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All press inquiries, please contact Elizabeth Alvillar at 866.402.9545.

Click here to download press release for the grand opening of our Beauty & Wellness Center (released 11/4/06) PDF

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jondi Gumz
Published May 12, 2007

Elizabeth Alvillar loved her career as a high end stylist until it made her sick.
After 20 years in the beauty industry , she couldn't take the chemicals in cosmetics. After suffering blisters in her nose, she looked for products that didn't contain chemicals and was disappointed in what was available in the marketplace.

"I could shop at health food stores, but the [cosmetics] products were not of salon quality," she said.

When her son, now 14, went into a diabetic coma, she decided she would change her life if he survived. He did, and she kept her promise.

She cut back her hours, commuting to Carlsbad to work four days a month at La Costa, an exclusive spa that kept the paparazzi out. She moved to
Capitola and got a business permit to set up a lab to create her own blend of cosmetics without synthetic chemicals. Her products include shampoo, conditioner, hair coloring, skin care, lotions and makeup. Her company, Isvara Organics, is named for the Sanskrit word for creator.

Last November, she opened her own salon and spa on 41st Avenue where she sells her products and offers hair styling, aromatherapy, facials, massage and yoga. With retail sales of $2,500 a month, her next goal is to establish a wholesale market.

She's entering a niche that industry experts say is on the rise.

While the conventional cosmetic market stagnates, sales of natural cosmetics are increasing 20 percent a year.

Amarjit Sahota, director of Organic Monitor, a business research company based in London, told The Guardian last month, "The growth rate says it all"

At 38, Alvillar, a mother of two, has a youthful appearance. Wearing a figure-flattering lavender top, a long flowing skirt and green boots, she is an attractive ambassador of organic beauty products. She's been well-received by Staff of Life and New Leaf Markets, the local natural food stores, but convincing salons is a bigger challenge.

"I have to educate them first," she said.

Organic attraction

Santa Cruz resident Naomi Branagan began using Lancome products 25 years ago. But now she's a customer of Elizabeth Alvillar and Isvara Organics.

"When you meet someone who follows their passion and their dream, you want to support that," she said.

Branagan, 45, noticed the sign for the organic salon as she was driving to work. Customers at her home furnishings store, Warmth Co. in Aptos, raved about the salon owner. So she made an appointment.

"I love her shampoos and her conditioner," Branagan said. "You smell the smell. It's incredible the way it washes your hair. And it's not any more expensive"

She is well-aware of the concern about chemicals from hair, skin and other beauty products.

"Everything you use absorbs into your skin," she pointed out.

Still, she's not a total convert. She hasn't switched to organic makeup and she doesn't carry Isvara products at Warmth Co.

The reason might be surprising.

"A lot of people buy things visually," Branagan explained. "Her packaging is beautiful but it doesn't fit our particular store.... Not all my stuff is organic. I don't think my customers are ready for it yet"

Revealing science

As a teenager, Alvillar knew what she wanted and set out to become a celebrity stylist. After high school, she completed a three-year apprenticeship learning tricks of the salon trade.

"At $200 to $300 a haircut, they expect you to know everything," she said.

But when customers who had cancer asked if salon beauty products were OK to use, she told them no.

"In some ways, science is fabulous. In other ways, it's also done harm," Alvillar said.

"If you don't know what something is, ask," she advised. "Labeling laws for food are pretty strict. Labeling laws in cosmetics are not quite as clear"

Only at the turn of this century, after beauty products had been sold for decades, did federal officials turn their attention to human exposure to phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system.

In 2000, a federal study reported that "phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected"

Two years later, the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog organization, launched the Safe Cosmetics Campaign, calling on cosmetics companies to remove toxic chemicals from their products and replace them with safer alternatives. More than 500 companies have agreed to do so.

Environmental Working Group is well-known on Capitol Hill. In 2005, it was chosen as one of Washington's 10 most effective watchdog organizations by The Hill, a nonpartisan newspaper that covers Congress. It was the only environmental organization on the list.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, which represents 600 companies, has responded. The trade association adopted a consumer code Jan. 1, calling on companies to use only ingredients substantiated for safety and to report adverse experiences to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In March, the industry's panel of experts issued a report on 1,300 cosmetic ingredients. The findings:

* 784 ingredients found safe as used in cosmetics.
* 408 ingredients that may be used safely by heeding restrictions.
* 119 ingredients on which there is sufficient data.
* Nine ingredients unsafe for use in cosmetics.

Traditional cosmetics companies are hedging their bets by acquiring smaller organic purveyors. L'Oreal bought Body Shop. Clarins Paris has a stake in Kibio. Colgate bought Tom's of Maine. Estée Lauder may have been the first to see the handwriting on the wall, buying Aveda in 1997 for $300 million. Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher was a trailblazer when his company began selling plant-based products in 1978. Today, he's an icon of the industry.

Marketing matters

Alvillar's technique is, in a way, old-fashioned.

"This is based on what was used thousands of years ago before industrialization," she said. "There's nothing wrong with the way it was done"

In between giving $85 facials and training her apprentice, Dawn Finney, she spends seven hours a week hand-crafting small batches of her products.

Her lab contains peppermint, lavender, rosemary, thyme ‹ olive oil and sea buckthorn oil. She buys honey from Meek's in Soquel, and plans to purchase lavender from Surf City Growers in Aptos.

To color hair blond, she mixes together camomile, honey and helichrysum; for brunettes or gray hair, blue and black malva.

"I definitely have a background in chemistry," she said. "It's more than opening a book and here's the recipe. You have to know the canvas you're starting with"

Her 4-year-old daughter was the inspiration for a baby shampoo and "Aeromatic Fun Dough," an alternative to Play-Doh that doesn't contain food coloring or chemicals.

To market her products, she turned to Troy and Kathleen Chasey at Capitola Design to create a Web site and package labels.

Alvillar wanted to use silver labels, a classic salon look. She was persuaded to take a more natural approach, with colorful photos of plants on the product labels.

Because of their natural ingredients, the shampoo and conditioner can be affected by exposure to sunlight.

They are packaged in cobalt blue plastic bottles, not Alvillar's first choice, but she felt breakable glass didn't make sense for a product used in the shower. To reduce plastic waste, she offers a discount when she refills bottles.

There's plenty more she would like to do: Offer classes on cosmetics for teens, find organic growers locally to supply her with herbs, feature more jewelry made by local artisans, invite healers to talk, donate her services to help people who are ill feel better and pursue a listing by The Green Guide and the Organic Consumers Association.

"I'm just getting started," she said.

Contact Jondi Gumz at jgumz@santacruzsentinel.com.

Isvara Organics Beauty and Wellness Center

WHERE: 1007 41st Ave.,

Santa Cruz.

OWNER: Elizabeth Alvillar.

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; evenings by appointment.


or www.isvaraorganics.com
Clear The H’AIR!
by Naomi Mannino

Worried about your salon’s carbon footprint and chemicals in the products and processes you use every day? Learn from other salon owners who are running their salons greener, cleaner and more profitably, too!

Does your salon stink? Does the smell make your eyes water? The harmful out-gassing of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) from salon coloring/ straightening processes, hair sprays, nail polish, carpeting, flooring finishes, furniture, paint, and cleaning products all negatively impact your daily indoor air quality, reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to a recent report sponsored by a group of American environmental organizations entitled ‘Is it in Us?’ our bodies are ingesting and holding on to the chemicals in products we are exposed to every day. And, these VOC’s support biological pollutants like molds so inadequate ventilation in the salon can increase many physical problems like eye and skin irritation, lung and breathing problems, headaches, and nausea according to the American Lung Association. The ‘incovenient truth’ is that hair stylists and salon employees are under particular chemical assault every day.

In response, many salon owners like Elizabeth Alvillar of Isvara Organics Salon, Spa & Wellness Center in Santa Cruz, California; Susan Henry of Shades Salon in Beverly Hills, California; Rachael Epstein of Sprout Salon in Baltimore, Maryland; and John Masters Organics Salon in New York City, have all adopted a ‘greener’ way to do business. They’ve chosen to leave the chemicals behind, to reduce, re-use, recycle and you can really smell the difference! “We tell new clients that we are a chemical-free environment and they love it,” says Susan Henry.

As a salon owner you may be looking to do business more sustainably with a more eco-conscious attitude. You can start easily by replacing light bulbs with more efficient CFL or even longer-lasting LED bulbs and by installing low-flow water faucet adapters. Turn off all electronic equipment when you leave the salon at night. Recycle all foils and color bottles and switch to low EMF hair dryers as the old ones wear out. Every little bit counts, so take little steps. Once you get in the habit, it’s easy being green and you can take bigger steps.

Switch to natural, sustainable hardwoods. When it comes to furniture and shelving, stay away from cheap pressboard, a significant source of formaldehyde, the colorless, pungent-smelling gas which can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty breathing, reports the EPA. According to the Greal Seal, an environmental approval rating system (www. greenseal.org), solid wood products produced from certified, sustainably managed forests are a better good choice instead. Look for bamboo, renewable cork products like BioShield’s Natural Cork flooring tiles, or sustainable coconut, like Devachan Salon’s floor in New York City. Etopa’s salon furniture and retail shelving and fixtures are produced from sustainably managed Rubberwood forests in China. With the newest no-VOC SafeCoat water-based coatings, their natural beauty shines through.

Buy recycled. Reusing is one of the most solid ‘green’ principles. When decorating try curbside, antique, and thrift store furniture. “We have a product display shelf that was an old secretary we actually found curbside,” says Jae Jampol, co-owner Bodywise Spa in Port Jefferson, New York. Another thrifty yet upscale and unique way of using artwork: Become a gallery for local artists and ‘art-cycle’ the work throughout your rooms. Rachel Epstein ‘reclaimed’ her salon’s floors from other renovation projects and buys all her washcloths at thrift stores. Ditto for John Masters who ‘reclaimed’ his new shelving from a Brownstone renovation in Brooklyn. “Always check the salvage yards for unique building materials and look for used salon equipment, mirrors, chairs and stations before purchasing new,” advises Masters who decorated his salon that way.

Make sure it’s recycleable. One of the buzzwords in ‘greener’ office furniture is what happens to it once it hits the landfill. According to Marc Levin, a furnishings trend expert, “you don’t want a cheap, throw-away toxic chair anymore. It’s better pay more for something that will last much longer.” The LifeChair from Knoll, the HumanScale Chair from Freedom Chair and others from Herman Miller and Steelcase (www.homeofficesolutions. com or www.officedesigns.com) use 100% recyclable steel and aluminum with no-VOC, water-based or hot-melt adhesives, polyurethane foam and powder coatings that all conform to Greenguard standards, another certifying entity for environmental choices in building and decorating products (www. greenguard.org). Some alternative, recyclable natural shelving materials include wheat straw, sunflower hulls, soy flour, and recycled newsprint in office systems from Baltix Furniture (www.baltix.com) whose designs are free from formaldehyde, heavy metals and VOC’s.

Take a stand. Contribute to your community and support sustainable projects that are important to you. John Masters Organic Salon, Sprout Salon and Aveda product manufacturing are all powered by 100% wind energy in the form of energy credits from your local power provider. Isvara Organics donates 10% of all retail sales to New Horizon School for homeless children while Etopa (www.etopa.com), a sustainable salon furniture and shelving company, works to improve living conditions of the workers in China at the Rubberwood plantations that supply their wood while organizations like Trees for the Future (www.treesftf.org) plants trees for company programs. John Masters, an animal advocate is very active with PETA and also donates proceeds from shampoo sales to Animal Haven in addition to his involvement with Global Green USA’s New York Committee (www.globalgreen.org).

Invest in no-VOC paints and coatings. “That ‘just painted’ smell is the air in your salon being poisoned by dangerous VOC’s that out-gas toxins,” Explains Rudolph Reitz of BioShield paint. According to the National Paint & Coatings Association, most paint manufacturers now produce a non-VOC variety of paint. Got lead-based paint? Never sand or scrape! Seal right over it with a good primer and paint your safer paint on top. Natural paints made from milk proteins and clays also create vivid colors and natural textures, but check the washability, first! Read BioShield’s free e-book Paint’s dirty little secrets! at www.Bioshieldpaint.com.

Keep it local. Many salon and spa owners suggest having environmentally- friendly furniture custom-made by local craftsmen. This way, you control the materials, the design and its carbon footprint without using energy and gas for packing and shipping. This saves your salon money while supporting the local economy. Elizabeth Alvillar even sources all her organic ingredients from local farmers to hand-mix her fresh treatments.

Look for certification. Look for the federal government's Energy Star designation on appliances and electronics; the USDA Organic Seal on food and cosmetics; Eco-Cert (www.ecocert.com) for cosmetics ingredients; Green Seal (in Canada, EcoLogo) on household cleaning products; Greenguard for building and decorating materials; and the Forest Stewardship Council (www.fscus.org) logo on wood and paper products. Use sites like Consumer Reports' www.GreenerChoices.org and the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for big-ticket items. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has loads of information on cosmetics, cleaners, and food and provides the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.

Look out for ‘green-washing.’ Vague claims like ‘natural,’ ‘green,’ ‘eco,’ ‘non-toxic,’ and even ‘biodegradable’ don't mean much on their own. They're not currently regulated and easy to slap on a product. Look for more concrete terms like ‘organic’ and ‘recycled,’ which are regulated and bear a package symbol. Read the ingredients and determine for yourself!

Clean Green. It’s an easy way to improve your air quality and decrease your daily reliance on chemicals, fast. One way is to lose the bleach and just go beige: When it’s time to replace white towels, sheets and rugs choose beige or darker colors that correspond with treatments. “I use red towels for strawberry facials, plum and brown towels for hair coloring, and beige for massages. This way, stains don’t show and I NEVER use bleach!” exclaims Elizabeth Alvillar. Cleaning sprays and mopping solutions are as simple and inexpensive as mixtures using water, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and essential oils, says Jae Jampol, “I use them to clean everything plus my staff and clients experience the therapeutic aromatherapy effects of whatever organic essential oils I add.” Just mix them up in buckets and spray bottles:

Wood floors: Mix one gallon distilled water with j cup vinegar and s teaspoon citrus essential oil.
Traditional floors: Increase the vinegar to one cup per gallon of water and add any essential oil fragrance.
Grout stains: Simply pour a little baking soda on the spot and spray with water. Let sit overnight, and the stain will be gone.
Toilets and sinks: Sprinkle with baking soda, then spray with vinegar for all-natural foaming action. Then scrub. Let sit for even more deodorizing.
Surface disinfectant spray: Use this potent bacteriakilling 1–2 punch: Spray surfaces with plain hydrogen peroxide (in the brown bottle), follow with a spray of vinegar, then wipe. The acid in the vinegar and the oxidation of the peroxide disinfects micro-organisms from counters, toilets, treatment surfaces and tables. Add essential oil or anti-bacterial Tea Tree oil if desired.
Windows and shiny surfaces: Nix the ammonia and spray with straight vinegar buffed dry with a lint-free cloth diaper.
Join and share information. The Green Spa Network, newlyformed by a group of spa owners to bring sustainable operating practices to the spa industry, to facilitate education, research and alliances in sustainable business practices. How about salon owners doing the same or joining up with them!? Contact them at www.greenspanetwork.org.

Beauty Derived from Nature: What’s It All About?
Written by Gail Penniman
Monday, 01 December 2008

It seems like the Santa Cruz area is always attracting creative people on the cutting edge of
vibrant health, environmental awareness and community activism. These qualities are the ones
most dear to the heart of Elizabeth Alvillar, developer and owner of Isvara Organics Beauty and
Wellness Center. The mission and vision of Isvara is to educate and enable people to minimize
stress and maximize beauty from within, using all natural products that recall the beauty
regimens used by the ancients, all derived from the earth.
Elizabeth spent 20 years as a stylist at exclusive spas in Southern California, serving high
profile clients such as celebrities and royals. Her exposure to the harsh chemicals in the
products she was using overwhelmed her immune system leading to toxic overload. There
began her search for natural products for hair and skin.
She found that the commercially produced “natural food store” products contained natural
ingredients but they did not perform up to the standards she expected as a top-level stylist.
Elizabeth wanted excellent performance coupled with organic ingredients. She began making
her own formulations in small batches, giving them to discriminating stylists all over California to
test market.
No animal testing ever did or ever will take place with Isvara products. It took her three years to
develop the first shampoo, but this is a true labor of love. In fact, there is so much love in her
business that it spills over into the community.
Giving Back to the Community
There is really no separation between Elizabeth’s personal values and the way she runs Isvara.
She has faithfully given 10% of all sales (not profits, but actual sales) to local non-profits. She
also donates services to needy women with cancer or other serious health issues that benefit
from her all-natural products that will not harm the immune system when absorbed through skin.
She tells of the toxic reactions that her clients have had to chemicals in normal cosmetics,
saying that people need to be informed about the ingredients in the products they are using.
The ingredient labels on her bottles read like a grocery list of edibles.
Besides hair and skin products for adults, Elizabeth has developed all natural shampoos and
conditioners that are baby safe and aromatic fun dough that children love. There is also a
luxurious belly butter for pregnancy and post partum. All of the profits from this product line go
to non-profits dealing with children’s diseases such as cancer and juvenile diabetes.
Isvara in the language of Sanskrit means “Creator.” A number of years ago, Elizabeth went
through a major life change when her son almost died. He was in a coma for several days and
she realized, coming out of this experience, that, “I made a big commitment toward changing
my life. I wanted my life to mean more than it had. It all came together. I was having those
issues with the job and I wanted a greater satisfaction in the commitment of the way I walk on
this planet.”
She adds that she and her staff have not turned away any non-.profit that has approached them
for support, a truly admirable track record.
Products from Locally Grown, Organic Farm Fresh Produce
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Beauty Derived from Nature: What’s It All About?
Written by Gail Penniman
Monday, 01 December 2008 00:00 -
Elizabeth manufactures all of her hair and skin products personally in her permitted kitchen, to
guarantee correct formulation, freshness and purity. Even with her products becoming more
widely sold, she still keeps her batches small. She even makes custom formulations to meet a
client’s particular needs. In the spa, she offers raw plant enzyme facials with ingredients that are
put through the food processor while the client is getting ready to receive treatment.
The staff creatively use seasonal produce such as pumpkin this fall and strawberries in the
spring and summer. She uses only locally grown organic produce and Isvara is a “certified
green company through Co-op America which is a national certification that is much more
stringent than our local certification. You have to be sustainable in every way, in the electricity
that you use, what you pay your employees, how you reach out to the community.”
Ever Hear of Non-Toxic Hair Color?
Many women (and men) color their hair to hide gray or for shades and highlights to enhance
their appearance. Unfortunately, commercial colorants are full of chemicals and are highly toxic.
Women battling cancer or any illness with compromised immune function are particularly
sensitive to these toxins and should avoid them. Anyone concerned about maintaining vibrant
health and wellbeing will want to reduce the toxic load on their bodies from these colorants.
The good news is that Elizabeth and her staff offer non-toxic hair color products and services.
This specialty puts Isvara in a class by itself.
Salon and Spa Services
The staff of Isvara provides all the services that you would expect from a styling salon and day
spa, except nails. Hair styling, coloring, straightening, weaving, highlighting and extensions are
all done with the products sold through Isvara. They make fun hair smoothies and have color
enhancing rinses. Nutritional counseling to make small, positive changes for your body, mind
and spirit, stress management and private or semi private yoga classes are available.
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Beauty Derived from Nature: What’s It All About?
Written by Gail Penniman
Monday, 01 December 2008 00:00 -
Elizabeth has been a yoga teacher for 15 years and does community yoga classes where all the
profit goes to a non-profit organization. Waxing, microdermabrasion, several kinds of facials,
feet and hand treatments and spa packages can be had. Clients can design-your-own massage
and skin and hair care package.
Exceptional service to the needs of her clients is the hallmark of Elizabeth’s work and life. She
says she is living her dream and everyone who sees her passion for her purpose has to agree.
Isvara Organics Co, 1007 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010. Phone: 831-476-8680, Toll Free:
866-402-9545, Email: customerservice@isvaraorganics.com, Website: