April 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm , by Joy Armstrong
If you’ve ever questioned the relevance of living green, one conversation with beauty expert Horst Rechelbacher would set you straight.
He’s fiercely passionate about living organic. The founder of Aveda left retirement two years ago to launch Intelligent Nutrients, one of the first U.S.D.A.-Certified Organic skincare lines that offers plant-based, toxin-free multifunctional products.
I had the pleasure of meeting Rechelbacher recently as he unveiled the line’s newest product: bug repellent. Yep, bug repellent. But this is no ordinary insect zapper. It’s a DEET-free, anti-chemical formula that smells like the inside of a 5-star spa. One spritz tickles your nose with peppermint lemongrass, cedar, clove and rosemary. The scent is lovely (so lovely that I’ve sprayed it everywhere, from my gym bag to my neck). But does it kill bugs? “Of course,” says Rechelbacher, 70, in his charming Austrian accent. “The secret is the sesame oil, which can be an effective repellent all by itself.”
His clean-living mantra is translated in his lifestyle as well. Rechelbacher has an extraordinary solar-powered Fifth Avenue apartment in New York, drives an electric car, practices yoga, drinks water only from glass bottles and eats mostly organic vegetarian — for starters. His mission to reform the beauty industry’s use of chemicals is what keeps him in the business. The use of hair dyes, perms, paraben-rich skincare products, he says, has a negative effect on our health on various levels. Guilt, he says, pulled him out of retirement. How could he stand by knowing everything that he does and do nothing about it? “One of the best things that happened was the release of the President’s Cancer Panel Report that came out last May,” says Rechelbacher. “It spells out all of the chemicals that are a responsible link to every form of cancer.
Even choosing your lipstick could be a matter of life or death. “It’s treated with irradiations and heavy metals, which the body can not process so it gets stored somewhere. Maybe in your breast tissue. Maybe your colon. We don’t know, but it gives women cancer.” Makes you think twice about gliding on that red gloss, right?
Rechelbacher’s role as environmental activist was inspired in part by his upbringing. His mother, an apothecary, helped him make his first batch of home-grown hair ingredients with cooked herbs when he styled hair in the 1970s. She lovingly suggested it after noticing the “stink” permeating his salon from chemical-based hair products.
Today, Rechelbacher’s passion is unshaken. In order for products to be used safely, the body must have the ability to digest them, and his products do. Many of his ingredients are grown on his 600-acre farm in Wisconsin. The U.S.D.A. seal means those ingredients have met food standards. Translation: you can eat it. Add a little sparkling water to Intelligent Nutrients’ hair spray “and it tastes like grappa. The alcohol is made from organic grapes,” he says.
I’ve fallen in love with the Destress Express hair and body oil, a relaxing blend of jojoba oil, vanilla, red raspberry and lime that I apply right before I steam and shower. The Sambac Jasmine anti-aging body elixir has a seductive scent, excellent for alleviating tension and reducing stress.