Meet the Natural Skin Care Expert
A very personal and profound experience inspired Sharon Gnatt Epel to create La IshÃ¡, an all-natural skin care line targeting the specific needs of women 35+. In 2005, Sharon’s teenage son Aaron suffered severe chemical burns on his hands after wading in a tainted river in Costa Rica during a summer program. Faced with the possibility of severe scarring and restrictive movement, Sharon and her son decided to follow a treatment plan of essential oil application. The results were nothing short of miraculous, saving her son’s hands and inspiring the creation of La IshÃ¡, Inc. in 2007.
What is the philosophy behind the La IshÃ¡ line?
I created La IshÃ¡ in response to disturbing research showing that women are actually poisoning themselves in order to look good. The phthalates in many beauty preparations are now linked to breast cancer and birth defects, and synthetic chemical preservatives are thought to be the second most common cause of skin irritations. La IshÃ¡ is a high-performance, all-natural skin care line designed for women who have anti-aging concerns and cumulative sun-damage and are looking for a safe, viable alternative to surgical methods and harsh chemical procedures to help combat the signs of premature aging.
As a major beauty junkie with sensitive skin, I was disappointed with the beauty preparations I tried that were not only prohibitively expensive but caused me to have all kinds of adverse reactions and very little benefit. At the opposite extreme were the green and natural product lines I found at the natural grocers that were gentle and non-carcinogenic but did absolutely nothing to help improve my appearance (which had seriously deteriorated after moving to beautiful but arid and sunny Colorado). I knew that there had to be other women like me who had similar concerns and would gladly use something natural and safe, assuming of course that it could compete with the synthetic lines for visible, measurable results.
La IshÃ¡ is currently the only all-natural skin care line dedicated to helping women 35+ stay beautiful and fight the signs of aging without sacrificing their health for beauty. We are a specialty line of skin care that continues to improve the appearance of the skin with daily, long-term use unlike other brands that have may an immediate but temporary effect that fizzles out over time.
Â I understand that the inspiration for developing La IshÃ¡ was a very personal experience concerning your son. Can you tell us a bit about it?
My son Aaron, who was 17 at the time, sustained 2nd degree chemical burns after coming into contact with agricultural chemicals that found their way into a river in Latin America that he went rafting on. The blisters that formed only six hours after exposure were so huge that they literally hung over the sides of his hands like something right out of Ripleyâ€™s Believe It or Not! With the exception of only one physician, all the other doctors we consulted suggested a standard course of traditional burn treatment, which included oral antibiotics and petroleum based ointments. They told us to expect significant scarring and potentially impaired dexterity. Only one M.D. suggested something radically different: clinical essential oil therapyâ€¦something I was not familiar with at the time. Going with this therapy was a leap of faith that paid off beyond our wildest expectations. If you have a strong stomach you might want to take a peak at the pictures Iâ€™ve posted of my sonâ€™s hands. There are links to them on our website at http://la-isha.com/library/story.php. But I warn you: these are not pleasant pictures to look at, so be prepared!
My sonâ€™s recovery was nothing short of a miracle â€“ today he has no residual scarring or skin discoloration whatsoever, as you can see from the pictures that were taken at various intervals of his recovery. Of course the vain, aging beauty diva in me could not help but wonder what effect these amazing â€œdryâ€ oils would have on much simpler skin issues like the external signs of aging and sun damage. I decided to delve into essential oil therapy and research its uses around the world, then see for myself if it had any potential as a natural alternative to the synthetic anti-aging skin care market in the U.S. I was so impressed by my findings that I decided to pursue the development of a skin-care line based upon what I learned.
Which ingredients do you believe women should avoid in their cosmetics and why?
I try to stay away from the known hormone disrupters that have implications for breast and uterine cancer: substances like parabens (the most commonly used ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products today), phthalates (solvents that cause hormonal irregularities in men as well as women), metalloestrogens (i.e. lead and aluminum as found in antiperspirants); Bisphenol-A (a plasticizer that causes toxic reproductive effects), triclosan (used in antibacterial soaps and cleansers), hydroquinone (used in skin lightening products), methyl methacrylate (found in artificial nail products) and all nanoparticle/technology based cosmetics that contain ultrafine and powdered titanium dioxide, which are lung irritants and carcinogenic.
I think that it is virtually impossible to stay away from everything that has potential health repercussions so it is up to the individual to decide what is most important to avoid and then set out to reduce their daily exposure to it.
Unfortunately there are quite a few toxic ingredients lurking in our personal care products that are not always identified on the product labelâ€¦manufacturers get away with this because they claim that only minute amounts of these toxic chemicals are used per bottle and are therefore too insignificant to list. But most of us use multiple products a day that contain hundreds of these ingredients. With so much overlap you can suddenly find yourself exposed to levels that are far beyond the original intent of the manufacturer and potentially very harmful.
Do you use only organic ingredients in La IshÃ¡?
Our policy is to use organic ingredients whenever they are available. Because we are dealing with live plants and not lab-synthesized chemicals, we are subject to the whims of Mother Nature and she does not always cooperate with us to produce a strictly organic, high-quality crop. If we feel that a particular ingredient is critical to our formulation but not available as organic, we may use it until we can find an organic equivalent. But under no case will we use any plant or botanical that has been chemically distilled, extracted or synthetically processed in any way.
What are some of the key ingredients in the La IshÃ¡ collection?
We use a wide range of medical grade essential oils including helichrysum, lavender, rose, carrot seed, and palmarosa, which are all known for their superlative healing qualities; Rose Hip Seed Oil, which is a tissue regenerator used to treat sun damage, burns, scars, stretch marks, eczema and the external effects of aging; and my personal favorite – our high-grade, pure, organic pomegranate seed oil. The ultimate anti-aging cellular rejuvenator, it is highly emollient, protective, nourishing, and rich in antioxidants, conjugated fatty acids, gentle phytoestrogens and other various nutrients that are universally recognized as essential for good health as well as for anti-aging beauty.
Do you use preservatives?Â How do you guarantee the freshness of La IshÃ¡ products?
We use a natural preservative system composed of specific vitamins and essential oils that are antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. When formulated in the proper proportions, they are extremely effective and safe natural preservatives.
All of our formulations are made fresh to order in small batches and kept track of in order to guarantee optimum freshness and potency. Our skin-care products are not produced in bulk or stored in large drums that sit on shelves indefinitely waiting to be sold.
What does the name La IshÃ¡ mean?
La IshÃ¡ means â€œFor the Womanâ€ in Hebrew, which is very fitting because our very first shipment of pomegranate oil came from the Holy Land, and we are a woman-centric company dedicated to preserving the beauty and health of women everywhere.
Â What’s in your bag (i.e. what makeup/beauty products do you personally use)?
Â I always carry concealer, eyebrow pencil, lipstick, Zambeezi organic lip balm and a travel size of La IshÃ¡ Nutrient Rich Face CrÃ¨me with me at all times!
Â What’s your favorite bag (i.e. purse)?Â
How did you know that purses are my accessory weakness?! Hmm, I think my very favorite is a tan-colored MCM handbag that I bought in Atlanta when I was pregnant with my first child, way back in 1988. It looks as beautiful today as the day I bought it!