3 Revolutionary Ideas Aveda Founder Horst Rechelbacher Brought to the Beauty Care Industry


Horst Rechelbacher, Austrian-born founder of Aveda Corps., one of the first mainstream companies to eliminate toxic chemicals in products, and enthusiastic-pioneer of mass market plant based beauty, sadly passed away last month at the age of 72. But he left behind a legacy of healthier communities.

Throughout his work and career Horst Rechelbacher shed light on the dangers of toxic chemicals in cosmetics long before the conversation was mainstream. Most importantly, not only was he an outspoken advocate on the issue, he offered solid solutions.

Founder of beauty care companies Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients, author, ayurvedic scholar and organic farmer, Rechelbacher grew revolutionary companies supplying high performing products and a keen awareness to the vital importance of natural beauty.

He would famously drink hair spray and other products made by his company to prove they weren’t simply giving lip service. “Everything we put in and on our bodies must be nutritious and safe,” was Rechelbacher’s signature motto.

Our skin, like a sponge, absorbs mostly anything we put on it; yet cosmetic ingredients are not regulated the same way food is. In the last decade, studies linking cosmetic ingredients to cancer have uncovered the importance of Rechelbacher’s pioneering work. But long before the conversation was mainstream, he was formalizing the best, toxic-free products through Aveda, and later Intelligent Nutrients; safe alternatives in form that didn’t sacrifice function.

Through his companies and tireless advocacy work, Mr. Rachelbacher revolutionized the beauty industry forever.

Mr. Rechelbacher’s plant-based approached stemmed from his mother, an herbablist. At the age of 14, he apprenticed at a nearby hair salon; only three years later to find himself working in Rome. He went on to found Aveda in 1978, fusing plant science and beauty against the modern ideas of efficiency through chemicals.

Thanks to Rechelbacher’s dedication Aveda is the first beauty company to produce with one hundred percent wind power, and the first beauty company to use one hundred percent post-consumer recycled PET packaging.

After selling Aveda in 1997, Rechelbacher founded Intelligent Nutrients, a beauty company using only certified organic ingredients. Most of the ingredients used are grown on his 570-acre organic farm in Osceola, Wisconsin.

Horst left us with fundamental ideas of the power of nature. Below are three revolutionary shifts he brought into the beauty industry forever.

1. The Relationship between Plants and Beauty is Luxury

Horst launched his career at a time when laboratory science was the shining horizon of global industries; food, beauty and others were looking for leaps in efficiency via chemicals as the answer to limits of nature. But Horst held on to the intrinsic benefits plants have to offer, and believed in beauty from the inside and out. His luxurious products free of toxic chemicals offer an alternative to the mainstream, proving you didn’t have to sacrifice form for function.

2. Companies are Greater Than Their Final Product

Rechelbacher’s work went far beyond his products. As an outspoken advocate for eliminating toxic chemicals in beauty, Horst helped finance the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Today, the organization stands as one of the largest and most influential groups working towards regulating the cosmetic industry and increasing consumer awareness. Their most recent work persuaded Johnson & Johnson to remove two ingredients from their baby shampoo that are linked to cancer.

He also conducted his business as a holistic vision of health: He led Aveda to be the first beauty company to produce with one hundred percent wind power, and the first beauty company to use one hundred percent post-consumer recycled PET packaging. Intelligent Nutrients offers an ingestible product called Intellimune, made of five powerful seed oils: black cumin, pumpkin, red grape, raspberry and cranberry. His companies didn’t just make healthier products, but healthier and more holistic consumer world.

3. Natural is Not Only Good for Our Health, It’s Good For Business

In 1997, Aveda Corps. was sold to Estee Lauder for a reported $300 million, and is still carried in over 25,000 stores and salons worldwide. Now that’s good business.

To leave something behind, greater than ourselves, is a life well lived. Horst Rechelbacher founded and matured healthy companies that have touched millions of people. As the father of safer cosmetics, his legacy will live on; inside and out.

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image: Social Earth

Juliette Donatelli

Working in the field of sustainability for over seven years, Juliette is passionate about its intersection within the fashion industry. Juliette began studying ecological conservation, and led consumer awareness campaigns around the world from water usage in southern California, riparian restoration in South Africa, food distribution in Paris and bison habitat in the Great Plains. She has launched her passion--consumerism and sustainability--into a place where it hits home--fashion. Juliette is the founder and editor-in-chief of spadesandsilk.com, Director of Sustainability at Manufacture NY, and loves to read, dance, swim and enjoy the occasional glass of champagne.