Spending $75 on this cleanser gets you an unremarkable blend of water, plant waxes, and olive and sunflower seed oils. This hard-to-rinse mix makes for an unsuitable option for those with oily/combination skin types, as well as for those prone to breakouts. Wait a minute, there’s something familiar about this review! That’s because Refreshing Cleanser is virtually identical to their Regenerating Cleanser. The difference is that this version lacks the abrasive apricot seeds—which is a good thing—but it still contains a potently irritating blend of citrus oils and other fragrant extracts (see More Info for details).
As this is a near duplicate of the Regenerating Cleanser, much of that review applies. Tata Harper’s Refreshing Cleanser would have been an ideal choice for dry to very dry skin types (not prone to blemishes), except for the generous dose of problematic ingredients. Despite the claims to be free of detergents (which is strange, given there isn’t anything wrong with detergents, which is just another name for cleansing agents), it does contain a small amount of the cleansing agents coco glucoside and cetearyl glucoside.
Like all of Harper's products, they state that this product contains "Fragrances from 100% natural clinical grade essential oils,” but there isn't any such classification or standard for essential oils. These ingredients are little more than fragrance, and fragrance isn’t skin care. Perfume can be wonderful when selectively placed behind the ears or on pulse points, but applied all over the face it is 100% irritating for all skin types just about 100% of the time.
The marketing claims for the Refreshing Cleanser cannot make good on their promises, just as is true for their Regenerating Cleanser. Neither pomegranate nor willow bark are capable of exfoliating skin (even if they did, you rinse them away before they can do their work), and kaolin clay has no benefit toward unclogging pores. The detoxifying claims are bunk as well—your skin doesn’t store toxins of any kind that require removal.
- The bottle is pretty.
- Heavy waxes and oils make this a problem to rinse.
- Citrus oils and fragrance are all potent irritants, negating the gentle claim.
Irritation from Fragrance: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way to go for all skin types. If fragrance in your skin-care products is important to you, it should be a very low amount to minimize the risk to your skin (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22).
Claims: This balancing, non-foaming cleanser is specially formulated for sensitive skin. Its gentle formula cleanses, freshens and removes makeup without drying out the skin or causing irritation.
Tata Harper At-a-Glance
Based in Vermont, the Tata Harper brand knows its nichethose who equate expensive with effective, and those who buy into the fear tactics that chemicals are bad and only all-natural ingredients are good. These beliefs are common misconceptions we have dealt with repeatedly over the years, and heres the quick summation: There are good and bad natural ingredients, just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredientsand with skin care, expensive does not necessarily mean better.
Tata Harper is a real person, who created her namesake line based on the concept that natural ingredients are 100% safe and that beauty products should be free of chemicals. The chemical- free rhetoric certainly isnt a new approach to marketing skin care, but the claim is nonsense, regardless of the company, because everything, from daisies to asphalt to water, is composed of chemicals but we march on.
Harpers marketing appeal is the claim that she and her team grow most of their ingredients on their 12,000-acre Vermont farm. If the farm doesnt supply the ingredients they need, they have them shipped in, from all over the world. Their Vermont farm-laboratory is where the products are made, in small batches by hand. That sounds interesting until you realize that batches by hand is actually true of any cosmetic, made by any brand, as hands are always needed, and batch size is irrelevant. As Tata has grown, the size of the batches has grown as well. They formulate their products using botanicals that are free of toxins and biochemically compatible with our skin. If those claims sound vaguely fertilizer-worthy, you are on the right track.
It is important to understand how misleading the free of toxins claim is. A toxin refers to a poison, like real poisons (think snake venom, which, incidentally, is 100% natural); cosmetic ingredients are not toxins. Biocompatibility just means that a substance doesnt harm living tissue; that is, its compatible with it, rather than incompatible. Biocompatibility has nothing to do with whether or not a substance is natural in origin. For example, pacemakers are biocompatible in that they keep your heart beating without harming your body, but they certainly are not natural; on the other hand, snake venom and cyanide are both completely natural, but they certainly are not biocompatible.
Of course, many natural ingredients do benefit skin, but many natural ingredients also are a problem for skin, including such seemingly innocuous ingredients as lavender and peppermint. Synthetic ingredients, like retinol or peptides, can be wonderfully beneficial for skin, so, ideally, the best products will contain a mix of proven beneficial natural and synthetic ingredients. When evaluating any ingredient, we always consider what the published, peer-reviewed research has shown to be beneficial or detrimental for your skin, whether its natural or not.
Despite the science-y-sounding claims and phrases Tata Harper uses in their marketing materials, most of it is a smoke screen. (They stop just short of promising cosmetic surgerylike results from flowers and essential oils.) What this translates into is a collection of products that are so fragranced they can be mistaken for perfume. Each contains a mix of standard plant-based moisturizing agents (think olive oil, shea and mango butters, and other plant-based fatty acids) along with plant oils or extracts that are proven skin irritants, which is bad news for you!
Tata Harper repeatedly describes their ingredients as actives, as in Active Natural Ingredients, which is a misuse of the term. Actives refers only to ingredients regulated as drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as sunscreen actives, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid acne treatments, hydroquinone skin lighteners, and others. Outside of this standard, the phrase active ingredients is completely meaningless, because all cosmetic ingredients (even water) will exert some sort of action on the skin.
Like all of Harpers products, they state that their products contain Fragrances from 100% natural clinical grade essential oils, but there isn't any such classification or standard for essential oils. These ingredients are little more than fragrance, and fragrance isnt skin care. Perfume can be wonderful when selectively placed behind the ears and on the pulse points, but applied all over the face its 100% irritating for all skin types just about 100% of the time.
The bottom line? The Tata Harper line is an overall disappointment, especially if you have common concerns such as acne, rosacea, dark spots, enlarged pores, or sun damage. And their prices are bizarre$45 for a 0.5 ounce bottle of rosewater, olive oil, and jojoba oil is not worth the cost, not by any stretch. We are not against natural ingredients, but if youre looking to use natural products, this line isnt the way to go.
For more information about Tata Harper visit www.tataharperskincare.com.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.