Hand-made with love and whole ingredients. That’s the beauty secret behind three New York-based product purveyors. An all-natural approach and mortar-and-pestle formulating methods make them must-know beauty artisans of the old-world apothecary-style tradition. A far cry from “apothecary chic,” which just refers to display-worthy bathroom bottles, their small-batch beauty products contain nourishing plant oils and herbal extracts—and not a drop of chemicals or synthetics—so they’re also pretty on the inside. Although the ingredient labels are a cinch to read, another sign of product purity.
Rachel Winard’s carefully crafted products were born out of necessity. After unsuccessfully hunting for products that wouldn’t aggravate her sensitive-skin issues caused by lupus (an autoimmune illness), Winard created the line she needed. Her research into herbalism and Ayurveda has paid off for the rest of us. Her handmade soaps are nursed along in six-bar batches in Winard’s Prospect Heights apartment, and cooled in a converted closet. The personal touch and intention behind the line just as important as great ingredients, she says. “Machines that make soap, for example, don’t have any intention.” Soapwalla’s raw ingredients and recipes vary with the season, just like food. “Products should be affected by the environment,” says Winard, whose summer soaps take three weeks longer than in winter to dry thanks to humidity. Soapwalla also creates terrific skin care: the exceptional Restorative Face Serum is one-two punch for anti-aging and reducing redness. And her all-natural Deodorant Cream that relies on aluminum-free sodium bicarbonate is a bestseller. www.etsy.com/shop/soapwallakitchen
Hope Gillerman’s brand-new skin-care line covers all the bases with just a few products. A naturally foaming Grapefruit Face Wash, Neroli Face Oil, and Face Balm are like the Clinique 3-step system for the organic set. “We don’t need a dozen beauty product for great skin. We just need a few that work,” says Gillerman, whose own agelessness is testimony. For Gillerman, simple formulations are just as important as a simple regime: “The skin is irritated by overly complex products and ingredients that preserve them,” she says. And Clinique can keep its cosmetic counters, too: The key to keeping products fresh and preservative-free? An online-only sales strategy. “This way products don’t need to sustain a two-year shelf-life. They’re made on demand, then used right away.” That’s as it should be says, Gillerman, who’s also the founder of H. Gillerman Organics aromatherapy remedies. “Products for the face must be delicate. They can’t be loaded down with extras or chemicals for texture or for shelf-life. The purer the better.” www.etsy.com/shop/HGillermanOrganics
Living Tree Botanicals
Parsons grad and Brooklynite Erin Van Cott, an organic chemist (and baker), made successful product lines for other beauty companies before launching her own luxe-leaning line in 2002. She now formulates her apothecary-style skin-care and body-care products in Oneonta. All the better to source local ingredients like raw honey and organic calendula and lavender for her extensive range. Masks and tonics can be cherry-picked by skin type—then used with the creamy Essential Cleansing Lotion and Bois de Rose Face Cream—for a holistic skin-care ritual. (I’m a fan of the calming Blue Chamomile Tonic and Restorative Seaherb Face Mask, made with wild harvested Maine seaweed.) Van Cott’s forte is making sumptuous—yet uber-clean—products, and it shows. At Living Tree’s Artisanal Beauty Bar at Tay Home boutique, in Andes, New York, the Living Tree Shea Rosehip Body Butter and Limon Vert Body Scrub fly off the shelves. Next up? Morning and evening Bathtub Teas for a decadent soak. 607-267-4045, www.livingtreebotanicals.com (To download the product catalog, click here.)