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For Horst Rechelbacher, a dedication to organic products is, well, natural. The entrepreneur founded Aveda in 1978, selling it to the Estée Lauder Cos. for an estimated $300 million in 1997. But he’s not done yet: After selling to Lauder, Rechelbacher founded Intelligent Nutrients, which at first—due to his noncompete agreement—sold nutritional supplements only, but has since expanded into beauty. “If you don’t keep a name active, you lose the interest of consumers,” says Rechelbacher of his foray into food. These days, he has a particular passion for the use of plant and human stem cells in antiaging technology, which he insists is the future of beauty. “It will save our planet,” he says. “This type of technology makes no significant contribution to greenhouse effects and saves literally tons of water.” Each of Rechelbacher’s skin and hair products is comprised of food-grade ingredients—he’s been known to literally eat his products at beauty editor events in an effort to prove their safety. The exec practices what he preaches, too: His organic farm in Wisconsin is solar, wind and geothermal powered, and he grows plant ingredients there—including peppermint, basil and oregano—for Intelligent Nutrients products. He’s also on the board of directors at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in Detroit, and supports the Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. Given his legendary outspokenness, it’s not surprising that Rechelbacher also supports a number of vocal cosmetics-industry activist groups, including the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and has a page on his Web site called “Not Intelligent,” railing on the dangers of such additives as phthalates, parabens and propylene glycol. “The beauty industry is lying to consumers,” he says. He’s definitely not going gentle into that good night. Ever.
This story first appeared in the August 12, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.