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Many skincare gurus insist that topically applied beauty and bath products are ultimately absorbed by the body—carcinogens and all. Lisa Levin founded Marin County-based Pharmacopia to address this by creating beautifying balms, bath salts, oils, and even soy votives from organic garden herbs. The company’s back-to-basics approach is based on traditional healing and rejuvenation remedies drawn from herbalism and aromatherapy, as well as Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. This spring, Pharmacopia’s luxury line debuts with the new Herbal Lip Elixir. It soothes and smoothes the lips with a blend of pomegranate seeds, hemp, castor, calendula, tangerine, jojoba, chamomile, comfrey, and olive oils (Sounds good enough to eat, doesn’t it?).


We recently caught up with Lisa Levin, formerly a graphic designer, who founded Pharmacopia in 1997 after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a condition that causes muscle pain, fatigue and sleeplessness. After visiting several doctors and experimenting with various healing therapies, Levin discovered a Santa Fe-based naturopath who healed her with detoxification—a process that required plenty of hot baths and massage, plus a change in lifestyle which included eating more veggies and less wheat, and doing more yoga and less long distance cycling. Levin considers her experience a testament to the healing power of organics. Here is what she had to say:


What inspired your “a-ha moment?”


When I realized that most body care products had harmful ingredients in them. They were the very ingredients that my naturopath suggested I detox out of my body. At that point, I saw the need for a good, clean product that was also beautifully designed like the products you might find in a nineteenth century apothecary or herb store in France.


Why go organic?


By supporting organic practices, we can help clean up the environmental mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. All of our rivers, lakes, and streams are polluted with agricultural runoff. As more fields are converted to organic, there is less pesticide use.


Is there a difference between “natural” and “organic?”


“Natural” has become a marketing term with varying degrees of truth. There is no regulation on the term. “Certified organic,” on the other hand, is a term that can be trusted because products with that label have been certified by an official source.


What Pharmacopia product can you not live without?


Can I name two? I love the Citrus Body Lotion for everyday use. I have really dry skin and I love how it moisturizes. The scents of tangerine, grapefruit, lavender and neroli are just so…happy. I take a lot of hot baths and love the natural Ginger Bath Salts for their exotic, spicy scent and detoxifying qualities.


What’s your daily skincare ritual?


I’ve never been a cosmetics junkie. I like to keep things simple. I exfoliate my face once or twice a week with a scrub I personally make from ground oats, almonds, lavender and flaxseed (maybe someday Pharmacopia will produce this). At night, I use a few drops of organic jojoba oil or pomegranate oil to moisturize. In the morning, I soak a wash cloth in hot water and essential oils such as tangerine or lavender, and use it to steam my face.


Tips for complexion perfection?


I know it sounds cliché, but drink lots of water and eat healthy. Beauty is not just topical.



What’s the scariest fact about environmental contaminants that women don’t know?


I am really trying to do my part to educate women about this. Here are a few facts:


  • Up to 60 percent of what you put on your skin absorbs into your body (think of the way a transdermal patch works).
  • There are thousands of carcinogenic ingredients that are not regulated by the government and used in cosmetics and personal care. Some of them have never been tested for safety.
  • If the average woman did a blood test, she would find an average of ninety-two chemicals in her bloodstream.


Pharmacopia, available at stores throughout the United States, Canada, and Paris, France

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