Ms. Lavenda on quest for all-natural skin care
By CAROL McGRAW THE GAZETTE
Biologist Barbara Rychlik used to do research on woodpeckers and aphids.
These days, she’s concentrating on baby boomers’ skin.
In a pristine kitchen above her garage in Cascade, Rychlik creates an organic line of skin creams for “mature skin” that’s been the hit of local craft and herb festivals.
Known as Ms. Lavenda, which is also the name of her small business, she doesn’t see the change in career emphasis as dramatic. Instead of focusing on insects, birds, DNA, neurons and viruses, she is bringing her thirst for experimentation to soothing creams made of rose, chamomile, carrot, avocado and lavender.
Rychlik arrived in the United States from her native Poland 25 years ago. But she didn’t put aside her lab gloves until 1998, when a company in Minnesota for which she and her husband were working folded.
With time on her hands, she took a class in cosmetics. Soon after, the couple moved to Colorado, where skin dries out like beef jerky.
She was reluctant to use many of the products made by big manufacturers because she had noticed they contained ingredients she once thought she had to protect herself from in laboratories.
She prefers simple creams without additives such as synthetic emulsifier polyethylene glycol, and a host of paraben preservatives with prefixes such as methyl, propyl, butyl, ethyl.
“I know that manufacturers of cosmetics do not agree with such opinions about toxicity,” she says.
“There are two schools of thinking about synthetic products. But why be a guinea pig, when there are natural ingredients available that you know are healthy?”
So she began concocting moisturizers for herself, using natural ingredients and essential oils. Friends tried them and gave her encouragement.
“They loved them and told me I should go into business,” she says.
And so for the past seven years she has immersed herself in seminars in physiology of the skin, aromatherapy and herbs. She joined the Pikes Peak Herb Association. She named her business Ms. Lavenda after her favorite plant: Lavenda is Polish for Lavender.
It seems she’s tapped into one of the baby-boom generation’s gotta haves. Spending for facial-care products totaled $6.7 billion last year, a 23 percent jump since 1999, according to a research report by Mintel International Group. More than 6,856 facial products have been introduced in the past year.
Rychlik’s philosophy: the more natural and simple, the better. She prepares small batches and only keeps certain products on the shelf for two months.
Maggie Southworth, owner of Back to the Basics Natural Foods, has carried the line for several years.
“Customers like it. We feature it because she is local and cares about every batch. And we take special orders for individual customers so it is freshly made.”
Some of Rychlik’s favorite products use carrot seed, helichrysum from Bosnia, oils of evening primrose, sea buckthorn, borage, avocado and macadamia.
Many of her customers are fond of EvitA, a cream made with expensive ingredients such as macadamia, calendula, borage and rose hip seed oil, aloe vera, and avocado butter. It sells for $15 for 1.1 ounces.
Gabrielle Duvick, a 40-yearold mother who home-schools her five kids, is partial to Goddess, a vegan moisturizer for mature skin that includes apricot, jojoba, calendula and echinacea. Living at 9,000 feet near Woodland Park, Duvick was searching for something natural, inexpensive and nourishing for her skin. When she discovered Ms. Lavenda products, she also got an unexpected bonus — an aroma she says reminds her of gardens and the countryside of her native France. People often ask her about the wonderful scent.
“I tell them they forget what natural really smells like,” she says.
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