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 Vox.com, 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.
It took five years and eight chemists until organic skincare expert Tata Harper had products in hand and a full-fledged beauty brand. The dynamo, who grows many of the ingredients in her skincare items on a farm in Vermont, is in town today at Nordstrom Galleria Dallas for a personal appearance. We recently caught up with Harper, on the eve of the launch of her first colored cosmetics product.
You're well-known for growing your beauty products on your farm in Vermont. How did you get into this, pardon the pun, field?
I never thought I'd be a beauty entrepreneur; I was as surprised as everyone else when I realized I was passionate about it, and adopted it as my new life mission! It all started when my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer some years ago. During his treatment and recovery process, I was really involved, in terms of visiting the health specialists with him and getting him on track for a healthy life. One thing that kept coming up was this idea of toxic load, and the reality that many of the products we use every day contain ingredients that aren't exactly good for our health, and in fact might be harmful to it. I immediately set out to detox my life: my food, my household products, and most importantly my skincare. However, I couldn't find a completely natural replacement for my high-performance antiaging skincare. It didn't exist! Everything out there was a blend of naturals and synthetics - no one was creating the real thing. So I decided I wanted to create it myself.
How did you build your business?
It's amazing to think back to just four years ago, when our business was small enough to fit in the basement of my guest house, and I got to play in our lab with formulas and ingredients every day. So much has changed! The process of building our business really relied on the fact that our products needed to be truly outstanding, and that they really filled that gap in the market that I had found not long before. It took five years of work with a team of eight chemists to create these formulas, but it was worth the wait. Originally, these formulas were really just created for me and my friends and family; I didn't really consider turning it into a business until I realized how strong everyone's response was. They loved the products so much and needed more, so we found ourselves manufacturing our products in Vermont! Everything spiraled from there. An editor at Vogue got a hold of some of my samples, and was so crazy about them that they scheduled a trip to our farm and a huge article about our company came out in Vogue in winter of 2011. That article is really what kick-started everything, and we began building the business by creating retailer relationships and building our direct business online.
Why do you think your brand is resonating so much with consumers?
I think that consumers are really looking for lifestyle solutions that give them the results they want, whether it's from cleaning products to baby's bubble bath to anti-aging skincare, without potentially compromising their health or their well-being in any way. My line is all about delivering real, visible results without a single drop of synthetic ingredients, and we're really passionate about inventing and manufacturing formulas that transform people's skin for the better while contributing to overall health and happiness. My products are packed with ingredients from all over the world that really represent the next generation of natural anti-aging technology. They're amazing, and they really work. I think the products speak for themselves; people use them and immediately feel and see a difference in their skin. Since the beginning, word of mouth has been a really powerful drive behind our business—people first become customers, and then quickly turn to evangelists who help us spread the word about natural beauty.
You're about to launch your first colored cosmetics product, a lip and cheek tint. tell us about it.
I'm so excited to share these with the world, because I really, truly feel like they provide the highest quality, most beautiful color I've ever tried, while also bringing key skincare benefits along with the tints. We have three shades: Very Charming, which is a classic petal pink, Very Vivacious, which is a modern coral, and Very Sweet, which is an effervescent peach. They provide very concentrated color that blends easily and gives a really pretty flush of natural-looking color. They have coconut fruit extract and jojoba to hydrate and help soften the skin, while a blend of muscle-relaxing ingredients helps to plump the look of the skin and reduce fine lines, so that the skin and lips just look amazing all around.
Why did you start with this first item?
I don't personally wear a lot of makeup, but one thing I always reach for is a tint for my lips, and a little something for my cheeks, since I love skin that glows naturally plus a little bit of color. I guess I went straight for a lip and cheek product because it's one I use every day!
What's next for you in cosmetics?
We're planning on creating some limited-edition color shades for our Lip and Cheek for the holidays, so that's what we're working on right now. After that, I have a lot of dreams about exploring natural makeup—I feel like women still are hard-pressed to find a completely natural line of makeup that really works, without any synthetics. There's nothing solid in the works yet, but I am collecting ideas and inspiration!
What's your personal daily beauty regimen like?
I use most products in my skincare line every day, twice a day, and it sounds like it takes forever but it's really just two minutes! I cleanse and exfoliate with my Regenerating Cleanser (daily exfoliating is so key for keeping the skin glow-y, and for prepping your skin to absorb the benefits of your anti-aging products), then I cocktail my Hydrating Floral Essence and Elixir Vitae serum together for my face, neck and chest. Then, I use my Repairative Moisturizer since my skin is on the dryer side, and then lock in all that moisture with the Replenishing Nutrient Complex. If I want a little color, I put my new Lip and Cheek tint on my cheeks, in Very Charming - I love the color!
What's the worst thing a girl can do for her face? The best?
The worst thing a girl can do is to spend a lot of time in the sun without protection—that's a guaranteed way to see early signs of aging. The best thing she can do is to start with a preventative anti-aging routine early on, to keep her skin strong, resilient and healthy. That's the best way to have the most gorgeous skin long-term; take care of it early! I was always taught by my mother that taking care of your skin every day is like brushing your teeth—you have to do it!