Thursday, May 20, 2010
After Stephanie Tyndall’s aunt battled ovarian cancer and she lost both her mother and mother-in-law to breast cancer, she made it her mission to get to the roots of the epidemic.
Then she started picking up on an increase in endocrine and thyroid problems in tween girls, just as they begin to use cosmetic products. She discovered that while toxins in food are filtered by the liver and kidneys, the stuff we apply topically, like make-up and skin creams, can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
“After losing so many family members to cancer, I wanted to offer a line that people could feel good about using,” she says. Most of us have learned to read food labels, she adds, “but people aren’t looking so much at what we’re putting on our bodies.”
So she launched Off the Vine, a cosmetics company featuring products made from small-batch, wild-crafted, organic ingredients. Her products strictly avoid what she calls the “Toxic 12” common cosmetic chemicals, including: synthetic colors, phthalates (plasticizers not generally listed on labels), sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (foam agents), benzoyl peroxide (a common acne medication), and parabens (which have been detected in breast tumors).
Off the Vine’s first two skin-care lines are seeded with organic produce. The Red Wine Resveratrol series uses a compound found in red grapes and is tailored for dry or mature skin that may have suffered environmental damage.
Tyndall credits the line for her own sunny complexion. “A lot of people know how good red wine is for your heart,” she says. “They don’t know how good it is for your skin.”
The other line, Chilled Cucumber, targets customers with sensitive or acne-prone skin. Tyndall says a 41-year-old woman saw an improvement in her own blemished skin in just a few days of using the cucumber series; now her coworkers are ordering it.
“I never make the hype that there’s a fountain of youth, but I do believe our products have been formulated to the optimal results,” she says.
Off the Vine is still a baby grape at only 2 months old, with two local retailers: Scheid Vineyards Wine Lounge and Chateau Coralini. Revenue is only about $5,000 per month, but Tyndall says business is blooming like Carmel Valley grape vines. Her company is even staffing a booth at the U.S. Open (the tennis version) during the Northern California qualifiers at Chamisal Tennis & Fitness Club in Salinas May 17-23.
The bronzed, blond 34-year-old speaks with a charming drawl from her upbringing in a small North Carolina farm town. After cosmetology school, she founded her own modeling and talent agency – but the birth of her son led the young mother on a detour.
After a few years in Florida, Tyndall and her family moved to Monterey County. (She says the local farmers markets, abundant with fresh local produce, made her feel right at home.)
She’s spent the last decade as an enterprising homemaker: home-schooling her three kids, milling her own wheat, meeting with a women’s Bible study group and stocking her household with non-toxic hygiene products.
Tyndall gave a shot at homemade soap in a science experiment with her daughter, but she’s leaving Off the Vine manufacturing to the pros. Tyndall selects the products’ centerpiece ingredients, then hires a chemist to formulate and test the products in consultation with aestheticians. Off the Vine’s soaps – three varieties at $8 per block – are made in L.A., while the skin care products, which range from $22-$42 retail, are produced by a small-source organic farm in New Mexico.
Because the products don’t contain synthetic preservatives, Tyndall says, freshness is key: Batches are whipped up at the time of wholesale orders. The labels are printed with soy ink on recycled and recyclable packaging.
Tyndall plans to donate 5 to 10 percent of her profits to charities such as breast cancer foundations and Ruth’s Shawl, a Salinas-based Christian nonprofit that supports widows and orphans in Malawi.
Although Tyndall’s religious convictions and views on environmental toxins could lend themselves to stump speeches, she says her company’s mission is not political. “I see it as personal,” she says. “I just don’t want people to suffer from things like what my mother and aunt went through.”
As she talks about her mission, Tyndall’s face brightens – and the glow seems more than skin deep.