The world is awash in thousands of man-made chemicals with various levels of toxicity.
The sensitivity people have to theses chemicals also varies. In the early 1990s, Eve Stahl was sickened by what she suspects was a combination of glue and toxic carpet fibers she was exposed to during the renovation of the office where she worked in Northern Virginia.
While other workers complained of headaches, Stahl’s reaction was more severe. In a short time, she went from being healthy to being on the verge of being bedridden.
“The glue was harming everybody, but I believe it put me over the threshold and caused my immune system to fail,” Stahl said recently at her home near North Garden. “For me, it was like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Suddenly I had arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. The chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia just took over.
“I was going to bed at four in the afternoon, and it got to the point where I could hardly get up in the morning. I realized that wasn’t living, and I made the decision to get my health back.”
This decision ultimately led Stahl to create her own line of organic skin care products for men and women called Garden of Eve. Its slogan is “as pure as it gets,” and she can prove it.
“I started making skin care products for myself, because I didn’t like what was available on the market,” said Stahl, who started her company in 2003. “I wasn’t that sensitive to the commercial products, but I knew they weren’t pure and natural, and that I could do better.
“An offshoot of the campaign for safe cosmetics is a database called Skin Deep. You can go to their website and look up a large number of products on the market that they have studied and scored.
“The products are scored from zero to 10, with low hazard being zero to two. All my products score zero, and I was making them all this way before the database was created.”
When Stahl set out to regain her health, she realized knowledge would be key. To that end, she enrolled at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm, Fla. Her studies started with nutrition, then branched out into herbalism, essential oils and aromatherapy.
“I learned how to make tinctures, creams, poultices and different types of medicines,” said Stahl, who also works as a health consultant and creates healthy living plans for clients. “When I started working with aromatherapy, I learned about the essential oils of herbs.
“These are very potent, concentrated forms of flowers, herbs and sometimes woody resins. Once I decided to look in that direction, I was fascinated by the power of that form of plants.
“Many of my nutritional clients were very sensitive to chemicals. I would work with them to get the toxins out of their system, and then strengthen their system with nutrition and herbs that are known for that benefit.”
When some of Stahl’s clients continued to experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches, skin rashes and eruptions, she began to suspect another culprit. After eliminating other possibilities, she reasoned the ailments might be caused by the products they were putting on their skin.
“When I started making products for them, across the board, those symptoms would subside,” Stahl said. “Some people got better faster than others, but as long as they stayed with the pure, clean products I made, they were fine.
“I realized that someone needed to be making these skin care products that were pure and natural. Many people say they don’t like natural products, because they’re greasy, heavy and slimy feeling — and most of them are. Mine are not that way at all.
“My products go right into your skin and you don’t feel anything on your skin. They become part of your skin cells very rapidly.”
Although Stahl has a few employees who help her jar, bottle, label and ship products, she is the only one who makes them. Formulating the ingredients for the dozens of products she offers was a long process of trial and error.
Stahl said the first step was creating the basic cream. She made five batches a day for two months until she got it exactly as she wanted. Then she tailored it for different skin types and conditions.
“I make skin care products for acne, rosacea, aging and for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding,” said Stahl, who will be answering questions about her products and giving away samples from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays during February at Whole Foods Market in Charlottesville, which carries her product line.
“When I was creating one of my facial cleansers, it took me two weeks of washing my face several times a day to get it just right. Another product I make is a facial cleanser mask, which is a powder made of herbs, seaweed and bentonite clay.
“I got the clay and seaweed from five different companies so I could decide which one I wanted. I ended up using the clay from two different companies. I mix them both in, because each of them contributes in different ways.”
Stahl started selling her products at Charlottesville’s City Market. She gave away free samples and let the products sell themselves.
“I would give samples out, and the next week people would come back as happy as could be,” Stahl said. “Many of them could notice a difference that quickly.
“After about five years I stopped selling at the City Market, because my website took over. I was very busy shipping all over the country and around the world.
“But the major challenge for me is still getting the word out to people without spending too much of my time and energy.”
Kore Russell, owner of Oasis Day Spa and Body Shop on Water Street, has been carrying the complete Garden of Eve product line for a few months. She said the products are generating a lot of interest in her clientele, as well as favorable comments.
“Skin care is the biggest part of our business, so I obviously want to use products that have a good effect on the skin,” Russell said. “I lean toward organic and natural skin care, and Eve’s products are 100 percent clean.
“I was interested in Eve’s products, because of the high quality of the ingredients, their effectiveness and also because she is local. I’ve been using them since December, which coincided with our 10th anniversary.
“We launched it by giving out a lot of samples. In general, people are really happy with them, and Eve and I have been talking about doing a facial here using her products.”
Using the highest-quality ingredients and making everything by hand elevates costs. Although Garden of Eve products are not inexpensive, Russell said, they’re competitively priced and well worth the extra dollars.
Stahl said most people will find that her products last longer than cheaper brands. More importantly, she said, they do what they’re designed to do.
“People will recognize the quality of my products,” Stahl said as she prepared to mix up a new batch of lotion. “But it’s not just that they’re pure, clean and don’t have any harm in them.
“They’re also effective, and people usually notice that very quickly. I give boatloads of product away when I’m at Whole Foods Market, and I love doing it.
“I know not all the people I give samples to will come back and buy my products, but that’s OK. I want them to have them anyway, because I want them to enjoy what really good is.”
Garden of Eve products are available at Whole Foods Market, Oasis Day Spa and Body Shop and online at www.gardenofeveskincare.com. Stahl will be putting on demonstrations, answering questions and giving away samples of her products at Whole Foods Market from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday during February. She can be reached at 975-1818.