When it comes to body-care products, the word natural means something different to everyone. To some, it means no animal testing. To others, it means no chemicals. But what the word doesn't mean any longer is dreary, malodorous or difficult to find. A whole array of luxurious yet environmentally conscious products for the face, skin and hair is surfacing in specialty boutiques throughout Southern California. Most stores even knock off 25 cents from the cost of an item if bottles are returned for refilling. Here's a sampling.
THE BODY SHOP Green and white is the color scheme, and green is the sentiment. Founded in England in 1976, The Body Shop sells more than 350 biodegradable products packaged in five sizes of simple plastic bottles. All products are naturally based; many ingredients come from Third World countries in the company's Trade Not Aid program. Look for the Rice Bran Body Scrub, Coconut Oil Shampoo, Jojoba Oil Soap and Peppermint Foot Lotion. South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa .
The first natural body-care shops in Los Angeles, the two Homebody stores offer "a homelike, low-key atmosphere, a place where customers can feel elegant," says owner Susan Fonarow. Homebody buys in small quantities to ensure freshness. More than 150 perfumed oils (including anise, pineapple and sagebrush) can be custom-blended into unscented body products; lotions, makeup and body oils also can be customized. 8500 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, and 4710 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey.
A tiny neighborhood shop, La Natura carries products from all over the world, including Alba Botanica, Weleda and Essential Aromatics. (Look for Dermocosmesi Vegetale products from Italy, with herbs and flowers suspended inside sinuously shaped bottles.) The shop is known for its selection of aromatherapy products, among them items by Crystal Essence, Aveda and Indra. 313 N. Edinburgh Ave., Los Angeles .
RACHEL PERRY BOUTIQUE
Purple, yellow, orange, hot pink, lime green--the bright colors decorating the Rachel Perry Boutique and its packages are part of the owner's philosophy of color and aromatherapy. Certain colors and scents, Perry believes, produce psychological and physiological benefits. There's Spearmint Leaf Revitalizing Body Lotion With Ivy and Sea Moss, Aloe Suma All-Season Sun Block and Sea Kelp Herbal Facial Scrub. The shop also offers beauty makeovers with Rachel Perry products. 11677 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles .
THE EARTH STORE
Although The Earth Store is not solely a body-care shop, owner J. C. Cooper stocks a selection of natural products out of her concern for the environment. "I believe all these items go hand in hand," she says. "Otherwise, it's just another hand cream or soap." Cooper carries Tom's of Maine products (aloe-and-coriander deodorant and spearmint mouthwash, flossing ribbon and toothpaste); Chandrika Ayurvedic Soap, made without animal fat, and Nature's Gate biodegradable products, including baby shampoo. 2369 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles .
DEAN RHOADES SALON
Only Aveda products are available at this shop. Hair-care products range from herbal shampoos to aromatherapy conditioners. Skin-care products include cleansers and toners containing Bulgarian rosewater and witch hazel. Aveda's Indra Natural Color Cosmetics come in mineral tones such as Tiger Eye and Pink Topaz. (This summer, an Aveda Esthetique opens in the Beverly Center; it will offer hair and makeup services, scalp and neck massage and mini-facials.) 245 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills .
Products here have been developed by co-owners Daniel Samakow and Ira Schecther. The extensive line includes exotic-sounding formulas such as Cucumber & Cactus Cleansing Milk, Grapefruit, Carrot & Orange Flower Tonic, and Soya & Silk Cream Rinse. Body Logic customizes products with herbal extracts; it also offers a line of unscented items. Save the Rainforest Family Shampoo is a coconut-based shampoo with tropical extracts requiring no deforestation. 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles .
Frustrated by what she saw as overpackaged, overmarketed and overpriced body-care items, Cindy Melk created a line of products to emphasize value, simplicity, natural ingredients--and fun: "Why does every cream have to be white? Why do healthy things have to look like granola bars?" Packaging is kept to a minimum, and there are bath- and skin-care products especially for children (Fresh Green Banana Moisturizer) and men (Razor Relief lotion). 8522 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 14006 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks , and 1815 Hawthorne Blvd., Redondo Beach .