These products provide an alternative to more mainstream offerings, which over the last half-century have become increasingly laden with synthetics that some would rather avoid. This is no small issue, given the fact that the average person uses about 10 personal-care products daily with about 125 ingredients, according to the Environmental Work Group, a watchdog nonprofit that gathers data on consumer products. (The organization also runs Skin Deep, www.ewg.org/skindeep, a website that showcases data on various cosmetic and personal-care products.)
Forget the often tacky labels and jars and not-so-great recipes of hand-made beauty products in years past. Many of today's pure skin- and hair-care products have sophisticated ingredients, formulations, packaging and marketing. Here are a few of them.
Started by Michael Sedlacek, 32, and friend Liesa Helfen, 31, just 18 months ago, Worker B claims to be a 100% pure organic beeswax skin-care line from Minnesota. The self-proclaimed bee fanatics wanted to help local farmers while also bringing consumers products as direct from the bee as possible.
To this end, the hive enthusiasts source their wax and honey from bees at their Minneapolis-area farm as well as from neighboring organic farmers. Beeswax is an anti-inflammatory and has antiseptic properties. Their products include organic oils, propolis and some essential oils to balance out the elemental formulas.
Sedlacek says Worker B wanted to challenge the traditional corporate beauty concept of promoting multi-ingredient products that address only one issue.
"We wanted to bring to market the best-focused line of bee-ingredient products that had multiple uses and functions," says Sedlacek, who helps sell their eight balms and lotions in 75 stores in 23 states including California. "They're really super potent. So you only need a few products with a few key ingredients, of which you really only need to use a small amount."
Price range: From $4 for a lip balm to $20 for the Lotion Bar.
Tata Harper Skincare
When Colombian-born Tata Harper's stepfather was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, his doctor advised him to stop using personal-care products. This got her thinking about the potential dangers in mainstream offerings and took her on a five-year global quest to bring to market skin-care products "that actually work and won't sacrifice our health," says Harper, an industrial engineer.
Today, Harper, 36, creates much of her all-natural nontoxic line from start to finish on her 1,200-acre farm in Lake Champlain, Vt. She grows about 8% of the certified organic plant and herbal ingredients she uses, including alfalfa, candela, meadowsweet, lavender, chamomile and borage, in greenhouses on her farm, where they're infused and then blended with proprietary formulas.
"I always say if women can find products that beautify and are in fact even more powerful than the synthetic products out there, then why even take the risk?" says Harper, whose eponymous line has about a dozen skin-care items with premium ingredients sourced directly from farms she's visited in Israel, the Czech Republic, Tasmania, the U.K. and New Zealand. "I always tell women, 'Read labels and spread the word. Premium, nontoxic skin care is a reality.'"
Price range: From $45 for the Replenishing Nutrient Complex to $150 for the Rejuvenating Serum.
Arizona floral essence alchemist Katie Hess, 35, saw the changes in mood, health and physical attractiveness that her consultation clients often underwent after using various potions she'd mixed with herbs and flowers from her garden. Many were quite dramatic, and she told herself: "I shouldn't be shy about this. I need to get these to market to help people," she says. Soon after, Lotus Wei (Mandarin for "transformative action") was born.