Horst Rechelbacher, cosmetics guru and author, is the keynote speaker at the NutriCosmetic Summit to be held June 10 in Las Vegas. Rechelbacher founded Aveda, which he sold to Estée Lauder, and also founded his current company, Intelligent Nutrients, which takes a food-based approach to formulating cosmetics
FI: Was it hard being interested in the beauty industry when your peers were skiing or playing soccer?
HR: In Austria, if you're not a skier you're not recognised. I've been a skier since I was little. But when I became an apprentice in the hair salon at age 14, I was very, very committed, since I was not privileged. I came to America in 1964. I opened up my first hair-dressing salon in 1965. The first time my mother came to visit she didn't like the smell in the salon. She thought it was quite toxic and she warned me about the products I was using.
FI: Did they contain harsh chemicals like peroxide?
HR: Peroxide? How about PVC? Polyvinyl chloride, which was one of the ingredients that was being used as a stiffening agent in hairsprays. Liquid plastic.
I actually fell ill in 1966. Fortunately, my mother was there, and she was a very simplistic herbalist. She had me drink nettles like 4L a day and she believed that they would flush my kidneys and clean my liver. It actually helped me. I started really feeling much better and I became a disciple of my mother.
FI: When did you start Aveda?
HR: I went to India in 1970 and I began to study Ayurvedic medicine. I went to India every year, and in 1978, I started Aveda and I brought Ayurvedic experts to Minneapolis. I had an Indian chemist and an Indian herbalist.
FI: Does meditation form a part of your daily routine?
HR: Yeah, I've been doing it for so long. It's sort of like my exhalation and inhalation. It has become my autonomic function.
FI: After you sold Aveda, you became an organic farmer. Did that influence what you are trying to do with Intelligent Nutrients?
HR: I'm organic certified — the first company in cosmetics. Cosmetics are much more complicated than foods because of the many ingredients you need to do cosmetics. This is why the organic cosmetic industry hasn't caught on, because it's very complicated.
I'm just nuts about making a difference and to prove to the industry that, yes, we CAN do it. That's why my mantra is: don't put anything on the body that is not digestible, food grade, and more importantly, nutritious. Not processed, but whole nutritional substances that would actually benefit if you digested them.
I've always been interested in the art of making consumer products. They have to smell good, now they have to taste good, they have to sound good, they have to feel good — it's really the five senses which I am trying to incorporate in making products today. And they have to do good.