Tata Harper $86
How a rude health awakening led one woman to create the definitive green-beauty brand.
Written By JACK SUNNUCKS
In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit. Here, we talk to Tata Harper about her eponymous skin care line.
Sometimes a beauty wake-up call can be more drastic than just a patch of dryness. Colombian native Tata Harper first started wondering about what she was putting on her skin when her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. Knowing she needed to make changes and healthier choices in her own life, she began eating organic. Soon, however, she realized her skincare products were filled with dubious-sounding ingredients (antifreeze, aka propylene glycol, anyone?). From this seed of clarity, Tata Harper the brand was born.
Of course, it didn’t simply sprout overnight into the full beauty range it is now. Harper started with ingredients from her farm in Vermont, then worked with a team of eight scientists in London and France for five years. This meeting of worlds is what makes her products so loved and so unique: rural American ingredients meet Euro science know-how in a glorious mélange. It is even reflected in the packaging: the green and gold symbolize the dandelion-filled fields of Vermont in spring.
This singular story, combined with brilliant products, catapulted Harper into the stratosphere. After she began introducing her products at spa parties in Miami and Brentwood, Vogue did a four-page story on her. She quickly became the go-to green-beauty expert as women around the world realized that their beloved products were full of nasties.
Harper believes products penetrate skin best after a thorough exfoliation, and one of her (many) hero products, the Regenerating Cleanser, works as both an exfoliant and a cleanser. Her fans also swear by her Purifying Mask and Purifying Cleanser which are great for draining the lymphatic system and ridding the body of accumulated toxins.
Harper’s line is privately certified by Ecocert, the European agency that regulates cosmetics worldwide. She is also a great proponent of beauty from the inside out, and believes unequivocally that consuming algae and oils can truly make your skin glow.
Somehow, Harper finds the time to run a 1,200-acre farm (where many of the ingredients for her products are grown), care for her three children and eleven dogs, and work alongside her husband and business partner, Henry. Wondering how she does it? Here’s her before 10 a.m.
What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
For me it’s very important that my bedroom is super, ultra-comfortable. It’s filled with soft materials: a handwoven carpet from ABC Home, plush pillows and blankets, a lot of velvet. I’ve tried to make it a space where I can be very relaxed and calm. I have an aromatherapy diffuser and a speaker for playing daily Deepak Chopra meditations. My kids love to hang out in my room and we watch movies there together, so I have lots of low, comfy cushion seating and all the essentials we need. I love antiques, so a lot of my furniture pieces are antique treasures I’ve collected over the years, including my vanity, which is very important—it holds all my beauty tools!
Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
My mattress is a TempurPedic that’s on the harder side. I’ve found that’s where I have the best sleep. I have these amazing velvet throws and a duvet from ABC Home’s ABCDNA collection, and I’m obsessed with my SDH Legna sheets. They are sustainably made from wood fiber and are super-soft and luxurious.
What time do you wake up?
I don’t wake up at a consistent time because I travel so much. I try to get up at 5:30 a.m. so I can do meditations, but it’s different every day. On weekends I usually wake up no earlier than 10 a.m. I really value my beauty sleep, which I don’t typically get during the week, so on weekends it’s essential. I like to wake up when my body is ready, so I have dark blinds to keep my room pitch black.
How many hours of sleep do you require?
I’m good with seven to eight typically, but it’s often not possible during the week and I rarely get that much, so I compensate on weekends.
Any bedside beauty essentials?
I have dry skin and dry hair, especially in winter. So I keep my Pure Enrichment Cool Mist Humidifier going pretty consistently at night. I also got a Panasonic Nanocare Facial Steamer, which I love for at-home facials. I’m a big fan of facial massage, too, so I keep my Foreo Eye Massager and a Jade Roller in my vanity for daily sessions. I also have a micro-needling roller I use a couple of nights per week.
Do you drink coffee or tea, eat breakfast?
I usually start my day with two glasses of water, sometimes with supplements. I’ve started keeping a pitcher in my house and one in my office with a lot of crystals inside, like carnelian, moonstone, pink quartz, and black tourmaline, because I read how it changes the vibration of the water. I swear that since I started doing it I feel totally energized when I drink water. It could be a placebo effect, but I love it.
Typically for breakfast I have eggs with onions and tomatoes or chia pudding with berries, hemp, and sunflower seeds, and a berry smoothie. I eat a lot for breakfast—it’s my most important meal of the day. I’m from Colombia and I love coffee, but I stopped drinking it because it’s so drying to the skin. Instead I drink tea. I recently received some Rishi Ancient Organic Pu-erh Tea as a gift, and I really love it because it’s very sweet, and I have a big sweet tooth.
Do you work out in the a.m.?
I used to, but in the mornings I typically have no time and I really value my sleep, so I save it for night. I focus on doing a variety of exercises to keep my muscles strong. That’s the most important thing for me now.
When I started the company I also started having kids, and it was a really intense period where I didn’t have a lot of time to exercise. It had been a vital part of my life, always something I did, and I had to leave it for a while. I was finally able to reincorporate it a couple of years ago, and I feel so accomplished for exercising in a consistent way.
What is your morning skincare regimen?
One of the best things about being Tata Harper is that I have unlimited amounts of my products, so I use a lot of them. But my routine doesn’t take a lot of time; it’s less than six minutes. I save time by layering products and not waiting for each one to absorb before applying the next.
I start by polishing dry skin with the Regenerating Cleanser to remove buildup. Then I really drench my skin with Hydrating Floral Essence—I like my skin to be saturated when I apply serum to help it go further. I typically use Elixir Vitae all over, Concentrated Brightening Serum in targeted areas, and Boosted Contouring Serum on my neck, but if I’m short on time I’ll just mix all three in my hands and apply at once. Then I do eye care—I like to take a maximalist approach to my eye area. I start with Elixir Vitae Eye Serum, then for daytime I’ll use the Illuminating Eye Crème. If I’m traveling or feeling dry or tired, I’ll put a layer of Boosted Contouring Eye Mask on top. Finally, I apply Illuminating Moisturizer, and finish by massaging Replenishing Nutrient Complex into my skin.
What makeup and products do you use on a daily basis?
I have never been a big fan of a lot of makeup. When I use a lot makeup it ages me, which defeats the purpose of makeup in the first place. I like to show my own skin, which is probably why my skincare routine has always been maximalist. When your skin is healthy you don’t need that much makeup.
I don’t know if this qualifies as makeup, but I use the Illuminating Moisturizer and Illuminating Eye Crème during the day. They give you a subtle radiance with light coverage that looks great and is really comfortable to wear on your skin all day. I’m obsessed with blush. Some people won’t leave the house without mascara, but for me it’s blush. I feel that when you’re completely pale you don’t look healthy, so I love a rosy glow. I use Very Naughty on my cheeks and Be Adored, which has a sheer berry tint, for my lips. For events I tend to go for darker shade of lipstick and maybe eyeliner, but I very rarely use mascara, foundation, or concealer.
What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
My hair has always been my biggest issue! It is wild—typically frizzy, curly, and a lot of volume. My mom has always teased me that since I’m a Leo, I got the hair of a lion. Usually I put it back to control it. I like to brush it down with a bit of oil; I like Yari organic oils. If I’m washing it, I smooth the front with my Harry Josh hair dryer. Because my hair is dry I tend to wash it every two to three days, and the night before I’ll sleep with our Revitalizing Body Oil in my hair, which gives a lot of shine, and I shampoo it out the next morning. I also love Christophe Robin’s Regenerating Mask and Salt Scrub once in a while, as well as Tammy Fender’s Omega Rich Hair Moisturizer.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
My emails! It’s such a faux pas and it goes against everything I’ve read, but I can’t help it.
What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
I typically read all of my important emails, and I talk to my assistant about the day and any schedule changes. I usually arrive by 8:30, so I often have meetings about the areas I oversee.
What time do you head to your office?
Typically I’m in my office by 8:30 every day when I’m at the farm. I am so lucky that my office is in a renovated barn on our farm. My commute is two minutes, so in summer I can walk or take the golf cart.