Many skin care products feature a list of ingredients that reads like a recipe for jet fuel: unpronounceable and mysterious-in-origin components that make you wonder if the beauty-benefits of said product outweigh the health risks of rubbing petrochemicals into your face.
Not Tata Harper’s products. This beauty entrepreneur’s all-natural creams, toners and serums have ingredient lists bordering on the lyrical with sunflower, lavender, radish root extract, jasmine and grapefruit all folded into her products. From their grasshopper green packaging to their rosy-cheeked creator, the Tata Harper line conjures up visions of wild flower filled meadows and sunny days. Redolent of orange blossoms and rose bushes, these products smell as good as they look and milky skinned maidens including Gwyneth Paltrow and Julianne Moore have lined up for Harper’s soothing, luxurious synthetic-free products.
The woman behind the line is a Colombian-born, former industrial engineer turned beauty entrepreneur. Harper grows the herbs, flowers and plants for many of her products on her 12,000 acre certified organic Vermont farm.
HGTVGardens checked in with Harper to pick her brain about the beauty-botanicals connection.
What is an herb or flower that has some incredible cosmetic or therapeutic applications people might not know about?
Comfrey and helichrysum are both amazing for healing scars — even old, persistent scars, they are able to break down old scar tissue and help re-form it to be smooth and healthy again.
How big of a factor does scent and the psychological lift of aromatherapy play in your products?
I think it plays a huge part! I wanted to create products that not only delivered amazing results to the skin but also really uplifted the spirit, boosted mood and happiness, and were a pleasure to use. The scents come only from the flowers I use in the ingredients. I don’t add fragrance, so what people are smelling are fresh botanicals.
You’ve talked about becoming aware of the chemicals in beauty products when your stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. What are some of the chemicals people should be concerned about appearing in their beauty products?
Fragrance is the huge one: this word essentially masks dozens or even hundreds of mystery chemicals that the companies aren’t required to disclose. Other basic ones to keep an eye out for are phthalates and parabens, as well as synthetic dyes and colorants.
If you could recommend one product that gives a great feel for what the Tata Harper line offers, what would it be?
Our Rejuvenating Serum, definitely. It’s our star product and is incredibly popular because it’s so powerful and delivers great results. It’s a complete collagen treatment that slows the signs of aging and nourishes the skin with tons of what it needs to stay healthy, strong and wrinkle-free. It has 29 active natural ingredients! Spanish lavender and narcissus bulb extract are a few that are incredible for reducing wrinkles.
What do you grow on your 1,200-acre farm?
Much of our land is wild forests. We grow hay on a lot of it for our animals, my husband raises Scottish Highlanders and we have a herd of 120 that live in the fields, as well as two horses, three cows, sheep and goats. We have a big flower and herb garden of course, and a small orchard that is a few years old with apple and plum trees.
What other fruits, vegetables, plants or flowers do you grow for your own family’s use, not for use in your products?
Our flower garden is gorgeous in the summer, we have zinnias, roses, morning glory, sunflowers. Herbs too for cooking like basil, sage and rosemary. For veggies we grow basics like kale, garlic, lettuce, carrots and squash. Unfortunately we forgot to plant pumpkins this year! Those are always so fun for Halloween decorations with the kids.
What is the most esoteric flower or plant ingredient in your products?
Narcissus bulb extract, which is truly incredible stuff and has powerful anti-wrinkle properties that rejuvenate the skin. We use it to improve and strengthen the three main collagens. It’s the juice from the dormant bulb of the narcissus flower, which contains all of the energy and chemistry that the bulb needs to create the flower in the spring, which I think is a beautiful thought!
What is the flower or plant scent that makes you happiest?
Grapefruit scent. It’s so bright and cheerful.
What was your favorite flower when you were a little girl? Is it still your favorite?
Hibiscus when I was a little girl, but I’d have to say peonies are my favorite now. They are so stunning and smell so good. I put them all over my house in the spring. They’re such gorgeous decorations even just in a jar on their own.
Are you working on anything new: Makeup? Fragrance?
We’re always working on new things in the lab, and right now we’re focusing our energy on our upcoming launch of lip treatment balms… plus some new body bath treatments down the road. No makeup or fragrance — yet!
Your best piece of beauty advice?
Sleep well and eat well. It doesn’t matter how many products you use on your face every day, if you are tired or unhealthy it will always show on your face. Keeping your whole body strong and nourished with fresh fruits and veggies, lots of water and lots of sleep is so essential to stay your most beautiful throughout life, and works its own anti-aging magic.
TATA HARPER’S HOMEGROWN FACIAL TREATMENT
I like to do this facial treatment every time the seasons change to give my skin an extra boost of hydration and nutrition, and to keep it super soft.
2 tablespoons raw honey
Ground up raw almonds
Several ground mint leaves
Several drops lime juice
Honey, almonds, mint and lime juice. Adding a bit of your favorite essential oil (I like lavender) doesn’t hurt either. Use this scrub on your skin after you’ve washed it with a cleanser, and rub it in with gentle circular motions. Do so for about two minutes and then rinse off. Also great for rough patches on the body, like on elbows and knees!
Honey is a natural humectant that helps your skin retain moisture, and mint and lime are just very refreshing and revitalizing for the skin. Plus it smells incredible!