by Mitchell Clute
Myra Michelle Eby began her company, MyChelle Dermaceuticals, in the mountain town of Frisco, Colo., eight short years ago. She prepared for the company's November 2000 product launch while pregnant with her first child, determined to bring her vision for a new kind of natural skin care to market. Consumers seem to have received the message; MyChelle's fruit-based, highly active formulations can now be found coast-to-coast, and will soon be available in the European Union. Last year, sales were $8.4 million, with major growth predicted again for the coming year. Eby also wrote a book about natural, holistic skin care called Return to Beautiful Skin: Your Guide to Truly Effective Nontoxic Skin Care (Basic Health Publications, 2008). Her company focuses on environmentally friendly practices.
NFM: Tell us about the genesis of MyChelle Dermaceuticals.
MME: I've been working in the natural products industry since I was 16. I worked for food and vitamin distributors, then became an independent contractor for select lines, and later worked directly with manufacturers, including Zia Cosmetics, Rainbow Light and Enzymatic Therapy.
I really had a love for skin care because I had my own skin care issues. After years of using other people's products, I knew there was a better way of doing it. Many natural skin care products were just bases with some herbs added, but without ingredients at therapeutic levels that could make a change in the skin. Often they had chemicals, and they didn't work.
I decided to search out chemists who had experience in dermaceuticals to help me make products that were not just natural but effective, using peptides and nutrients like vitamin C in high enough potencies to help the skin's cells produce collagen.
NFM: Why are so many of your skin care products fruit-based?
MME: It's just like getting your vitamins and nutrients from whole foods. It's more beneficial for the skin because there are so many nutrients and enzymes in the fruit and fiber, and when they're made into a pulp the skin can absorb them. This approach also comes from my early experimentation in my kitchen, when I'd grab my blender and make my concoctions to put on my face. Most of us can't make something every day, and the ingredients become less potent as the nutrients oxidize, so we figured out a way to stabilize and preserve the products in a way that doesn't harm the skin.
NFM: What ingredients should natural products retailers never have on their shelves?
MME: There are so many. Certainly, parabens are the most universally recognized, but any type of estrogen mimic should be avoided. For women, these are the most dangerous ingredients because we're bombarded with synthetic estrogens, and with breast and other cancers so prevalent, it's really important to avoid these mimics. Phthalates also act like estrogen in the body, and these estrogenic compounds can't be metabolized. Artificial fragrances and colors should be avoided, and petroleum by-products like petrolatum. Luckily, there are more and more alternatives to parabens for preserving products. One that we use comes from roses and bananas, while another called Plantservative is derived from two different varieties of honeysuckle.
NFM: What sort of natural or organic standards would you like to see for personal care?
MME: I'd be happy to see an organic standard developed. I certainly promote the consumption of organic foods. It's harder with personal care, because there are so many groups fighting over these standards that sometimes the consumer doesn't win. For Mychelle Dermaceuticals, the problem with a 95 percent organic standard is that ingredients such as peptides are grown in a lab, so they don't qualify for organic status, though obviously they're free of herbicides and pesticides. We need to set other standards, such as standards for product performance, and agree that any product on the shelves of health foods markets needs to be clean so the consumer can feel good about what they purchase and trust its safety. My hope is that companies look deeply at their practices, have truth in labeling and educate their consumers. The pie is big enough for everyone if we do it right, but if we make a promise on the label, it should deliver.
Mitchell Clute is a Fort Collins, Colo.-based freelance writer.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 100