For most people, April 22 is when they celebrate Earth Day and show support for environmental care and protection. For Indie Lee, founder and CEO of her eponymous line of eco-chic and all-natural skin care products, it’s the day she woke up from a successful brain surgery and decided she needed to stop using skin care products that are potentially harming her body. Here she talks about her amazing life story and the lessons she learned that prompted her to build her beauty empire.
Indie, you’ve built a successful beauty company with an amazing line of natural skin care products. How did it all start?
My path to beauty entrepreneurship is quite different than most. Many are surprised to learn that I started my work life in accounting and finance. While my career was going as planned, finance was not my passion. With that realization, I decided to hang up my suits to spend more time with my young children and to get back to nature. The simpler, quiet life is not a language I know how to speak, but in just a short time, this Type A gal was building a 750-square-foot greenhouse behind her house and growing starter plants for local businesses and schools gardens.
In 2008, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and couldn’t work in my greenhouse. With too much calendula and lavender on hand, I decided to make products for my pregnant sister (babies are born with a toxic load, and some of the toxins can be tied to the personal care products mothers are using during pregnancy) and everyone at her baby shower. The products were a hit, and guests urged me to start a business, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do at that time.
When did you finally realize you were ready?
A few months after that I started losing my peripheral vision. An MRI uncovered a rare and potentially fatal brain tumor that doctors said was most likely linked to environmental toxins lurking in my products—possibly the result of the items I was using on my skin, my largest organ. Believed to have only months to live, I researched doctors and the reasons for my illness. What I learned, among other things, is that up to 60% of what is applied to the skin is absorbed into the bloodstream. It was during that aha moment that I realized that I had to do something.
Some people are given a new lease on life. Mine began on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, when I awoke from a successful brain surgery. Since then, I have committed myself wholeheartedly to empowering others to make healthier choices and to creating luxurious, natural, effective products that don’t require a sacrifice in health, savings or product enjoyment.
What advice can you give those who are a bit hesitant to go all-natural with their skin care products?
While the thought of “going natural” can seem overwhelming to some, it doesn’t have to be. After all, life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Rather than tossing every product you own, simply replace products you run low on with a natural alternative when you replenish. I believe the two most important and easiest skin care switches should be your body and facial moisturizers. Let’s face it: They cover you from head to toe. I recommend looking for ones with botanically based ingredients that won’t clog your pores—like jojoba, squalane or shea butter.
Small changes to your beauty routine can make a huge difference in the long run. I am an advocate for moderation and making the switch that works for you. If and when you are ready to make a change, there are wonderful, natural choices waiting for you to discover and enjoy.
For consumers like us, what’s the first thing we need to do to educate ourselves and avoid toxins in our skin care products?
Read and understand your ingredient labels. I find it ironic that, as a society, we are often obsessed with reading food labels, yet we don’t pay nearly enough attention to what’s in our personal care products. Companies are required to list all ingredients in order of volume, from highest to lowest. When reviewing ingredients, they may look like gibberish at first, since they are listed by their INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) name. INCI is a mix of Latin, English and scientific names. So don’t be alarmed if you see tocopherol listed instead of vitamin E. A quick Google search can help you understand what each INCI stands for. Many brands also include the English name in parenthesis.
This shopper-favorite eye balm delivers a nourishing blend of essential oils to the delicate skin around your eyes: Mango butter (moisturizes), calendula oil (alleviates puffiness), avocado oil (promotes firmness) and vitamin E (neutralizes free radicals).
“Im so happy to have found a new eye product that actually makes a difference. The ingredients are so natural, sometimes I use it for other areas of my face that seem dry and it works!” – San Francisco, CA
Aside from balancing out your skin’s pH levels, this antioxidant-rich toner features CoQ10, which diminishes fine lines and age spots while neutralizing free radicals; aloe, chamomile and cucumber extracts to calm irritation; and hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin.
“This product is different… more gentle but more effective. I swear my pores are smaller and my skin looks and feels is healthier and more alive.” – Chapel Hill, NC
This serum features a revolutionary formula that utilizes stem cells from a rare Swiss apple to reduce and prevent the visible signs of aging. A rejuvenating complex of phytonutrients, proteins and metabolites increase cell renewal to diminish fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation while boosting firmness and elasticity for a more youthful appearance.
“I usually don’t see a change (from my skin care products), but with this serum my skin looks healthier, (there’s) almost a sheen to it. I will be using this serum as a regular in my routine.” – Anthem, AZ