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The Good Eye: Farm to Face

Gourmet skincare by women, for women

By Amy Gentry, Fri., Feb. 28, 2014

Dr. Kim Warren-Rhodes, founder of Farm to Girl
Dr. Kim Warren-Rhodes, founder of Farm to Girl
Photo by Amy Gentry

I find the beauty industry thoroughly baffling. While I enjoy makeup, which offers many of the pleasures of amateur painting, the function of the other 8.4 million products lining the walls of Sephora eludes me. The words "skincare regime" strike me as Orwellian, and I am terrified by the term "anti-aging," which, if you think about it, is actually just a synonym for "pro-death." Besides, I am simply not equipped to navigate the labyrinth of available oils, plumping serums, and alphabetically enhanced creams ranging from BB to EE. I've already wasted too many brain cells understanding bra sizes and Jacques Lacan.

Enter Dr. Kim Warren-Rhodes, founder of Farm to Girl skin and baby care products. Warren-Rhodes is a native Austinite with a Ph.D. in environmental science from Stanford who moonlights for NASA as an astrobiologist. That's astrobiology as in extraplanetary life; as in, she researches aliens for the government. Having worked with Mars Rovers in extreme environments like the Atacama Desert, the driest hot desert in the world, Warren-Rhodes seemed well-equipped to handle my skin, so we met to discuss Farm to Girl.

Warren-Rhodes is one part Austin hippie, one part mad scientist, and all bubbly, contagious idealist. When she talks about the practical, sustainable benefits Farm to Girl offers women by providing chemical-free beauty products, developing woman-owned businesses among her ingredient suppliers, and donating 20% of profits to fund scholarships and women's clinics in their communities, she positively glows.

Or maybe it's the marula oil. Warren-Rhodes first learned about hydrating, antioxidant-rich marula from the African women she met on frequent research trips to Namibia, and it's a key ingredient in Farm to Girl's Fountain of Youth Face Cream and Namibian Miracle Face & Skin Repair. Other ingredients include beeswax, local honey from Boggy Creek Farm, and organic coconut oil sourced from women she met on trips to the Solomon Islands and Micronesia.

Warren-Rhodes first learned exactly what was in run-of-the-mill beauty products when she gave her students an assignment to analyze them in the lab. The presence of endocrine disruptors and other high-risk chemicals disturbed her, especially since these products disproportionately affect women's health. "Cro-Magnon" is her word for current health and safety standards in the beauty industry, especially when compared to increased public awareness of the health benefits of fresh, chemical-free food. "It's the equivalent of junk food for your skin."

Even products that promise "natural" ingredients are often loaded with chemicals Warren-Rhodes considers worrisome. She won't name names, but a quick brand search in the Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" database, which codes thousands of brands based on the presence of risky chemicals, is enough to make you want to wear a surgical mask on your next trip to Ulta. "Don't put in your favorite product," she warns. "There's too much you don't want to know about." (All but one of Farm to Girl's products received a zero, the lowest possible rating; one product got the second-lowest rating.)

Chemical preservatives and plastic packaging, both of which extend shelf-life, are the most common culprits. Warren-Rhodes' "a-ha" moment came when she looked at a cold case of flash-pasteurized juices and realized that simple refrigeration could extend the life of food-grade beauty products without sacrificing quality. While you don't have to keep Farm to Girl in the refrigerator — the small recyclable glass jars with metal lids last up to three months if kept away from heat — the product lasts longer and has a better consistency if stored cold. Plus, with summer fast approaching, who could object to the idea of chilled moisturizer?

The products themselves feel delicious on the skin, with pronounceable ingredient lists and mega-doses of soothing oils. In particular, the Fountain of Youth Face Cream, which only has five ingredients, is extraordinarily silky and moisturizing, and minimally but pleasantly scented. I've been using it for a week, and while my next birthday is still impending as rapidly as ever, I'd like to think I'm borrowing a bit of Warren-Rhodes' enthusiastic glow.


Farm to Girl products are available at www.farmtogirl.com. Farm to Girl will offer samples and discounts at an upcoming pop-up event at Santa Rita Tex-Mex Cantina Sunday, March 2, 3-5pm.

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