adoring oils comes in a rollerball application which makes it super easy to apply just the right amount to skin. Apply on top of the Rejuvenating Serum for a fresh, dewy glow. Use all over - face, under & over eyes and decollete (works well for cuticles too). I usually use this at night. Dryness was a thing of the past while using this.
Rejuvenating Serum ($150): Contains a whopping 29 actives! This is the star product of the line and coincidentally the most expensive. This is an anti-aging treatment product designed to provide collagen, specifically to firm skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. I've seen it change the appearance of my skin first-hand. My pore size and fine lines have been reduced. I started seeing results within just the first week of use! I LOVE this product! Sure, the price is steep, but the results are amazing. I apply while my skin is still damp from the Hydrating Floral Essence. I only use a very small amount to cover my entire face including under and over eyes and neck. Smells heavenly too!
Restorative Eye Creme ($90): Best eye cream I've used to date! Give crows feet the evil eye and watch fine lines become more subtle. I used this both day and night after I washed my face. I noticed the skin of my eye area beginning to change in the first week of use and wrinkles softened. Absorbs quickly. I love the smell. I only used a very small amount each time I used it. Calendula, Borage flower and Carrot Seed oils gently protect, soothe and smooth skin around the eye area. **A must have product**
Resurfacing Mask ($55): Contains willow bark extract, which is a natural source of salicylic acid known for its ability to banish blemishes and redness. When used twice a week this helped calmed my skin down and bring a new clarity. The beta-hydroxy acid helps with the cell renewal process producing a nice fresh glow. This has a very strong powder/perfumey aroma that isn't my favorite. The good news is that it quickly dissapates after application. Sclerotium gum (derived from root vegetables) gives the mask a gel consistency while french pink clay and pomegranate fruit extract give it a peach color. Leaves my skin feeling baby soft!
Revitalizing Body Oil ($90): My skin glistens when I use this! The aroma is both sparkling and calming, herbaceous yet floral . A perfect prescription for dry skin thanks to grape seed and sunflower oil. I love to use this after a hot bath or shower! Its a very comforting scent. This is one big dose of healthy, pampering hydration with a luxurious aroma - leaving my skin unbelievable soft!
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The ingredients are not listed on the Tata Harper website currently, but you can find complete ingredient listings for all product in the Skin Deep Database (click here). They are also listed on the packaging.
Tata Harper indicates their products are currently in the process of being Certified Natural by Ecocert.