Stepdad’s cancer inspired ‘queen of green beauty’ Tata Harper’s successful toxic-free skincare line

The former industrial engineer founded her eponymous skincare line because she couldn’t find a 100 per cent natural beauty brand. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper
The former industrial engineer founded her eponymous skincare line because she couldn’t find a 100 per cent natural beauty brand. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — All it took was seeing her stepfather battle cancer that forced beauty guru Tata Harper to overhaul her lifestyle.

The former industrial engineer was living in Miami when her stepfather was diagnosed with the disease and she would accompany him to his check-ups.

“His journey through cancer is what led me to change my lifestyle.

“I wanted to do everything non-toxic and reduce this concept of toxic load a lot of doctors keep talking about,” Harper said recently via Zoom.

The “Queen of Green Skincare” spoke to Malaysian and Singaporean press members in conjunction with the launch of the brand’s new Water-Lock Moisturiser, a lightweight silicone-free formula that hydrates the outer layer of skin with pomegranate spheres and orange peptide.

She couldn’t find synthetic-free skincare, so she started her own

Once she understood that human beings absorb chemicals through their environment, she became obsessed with reducing her toxic load in her food and cleaning products, even changing dry cleaners.

But when it came to toxic-free skincare, it was practically unheard of 10 years ago.

“I never thought I would become a beauty entrepreneur, this started because I couldn’t find anything,” said Harper, who is originally from Colombia.

“It was either coconut butter and coconut oil with very basic things, which are great by the way, but that can’t be the only thing.”

When she encountered botanical beauty products with more advanced ingredients, Harper was disappointed that they were conserved, emulsified, thickened and stabilised with nasty raw materials that “belong in her car”.

That’s when she and her husband Henry founded her eponymous skincare brand.

Since its launch a decade ago, the Vermont-based brand has amassed a cult following and is loved for its high-performance synthetic-free formulation. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper
Since its launch a decade ago, the Vermont-based brand has amassed a cult following and is loved for its high-performance synthetic-free formulation. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper

On her 1,200-acre organic farm in Vermont, she and a team of chemists around the world spent five years developing a skincare line that has zero synthetic chemicals, just 100 per cent clean goodness derived from mother nature.

Today, Tata Harper has a cult following and is loved by the likes of Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson and anyone who wants the most out of their products.

Everything is made on her 1,200-acre Vermont farm

The Ecocert certified organic brand sources for ingredients from 68 countries, using the best and often most expensive ingredients.

They don’t outsource their formulas to labs, preferring to do everything themselves from scratch on the farm and they don’t have third parties producing the products to ensure freshness.

“Not a lot of labs know how to do what we do or are interested in doing what we do because they’re more like fast beauty.

“We make what we need to make so we’re not wasteful,” she said.

Harper’s team sources organic ingredients from 68 countries and everything is made on her farm in Vermont. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper
Harper’s team sources organic ingredients from 68 countries and everything is made on her farm in Vermont. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper

The brand’s eco-consciousness also extends to its packaging — the latest Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturiser comes with a reusable pump, jar and cap, and customers only need to buy a refill pod when the product runs out.

“I am a by-product of the wellness movement, it’s a movement that’s happening worldwide that’s driven by customers, not industry,” Harper said.

Greening up your beauty routine

In light of Covid-19 that has shuttered stores across the globe, Harper said the pandemic has shown the beauty industry a new way of doing business, by embracing digital spaces to host classes and live events where people can get advice.

Now more than ever, Harper believes consumers are more focused on their health and wellbeing, becoming more aware of their purchases.

“You know, like buying the right type of products and investing in the right type of things — there’s a lot of re-evaluating of what brands they want to support and what kind of consumers they want to be,” she told Malay Mail.

The Colombian-born mum of three wanted to reduce her toxic load and change her lifestyle when her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper
The Colombian-born mum of three wanted to reduce her toxic load and change her lifestyle when her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. — Picture courtesy of Tata Harper

For those who want to green up their beauty routine, Harper’s advice is to understand what does going green mean for yourself.

“I think you start by understanding how clean is clean for you — what is your goal?

“We are at the extreme end of clean, in the sense that there is no synthetic chemical, sustainable and responsible.

“For some people all of that might not be that important, maybe they just want six ingredients to not be there and not care so much about the packaging being sustainable,” she said.

Harper recommended starting with low commitment items such as cleansers and masks for those who want to adopt a greener routine.

“Skincare has become such an avenue for all of us to find soothing and comfort at home.

“Maybe in other times, it was a chore, it was annoying and people don’t have time for that but now it has become a priority for a lot of people because we’re stuck at home,” Harper said.

Tata Harper is available in Sephora stores here in Malaysia.

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