We all know that our skin is our largest organ, and we also understand that nicotine patches and the like feed drugs directly into our bodies and bloodstream — and yet we still continue to pay little if any attention to what we rub onto our skin. We eat organically, we drink organically, we clean our homes and feed our pets organically — and then we carelessly coat ourselves with chemicals, as if they don’t seep in. They do!
I’ve tested thousands of products over the years and have judged numerous beauty awards, and I cannot stress enough the importance of reading your labels. If you’re curious and serious about learning what goes into your products, check out Skin Deep, a comprehensive cosmetic database created by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group (safecosmetics.org). You’ll find nearly 70,000 products that have been analyzed for safety. In the meantime, here are 21 natural product companies that put botanicals to good use.
Although you’ll find everything from hair care to sun care at this natural products company, we like the Rainforest Collection (try the Foaming Cream Cleanser), with its exhilarating tropical ingredients like copaiba, derived from the ocotea tree. Bonus: the company donates a portion of each product sold from this collection to the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research. (albabotanica.com)
We’re partial to the facial masks (Rejuvenating Collagen Mask, Purifying Clay Mask, and Hydrating Yogurt Mask) of this NATRUE-certified line that formulates its products with the highest possible concentration of certified organic and wild-crafted plant ingredients. Founder Ute Leube recently was nominated for the 2012 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year award. Nice touch: the company gives back 5 percent of its annual operating profits to the global Fair Trade farm network. (amalabeauty.com)
Angelina Organic Skincare
Owner Angelina Swanson wild harvests herbs and makes her own infusions for her nourishing products using local, organic, and Fair Trade ingredients. The top seller is the Youth in Bloom Phyto-Active anti-aging facial line that includes a Chinese mushroom extract and goji berries to help hydrate and firm naturally. Try the Extra Firming Eye Gel, a customer favorite. (angelinaskincare.com)
Founder Sharon Christie is an unusual blend of scientist, earth mother, and aromatherapist, launching the company in the mid-1980s. Today, all of the products are created in a USDA Certified Organic manufacturing facility and formulated with organic essential oils, medicinal herbs, exotic botanicals, and Fair Trade ingredients. This is an extensive brand with many lines. We’re fans of both the Sensory Fusion line and the Organics line (we recommend the Lavender and Chamomile Mineral Bath Salts). (aromafloria.com)
This family-run company has been making soap since 1858 (regularly giving back to worthy causes and charities worldwide), and introduced Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to the United States in 1948. The all-in-one castile soap became a cult favorite in the 1960s, and today the brand is a leader in the organic and Fair Trade worlds, having launched the Truth in Body Care campaign, among other good works. Products are Fair Trade and USDA Certified Organic and offer a variety of almond, eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender-infused bath and body products. The Lavender Hand Sanitizing Spray comes in a handy 2-ounce bottle, perfect for travel. (drbronner.com)
Dr. Rudolph Hauschka, whose mission was to “heal humanity and the earth,” founded this line in 1967. The brand has made a name for itself by using natural botanicals that come from the WALA biodynamic gardens in Germany and that are obtained through a unique holistic concept. The products are BDIH and NATRUE certified. Two best-sellers: Rose Day Cream and Rosemary Bath. (drhauschka.com)
Eminence Organic Skin Care
“Our mission is to provide the most results-oriented skin care using the finest ingredients Mother Nature has to offer,” attests Boldijarre Koronczay, president and founder of Eminence. A popular spa brand, the company has set itself apart from its competition by working closely with Demeter, the only global certifying body for biodynamic agriculture and products (see sidebar). Of note is the Beyond Organic Collection of biodynamic products, which includes two products — the Herbal Recovery Gel and the Cornflower Recovery Serum — that bear the Demeter-certified seal, making them the first and only Demeter-certified biodynamic skin-care products in the United States. (eminenceorganics.com)
Essence of Vali
Launched in 1994, out of a charming townhouse in New York City’s West Village, this line includes ten essential oil blends that address a variety of concerns, including Balance, Fortify, and Passion. The first product, named “Sleep,” created by founder Valerie Bennis, continues to be the most popular. It’s a synergistic concentrate of essential oils of lavender, marjoram, cedarwood, and ylang-ylang. “One drop on the pillowcase is all it takes to ease into a peaceful sleep,” shares Bennis. Choose from mists, balms, and massage and bath oils. (essenceofvali.com)
This Texas-based company offers a number of hand-assembled, natural skin-care products with an emphasis on bath and body. We’re fans of the One Fine Day Flawless Face Polish with good-for-you ingredients that include sugar grains, shea butter, sunflower seed oil, and grapefruit, lemon, lime, and tangerine oils that contribute to its uplifting scent. (farmhousefreshgoods.com)
Four Elements Organic Herbals
Located in the pristine Baraboo Bluffs of central Wisconsin, this line of herbal wellness products is handmade by local women on a 130-acre certified organic farm. We met founder Jane Hawley Stevens at the Integrative Health Symposium in New York City four years ago and have been enamored of her violet-based products ever since. She shares one of her recipes with us here.
(fourelementsherbals.com) Violet Syrup recipe on opposite page.
HollyBeth’s Natural Luxury
This is a lovely line of USDA Certified Organic products that are made with love and passion in HollyBeth Anderson’s studio in Atlanta, Georgia. Stand-out products include the Rose Geranium Face Moisturizer, Lavender Hand Cream, one of the best eye creams we’ve tested, and a collection of lovely aromatic candles. (hollybeth.net)
We’ve had our eye on this brand since its founder, Horst Rechelbacher, renowned environmentalist and founder of Aveda, first started playing around with it, slowly introducing products in the 1990s. Now, it’s a full-blown USDA Certified Organic health and beauty brand that’s making innovative leaps in the organic beauty category. Many of the plants used as ingredients are grown on Rechelbacher’s solar-, wind-, and geothermal-powered organic farm in Wisconsin. A few of the results-oriented products we admire: Plant Stem Cell Renewal Complex, featuring ingredients from a proprietary blend of antioxidant-rich plant cells from edelweiss, coneflower, and pennywort, as well as Lip Delivery Antioxidant Gloss. (intelligentnutrients.com)
This leading Australian skin-care company launched in 1985 and operates a 153-acre farm that’s certified organic and biodynamic by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA). Its mission is to produce the most effective natural skin care, using the most potent organic, biodynamic, and natural ingredients available. Cult favorites include the Rosewater Balancing Mist and the Calendula Cream. (jurlique.com)
Marie Veronique Organics
We fell in love with this small company after a facial we had at Solage Resort and Spa in Calistoga, California. Developed by Marie Veronique Nadeau, a former chemistry teacher, and her daughter, physicist Dr. Jay Nadeau, the goal was to create a skin-care line that would allow women to age not only gracefully but naturally. Ingredients are Fair Trade, organic, and locally grown, whenever possible, and the company donates 10 percent of profits to organizations dedicated to helping women and children in Third World countries. Of the many products, Every Day Sheer Coverage is favored by many for its anti-aging and sun protection qualities. (mvorganics.com)
A fun and quirky skin-care line founded by Nanette Pallrand, who developed a special appreciation for nature during her extensive travels, spending several years in Brazil. The country, she says, “Truly gave me an appreciation for nature because of its sheer beauty and the overwhelming diversity of plants and flowers.” Nature Girl uses natural, organic, and wild-crafted ingredients that are cultivated on small family-run organic farms. A few of our favorites: She Dreams in Green organic bath salts and I Am Plant oatmeal exfoliating face mask. (nature-girl.com)
Naturopathica Holistic Health
Founder Barbara Close is a Renaissance woman — aromatherapist, herbalist, esthetician, and product formulator, she founded a healing arts center 15 years ago. Her results-driven product line soon followed and is certified natural and organic by EcoCert. Ingredients are carefully sourced from local farmers and herbalists, and best-selling products include the Aloe Cleansing Gel and the Carrot Seed Soothing Serum. (naturopathica.com)
This line is rich in essential oils and USDA Certified Organic algae and seaweed and was lovingly created by Jenefer Palmer. A former massage therapist specializing in energy work such as polarity and cranial sacral, she also was a spa director. During this time, she became disenchanted with the products she was putting on guests’ bodies, learning that what you see in a bottle all too often is not what you get! She took matters into her own hands, founding Osea after 11 years of development. Cult favorites include Salts of the Earth body scrub and Ocean Cleansing Mudd. (oseamalibu.com)
One of the first brands to cater to the spa market, Pevonia was founded in 1991 by Sylvie Hennessy, a serious skin-care educator who also established the Academy of Esthetics and Spa Therapy. This is a huge brand that includes a number of lines for all ages and skin types and prides itself on its focus on science and nature. Product to try: the Aromatherapy Face Oils. (pevonia.com)
Although this German-based company (headquartered out of a carbon-neutral facility) turns 25 this year, it was introduced to the United States only in 2011. Products are all natural and certified by EcoCert and NATRUE. Cult products include the Intensive Seed Oil Capsules (we don’t board a plane without them!) and the Moisturizing Lip Balm, rich in neroli cassis. (primaveralife.com)
Red Flower Nature
You may recognize the name Red Flower, a company that launched in 1999, for its delicate signature petal-topped candles, but it’s come a long way since then. Founder Yael Alkalay, who shares some recipes here, created the brand to inspire a sense of living fully and celebrating life through the purity and freshness of flowers. Nature is the name of the natural skin-care line made up of six products that are just as good for the face as they are for the body and are meant to consolidate skin-care regimens. Made with certified organic ingredients sourced from Finland, they include waters that are pure flower distillations and whole essential oils that are cold-press extractions. We love the Organic Birch Mineral Hydrotherapy Soaking Plunge. (redflower.com)
“Cultivators of beauty” is how this 91-year-old company refers to itself. With 135 acres of biodynamic gardens in Germany (and more spread from Switzerland to New Zealand), it collectively grows more than 300 healing herbs and flowers. Named after the Celtic goddess of wisdom and beauty, Weleda is NATRUE and BDIH certified. Bestsellers: Rosemary Hair Oil and Weleda Lavender Relaxing Body Oil. (usa.weleda.com)
Felecia Scott, whose family is a blend of African American and Chickasaw Indian, founded this aromatherapy company using recipes passed down from her grandmother. Since childhood, Felecia has been making ointment, balms, and body oils with her grandmother, who taught her how to infuse flowers, roots, tea leaves, and herbs into nutrient-rich oils. There are a number of delicious handmade elixirs for the skin and hair from which to choose. The latest offering is Oh My Aching and includes eucalyptus and rosemary to help ease minor aches and pains. (wildbeautycreations.com)
Mary Bemis is the lifestyle editor of Spirituality & Health. She is passionate about healing spas and is a major voice for natural products and sustainability. She was founder and editor-in-chief of both American Spa and Organic Spa magazines and has tested thousands of personal-care products over the years.