One local company proves that natural skin care can be both healthy and super effective.

THERE WAS A TIME when finding natural skin care products meant buying patchouli-scented jars at the farmer’s market or searching the apothecary section in the back of the natural foods market.

Today, the organic and natural beauty sector is valued at about $13 billion. You can find plant-based products in your local drug store. Massive companies, such as Target and Nordstrom, are expanding their natural beauty inventories. CVS is removing parabens and phthalates from many of its in-house personal care products.

Sherelle Reed is surely relishing the market trends. The growth of her Fort Collins-based skin care company, White & Elm, has closely followed the growth of the industry.

In November of 2014, Reed launched White & Elm, a natural, non-toxic and organic skin care brand. By January of 2015, she secured an online contract with Target. In spring of that year, she did a 50,000 unit sampling with BirchBox, and by the following year, she had launched a second line of next-generation products, including a sunscreen, specialized moisturizers and an enzyme mask.

Reed says the growth of White & Elm and other natural skin care products has a lot to do with consumer awareness and access to information. But mostly, she says, it starts in the grocery store.

“The driver for it has a lot to do with food and nutrition. That’s where it started for me, and that’s where it starts for a lot of people,” she says.For Reed, developing White & Elm wasn’t about jumping on the natural bandwagon or catching the organic wave. It all started after she had her daughters. After her pregnancies, her skin grew sensitive when she used products.

“I tried really expensive products, inexpensive products,” Reed says. “I tried organic products. My still skin reacted to everything I used.”

So she made her own, and her skin cleared up almost immediately. No redness, no itching, no acne.  

“I wasn’t having breakouts. My skin normalized,” she said. “It felt glowy and comfortable. That’s where the journey started.”

With a background in business, Reed decided bring the concept to “women like me who wanted products to be really healthy but to also work really well,” she says.

Reed says her target audience is split between two growing demographics: women with skin sensitivities like hers and women who are reading labels and educating themselves on what they are putting into and onto their bodies.

Several studies have labeled parabens and phthalates, two common ingredients in hair and skin products, as endocrine disruptors and link them to fertility issues or breast cancer. Despite the research, beauty products are largely unregulated, and labeling requirements are scant.

That’s why Reed has made transparency a major focus. She lists the ingredients of every product, and notes what is organic and what is not. She strives to have minimal ingredients in each White & Elm product and little to no fragrance (the fragrance it does have is made with essential oils). White & Elm manufactures their products in small batches, so there is less need for preservatives.

“We use as many USDA certified products as we can, and everything we use, we try to make sure it’s plant-derived,” she says. “Ninety-nine percent of the ingredients in our products are edible; although,” she adds, “we don’t suggest that you eat them.”

At the end of the day, her goal is simple: to find ingredients that are plant based and healthy while also being functional for women like her.

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