The first sign of trouble in a skin-care product is when its name emphasizes that it contains fragrance, as in the case of Tata Harper’s “Hydrating Floral Essence.” True to form, this toner is composed primarily of the potently fragrant floral extracts of rosewater and lavender. Whether you enjoy the scent of roses and lavender (many do), fragrance is not skin care. In fact, potently fragrant ingredients like those in Hydrating Floral Essence work against any benefit your skin gains from what little amount of antioxidants it contains.
To add insult to injury, this product also includes a high amount of the irritants witch hazel and fermented radish root extract.
Tata Harper and the spas selling this line make frequent mention of “Active Natural Ingredients” in their products. When used this way, the phrase “active ingredients” is a marketing term, and nothing more, because all cosmetic ingredients (even water) will have some “activity” on skin, either positive or negative. While many plant extracts certainly have beneficial “activity” on skin, the main “activity” of extracts that have irritating components is more pro-aging than anything else.
Like all of Harper's 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 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.
Given that this toner is little more than bottled perfume, your skin deserves better! For superior toners (and a well-formulated one that can absolutely make a positive difference for your skin), check out our list of Best Toners.
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: A light moisturizing toner spray that deeply hydrates the skin and gives the complexion a fresh, dewy radiance; contains no alcohols or harsh astringents. Perfect for everyday use on top of makeup as an anti-aging treatment on-the-go.
Water, Rosa Damascena Flower Water*, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Water*, Leuconostoc Ferment Filtrate (Radish Root Extract), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate, Caprylyl/Capryl Wheat Bran/Straw Glycosides, Sodium Hyaluronate, Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root, Centalla Asiatica Extract (Gotu Kola)*, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract*, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder*, Fusel Wheat Bran/Straw Glycosides, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (Derived From Coconut), Glyceryl Caprylate (Derived From Fatty Acids Of Corn, Coconut And Glycerin), Sodium Phytate (Derived From Rice Bran), Soybean Peroxidase (Derived From Soy), Superoxide Dismutase (Derived From Horseradish Root), Polyglyceryl-5 Oleate (Naturally Derived), Essential Oil Blend Clinical Grade Essential Oils; Citral, Geraniol, Benzyl Benzoate, Citronellol, Limonene, Linalool.
Tata Harper At-a-Glance
Based in Vermont, the Tata Harper brand knows its niche—those 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 here’s the quick summation: There are good and bad natural ingredients, just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients—and 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 isn’t 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.
Harper’s 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 doesn’t 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 doesn’t harm living tissue; that is, it’s 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 it’s 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 surgery–like 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 Harper’s 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 isn’t skin care. Perfume can be wonderful when selectively placed behind the ears and on the pulse points, but applied all over the face it’s 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 you’re looking to use natural products, this line isn’t the way to go.
For more information about Tata Harper visit www.tataharperskincare.com.
The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.
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