Intelligent Nutrients: Beauty and Skin Care that Cares about the Planet Too

by Nicole Rechelbacher, co-owner, Intelligent Nutrients 

Learning from Mother Nature is the foundation of the Intelligent Nutrients brand, and our mission is to maintain safety and nutrition within every ingredient we select. Choosing plant-based retinols, AHAs, enzymes, and other sustainably sourced actives with proven results in place of the chemically based norm is in our DNA. The bedrock of our products is active, high performing nontoxic ingredients that support healthy cell development.

Plant-based science is how I was raised. My father (Horst Rechelbacher) instilled a deep appreciation for nature and beauty without sacrificing wellness. He created Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients–his mission was to educate that beauty does not have to come at the cost of your health or the health of our delicate environment.

Kiran Stordalen (co-owner and lifelong partner of Horst) and I are honored to carry his vision and mission forward and excitedly evolve it. New technologies are making it possible to incorporate ingredients that achieve even higher standards of safety for us and for the planet.

Are our products certified organic? Absolutely, we have a wonderful team member whose entire role is to ensure and vet every ingredient to be non-toxic, certified organic, and safe. We work directly with our suppliers and the third-party auditors that confirm our formulas, ingredients, and processes to maintain those standards. More specifically we hold certifications from COSMOS, the international standard for organic and natural cosmetics. We also hold certifications from the Organic Soil Association and are stamped USDA Organic, showing which products are 95 percent or more organic content.

Our formulas are plant based, not petroleum based, and we believe every beauty company should use sustainable ingredients and new science to help take care of our bodies. As a planet, we are clearly depleting our resources. The environment is unstable, and petroleum is not a part of nature’s DNA. So why should you put this on and in your body? The beauty industry, especially in the United States, needs to wake up and shake up how we create sustainable skin and beauty.

Three of Our Best-Selling Products
Our Harmonic® Shampoo and Conditioner has fans worldwide, thanks to its nontoxic, antioxidant-rich formula that removes buildup for a weightless clean. The Minty Destress Express aroma tingles and leaves the scalp balanced and hair clean and light.

For skin care, our Renewal Complex Skin Serum uses 11 percent pure active plant stem cell ingredients for the most potent and active performance. This plant stem cell bioactive science reduces water usage by tons, preserves land for food, is up to 1,000 times more antioxidant potent than conventionally harvested raw materials, and is non-GMO.  We use six types throughout many skin and hair products. Each has specific function to revitalize skin cells, rejuvenate aging skin, restore elasticity, brighten skin, and fuel a healthy hair cycle.

Destress Express™ Hair & Body Oil nourishes hair, scalp, and body while relieving mental and physical stress. Formulated with a therapeutic blend of certified organic essential oils and flavors to soothe, purify, deodorize, condition, and refresh.

We encourage everyone to respect yourself, body and mind, and respect the world around us. Pause, appreciate, meditate, do whatever it takes to preserve our planet.

Beauty without Cruelty

by Yael Grauer

Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater, chances are good that you’re not a huge fan of unnecessary animal testing for cosmetic purposes. I mean, who wants to use lotions, creams, soaps, or shampoos that were rubbed into an animal’s eyes or forcefed or even injected into them? Even products bearing the “no animal testing” label don’t guarantee that no animals were harmed. Some companies hire labs to do work for them, or test on some products but not others.

Animal cruelty aside, have you ever thought about what you’re feeding your skin? Propylene glycol, a petroleum derivative used in hydraulic brake fluid and anti-freeze, is often found in cosmetic products. Dimethicone is a silicone fluid and triethanolamine is actually made from ammonia and ethylene oxide. So your skin and body care or hair products might have ingredients used in anti-freeze, and may have been used to seriously harm animals. What’s a gal to do? Here are some ideas for cruelty-free products and skin and body care — or other solutions for healthy, glowing skin.

1. Dietary changes can have a huge effect on skin. Professor Loren Cordain, author of the Paleo Diet, even wrote an e-book, The Dietary Cure for Acne (, in which he indicates that skin conditions are closely related to insulin levels. Cordain’s diet recommends ditching grains and dairy, but cutting back on sugar and simply soaking grains overnight to neutralize the phytic acid is a good start.

2. Not sure what’s in your skin care products? Try making your own! Recipes for bath salts, sugar scrubs, facial steams, soaks, and even natural shampoos are found all over the library and internet — or sign up for a workshop! Play around with ingredients you recognize — oils, sugar, vanilla, honey, yogurt, citrus, and sea salt — for a silky soft face and body.

3. Make sure you are getting enough good vitamins! Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and zinc are often helpful; Vit C and lycopene (in tomatoes) are excellent; and both vitamin E and selenium are required for proper glutathione peroxidase activity (antioxidant enzyme), as low levels are found in people who have problem skin.

4. We joke about getting our beauty sleep, but getting enough rest really can go a long way! Lack of sleep probably slows down collagen production in the skin and alters blood vessel tone regulation, leading to undereye circles and puffiness. Getting a good night of sleep can reduce the need for products.

5. Chlorine in sink and shower water can dry out skin and hair. Use a good filter, such as Multipure, in your sink and shower.

*Search for products that are cruelty-free! Both the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offer animal-friendly shopping guides … or look at our handy list below.

Try these soaps: Dr. Bronner’s offers various liquid and bar soaps that are fair trade, organic, and 100% pure-castille (vegetable oil based).

Created by Liberian refugees using an old family recipe, Shea Moisture offers amazing soaps and body butters that are not only all-natural, organic and cruelty free, but also support women’s cooperatives, indigenous farmers, and ensure sustainable harvests. The company also partners with organizations such as The Liberian Education Fund and Todee Mission to build schools and provide access to education for impoverished girls in Africa (many of whom supply ingredients used in the products).

Try these facial products: Sister Creations is an anti-oxidant and chemical free skin care line, as well as collaborative effort between two second generation herbalists, who are also sisters. Only edible ingredients are used — if you can’t eat it, they say, don’t put it on your skin. A percentage of sales supports the conservation and educational efforts of the Arizona ethnobotanical Research Association (AeRA).

Although Dr. Hauschka Skin Care isn’t entirely vegan, they strive to use only ecologically and socially responsible sources for ingredients, and obtain as many as possible from certified biodynamic and organic resources. They also avoid ingredients coming from organizations involved in animal testing. Dr. Hauschka Skin Care products use homeopathic and anthroposophic principles for maximum effectiveness, gently guiding the body back to a state of health.

Try these shampoos: Avalon Organics is committed to using safe ingredients that maintain the integrity of natural ecosystems and conserve the environment. Aubrey Organics uses natural ingredients, without petrochemicals or synthetic additives of any kind. Nature’s Gate also uses organic ingredients, avoiding damaging chemicals and helping develop and support the creation of sustainable and clean water supplies for communities throughout the world.

Going to a spa? Try to find one that uses cruelty-free product lines such as Eminence, Naturopathica, or Jurlique. Sundara Inn and Spa, a gorgeous destination spa nestled in 26 acres of pine forest on the outskirts of Wisconsin Dells, uses Eminence as well as their own all-natural, cruelty-free signature products.

Yael Grauer is a freelance writer and herbalist right here in Eau Claire. She teaches workshops on herbal medicine making both in person and online. Her website is

Beauty Labels

by Diane Wolfe

How do you choose a beauty product that is good for both you and the planet? Through the National Organic Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates food ingredients found in cosmetics, and the Certified USDA Organic Symbol is one of the most trustworthy labels around. But because the USDA only has jurisdiction over farm-raised ingredients, not all beauty product ingredients are regulated under this program, and there are more than enough ways to get confused.

Scan the beauty aisle and you will see plenty of labels. “Vegan-friendly” shampoo, or “biodegradable toothpaste” But what do they really mean?

From baby shampoo to facial and beauty cream, there are plenty of mysterious ingredients gracing the labels of health and beauty products on the market these days. And then there are the labels that say things like “organic,” “all-natural,” or “animal cruelty free,” which can leave you just as confused (or more) than the ingredients list does. Whether it’s for the well-being of your children, family or just you, understanding beauty labels can empower you to make better knowledge-based consumer decisions. Here’s the scoop.

Label: Organic
Clear rules make decoding this term easier. In 2005, the USDA started allowing makers of qualified organic beauty and body-care products to use a USDA Organic seal. The term “organic”, as it appears on beauty labels has four variations:

  1. 100% organic: The product must contain only organically produced food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA Organic seal.
  2. Organic: The product must contain at least 95% organically grown food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA seal.
  3. Made with organic ingredients: The product must contain at least 70% organically produced food ingredients. The label will not have the USDA seal.
  4. Organic ingredients: Products that contain less than 70% organically produced food ingredients can only include organic ingredients on its ingredients list, but these products cannot display the USDA Organic seal.

Look at the list of ingredients in your favorite “natural” product. You might be surprised to find petrochemicals along with the honey, shea butter, and olive oil. With no definition set by the FDA or any other regulatory agency for what “natural” means in the world of beauty products, take a buyer beware approach.

Fortunately, several legitimately natural product manufacturers have taken matters into their own hands. Companies such as Burt’s Bees and Aubrey Organics have created a Personal Care Committee under the direction of the Natural Products Association (NPA). They are working to define a “natural standard” and creating guidelines for which ingredients do or do not qualify. The group intends to design a seal this year to help consumers easily identify products that meet the criteria. Until then, don’t assume “natural” means anything.

Label: Cruelty-Free
We often associate “cruelty-free” with a bunny logo. Only one agency, the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), conducts a routine check to ensure manufacturers live up to their promise. A union of six animal-rights groups that includes the Humane Society and Beauty Without Cruelty, the CCIC offers its trademarked “leaping bunny” tag to manufacturers who pledge not to test their ingredients on animals or purchase from any third-party supplier who does. Manufacturers also agree to an audit every one to three years to verify their continued use of only cruelty-free suppliers.

With no legal definition for “cruelty-free”, companies have unrestricted use of this term. The FDA points out that while a company may not have tested its finished product on animals, the ingredients may have come from suppliers who did. Look for the CCIC’s leaping bunny on the product. Note that once the “natural” standard is created, products displaying the NPA seal will also have to be cruelty-free.

Animal Testing on Products

If you’re not sure if your favorite brand of beauty products is eco- and animal-friendly, the CCIC offers a shopping-guide. The Coalition requires the companies it lists to prove that neither they, nor their suppliers, will conduct animal tests during any stage of product development. Also, PETA has compiled a list of companies that have signed a “Statement of Assurance” that they and their suppliers don’t and won’t test on animals. You’ll find major brands like Revlon, Avon, and Estee Lauder on the list, as well as natural favorites such as Kiss My Face and Aubrey Organics. “We started 17 years ago with a short list of companies,” says Ann Marie Dori, coordinator of PETA’s Caring Consumer Project. “Today, it has grown to include more than 500 companies that don’t animal test their products.” Just as importantly, PETA also offers a guide listing companies that do test, including Cover Girl, L’Oreal, and Olay. You can download the guides at or

Label: Biodegradable
Products may boast that the liquid inside is “biodegradable”. While that sounds eco-friendly, what exactly does it mean? According to the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines, created in conjuction with the EPA, a product labeled “biodegradable” should decompose “into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time”. For liquids that go down the drain, decomposition should finish during the waste-water treatment process. You can log on to “skin deep” at, and discover which chemicals build up in humans and animals with repeated exposure.

Label: Vegan-Friendly
While no regulatory body oversees the “vegan-friendly” claim, it’s somewhat easy to substantiate, if you know how to read ingredients. Byproducts like honey and milk are obvious no-nos, but the average consumer might not recognize contents that may come from plants–and also animals–such as lactic acid.

Know When to Toss Them

Now that we know a bit more about what our beauty product labels mean, how long does it last? Beauty products do go bad according to Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist at Cosmetech Labs in Fairfield, NJ. “At best, they stop performing as well as they used to, and at worst, they can cause irritations or infections.” Beyond the obvious signs like dried mascara or separated foundation, it can be tough to tell when something’s past its prime. U.S. labeling regulations do not require an expiration date on most cosmetics. So, here’s an easy “when-to-toss timeline” to go by, recommended by Wilson:

Every season: Toss mascara and liquid liner

Every six months: Toss your skin-care regimen, sunscreens, and liquid foundation

Every year: Toss your hair care products

According to the FDA, natural beauty products have an even shorter shelf life, because their botanical ingredients may be susceptible to microbial growth. Think about pure extract, oil, pulp, fruits. What’s more, though natural preservatives like essential oils of cinnamon, orange, rosemary, and thyme can be potent, when used at low levels they may not be as strong as synthetics.