Tata Harper At-a-Glance
Strengths: With the exception of one or two instances of jar containers, Harper uses packaging that helps maintain the effectiveness of the beneficial, but unstable, ingredients.
Weaknesses: Intensely fragranced products, all of which contain multiple irritants; no products to treat acne or dark spots; no sunscreens; average moisturizers and serums (many of which are carbon copies of one another); extremely overpriced. The over-the-top, often-misleading claims about the products’ ingredients are not supported by any independent research anywhere in the world.
Based in Vermont, the Tata Harper brand knows its niche—those who equate expensive with effective, and those who buy into the fear tactics that “chemicals” are bad and only all-natural ingredients are good. These beliefs are common misconceptions we have dealt with repeatedly over the years, and here’s the quick summation: There are good and bad natural ingredients, just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients—and with skin care, expensive does not necessarily mean better.
Tata Harper is a real person, who created her namesake line based on the concept that natural ingredients are 100% safe and that beauty products should be free of chemicals. The “chemical- free” rhetoric certainly isn’t a new approach to marketing skin care, but the claim is nonsense, regardless of the company, because everything, from daisies to asphalt to water, is composed of chemicals… but we march on.
Harper’s marketing appeal is the claim that she and her team grow most of their ingredients on their 12,000-acre Vermont farm. If the farm doesn’t supply the ingredients they need, they have them shipped in, from all over the world. Their Vermont farm-laboratory is where the products are made, in small batches by hand. That sounds interesting until you realize that “batches by hand” is actually true of any cosmetic, made by any brand, as hands are always needed, and batch size is irrelevant. As Tata has grown, the size of the batches has grown as well. They formulate their products using botanicals that are “free of toxins” and “biochemically compatible with our skin.” If those claims sound vaguely fertilizer-worthy, you are on the right track.
It is important to understand how misleading the “free of toxins” claim is. A toxin refers to a poison, like real poisons (think snake venom, which, incidentally, is 100% natural); cosmetic ingredients are not toxins. Biocompatibility just means that a substance doesn’t harm living tissue; that is, it’s compatible with it, rather than incompatible. Biocompatibility has nothing to do with whether or not a substance is natural in origin. For example, pacemakers are biocompatible in that they keep your heart beating without harming your body, but they certainly are not natural; on the other hand, snake venom and cyanide are both completely natural, but they certainly are not biocompatible.
Of course, many natural ingredients do benefit skin, but many natural ingredients also are a problem for skin, including such seemingly innocuous ingredients as lavender and peppermint. Synthetic ingredients, like retinol or peptides, can be wonderfully beneficial for skin, so, ideally, the best products will contain a mix of proven beneficial natural and synthetic ingredients. When evaluating any ingredient, we always consider what the published, peer-reviewed research has shown to be beneficial or detrimental for your skin, whether it’s natural or not.
Despite the science-y-sounding claims and phrases Tata Harper uses in their marketing materials, most of it is a smoke screen. (They stop just short of promising cosmetic surgery–like results from flowers and essential oils.) What this translates into is a collection of products that are so fragranced they can be mistaken for perfume. Each contains a mix of standard plant-based moisturizing agents (think olive oil, shea and mango butters, and other plant-based fatty acids) along with plant oils or extracts that are proven skin irritants, which is bad news for you!
Tata Harper repeatedly describes their ingredients as “actives,” as in “Active Natural Ingredients,” which is a misuse of the term. “Actives” refers only to ingredients regulated as drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as sunscreen actives, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid acne treatments, hydroquinone skin lighteners, and others. Outside of this standard, the phrase “active ingredients” is completely meaningless, because all cosmetic ingredients (even water) will exert some sort of action on the skin.
Like all of Harper’s products, they state that their products contain “Fragrances from 100% natural clinical grade essential oils,” but there isn't any such classification or standard for essential oils. These ingredients are little more than fragrance, and fragrance isn’t skin care. Perfume can be wonderful when selectively placed behind the ears and on the pulse points, but applied all over the face it’s 100% irritating for all skin types just about 100% of the time.
The bottom line? The Tata Harper line is an overall disappointment, especially if you have common concerns such as acne, rosacea, dark spots, enlarged pores, or sun damage. And their prices are bizarre—$45 for a 0.5 ounce bottle of rosewater, olive oil, and jojoba oil is not worth the cost, not by any stretch. We are not against natural ingredients, but if you’re looking to use natural products, this line isn’t the way to go.
For more information about Tata Harper, call (877) 321-8282 or visit www.tataharperskincare.com.