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Naturopathica: Navigating the Tricky Intersection of Purity and Performance

Naturopathica EcoCert Organic Skin Care

Having worked in the green beauty industry for over 3 years now, I don’t envy anyone striving to create a makeup or skin care line completely satisfying women who demand both high performance and complete purity. By purity, I mean products with lists of ingredients that get zeros on the Skin Deep Database and the thumbs up from even the most militant of “greenies.” And by performance, I mean products that visibly brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles before you’ve left the spa (whether any of these expectations are reasonable is a valid question, but alas, will have to be a topic for another day).

While I certainly have no plans to embark on such an ambitious endeavor, Barbara Close, founder and CEO of Naturopathica, has been on a mission since the mid-80’s to create safe and healthy spa-quality skin care that delivers immediate and visible results. Initially a massage therapist and herbalist, she has always believed that Nature holds the keys to healthy bodies and fabulous skin. To that end, she has spent that last 15 years developing (and re-developing) products that maximize the benefits of organic plants from around the world, while utilizing the latest technology to maximize results.

The fruits of her labor, however, have not been without controversy. Her use of synthetic ingredients like glycolic acid has raised more than a few eyebrows. I have heard from several bloggers, and even the former head of a top organic beauty retailer, that Naturopathica’s ingredients weren’t “clean” enough for their consideration. Close does not try to hide the fact that some of her most popular products – like the Vitamin C Serum – contain synthetic, active ingredients. “Vitamin C is a fantastic ingredient with known benefits to the skin,” she explains, “but you cannot just squeeze orange juice into skin care. Vitamin C is too unstable, and requires synthetic processing in a laboratory to be used in skin care.” The same goes for other ingredients, like glycolic acid and Vitamin K – also heralded for their significant anti-aging and skin-brightening properties. Still, she contends that safety is of utmost concern, and that she would not use unsafe ingredients – or ingredients in concentrations that could damage the skin (or any other part of the body). “We need to move away from this idea that natural is good and synthetic is bad,” she asserts. “Many skin care companies use concentrations of these ingredients that are much too high, with pH’s that are way too low, and that is why they irritate the skin and cause problems. But the fact is, there are certain ingredients that deliver really great results and are completely safe, but are most stable when created in a lab.”

Having used Naturopathica skin care in our spa for several months now – while also using them on myself – my estheticians and I can say with confidence these products do indeed work, quickly and dramatically. Every esthetician at the spa lists the Vitamin K serum as her favorite product in the entire store. And I have never seen anything deliver faster results than the Glycolic RefiningĀ Peel. Yes, the EcoCert Certified Organic serums deliver visible results as well. The Carrot Seed Soothing Serum is used on pretty much every client who strolls into the spa, as it is a perfect post-peel facial oil, and all but one of the ingredients (which is wild-crafted) are certified organic.

I could go on and on about Naturopathica, why I love it, why it’s controversial, and what Skin Deep has to say about some of the ingredients. However, Barbara Close did a pretty fabulous job herself discussing these topics when I interviewed her yesterday on The Nature of Beauty Live. If you are someone who is interested in the “how” and “why” of natural and organic skin care, as well as in the debate that rages on regarding the safety of synthetics, I highly recommend spending 45 minutes of your time listening to the show. You may still decide to stick with nothing but USDA certified organic skin care – and a great choice that is, I might add – but I can say with certainly your decision will be based on a much deeper pool of knowledge.

Written by Terri Bly

Terri Bly is the founder of The Nature of Beauty, LTD, an all-eco website, shop, and spa. She is a freelance writer, currently residing in Minneapolis.


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