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Natural Israeli cosmetics bloom in the US

Posted By Sharon Kanon On March 12, 2006 @ 10:00 am In | No Comments

The desire to look beautiful naturally is fueling an increasingly bigger chunk of the multi-billion dollar market for cosmetics and skin care products in the US, as women are increasingly searching out natural products that reduce wrinkles, blemishes, and tone and enrich the skin.

The big names in cosmetics can learn from the growing success of Havkin Herbal Cosmetics, located in Rosh Pina, a picturesque village in Israel’s Upper Galilee. The dry, clean, crisp mountain air and pure water of the region are “special ingredients” in the Havkin line of 100% natural skin care products, according to the company’s founder Shiri Havkin.

A contract with a leading US agent is bringing Havkin’s products into 17 key American states, which is expected to increase the fans of the skin care products that enrich as well as heal. Havkin’s leading product is moisturizing facial oil, a natural serum, for tired, worn out skin. Its “Natural Touch” line also includes other face and eye creams, gels, balms and soaps.

Shiri Havkin is leading the development of Havkin Natural Touch face and body care products, formulated from natural herbs by her mother, the late Drora Havkin. The company is also poised to launch a line of Spa Products in the spring.

Havkin recently grabbed international headlines for another reason – she owns a house that pop superstar Madonna is reported to want to buy. Madonna, active in the Kabbalah movement that embraces Orthodox Jewish tradition in an unconventional manner reportedly wants to turn Havkin’s house and other properties in the neighborhood into a Kabbalah Center, the Times of London recently reported.

Kabbalists believe that the Messiah will appear at Safed and walk to Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, travelling along the ravine that cuts through Rosh Pina. The ravine, cuts through the backyard of Havkin’s 100-year-old stone house was owned by her mother and which she inherited and has raised her family. Havkin told the newspaper that despite its sentimental value, “the house is worth a little more than $500,000 but I would sell it to Madonna for a million dollars and buy another property for me and my family in the area.”

But despite the recent media maelstrom, Havkin prefers to focus on skin care, not real estate.

Speaking to ISRAEL21c, Shiri points out some of the benefits of natural herbs used in the skin care products – antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, restorative, healing distressed skin, preventing tissue degeneration, stimulating skin growth, and repairing cracked, dry, dehydrated, sensitive skin.

“Most of our herbs are grown in the Galilee, although we import a couple of high quality herbs, like French lavender. Geranium, rose hip oil, almond oil, jojoba are among the effective ingredients. I can tell right away if a synthetic product is used in a cream or ointment. I have the nose of a dog,” Shiri laughs.

Havkin has already made a name for itself as the leading natural skin care company on Trusted Beauty.com (which also sells Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss). Havkin’s products are also sold in Great Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, with plans to further develop the global market.

“Today, I sent out packages to Ireland, Canada, Senegal, and China,” the company’s export manager and Shiri’s brother, Ariel Nishri, told ISRAEL21c. The Havkin multi-lingual website (www.Havkin.net) appears in Hebrew, English, French, and Spanish; Russian and Arabic will be added soon; and other languages will be added in the future.

Havkin’s Rich Moisturizing Cream with Geranium and Lavender was chosen as Product of the Month on Israelshop.com, the largest Israeli products portal on the net. The skin care product is used to retain the skin’s oils, restore its suppleness, and protect the skin from oxidation and aging. (As a bonus, buyers can chose a natural soap. Green tea and vitamin C, or ylang-ylang and patchouli are among the choices.) Other Havkin products are also featured on the site.

Among the company’s happy repeat buyers, and lifestyle enthusiasts is US/Israel journalist Phyllis Glazer: “The Havkin moisturizing oil reminds me of the heavenly oils of Decleor, but is much better by far.”

Shiri Havkin credits the family’s former au pair, Georgette Erez, a successful businesswoman, who saw the potential in the family enterprise, invested in the company and has helped it move forward. The company has outsourced some production, but plans to build a new production plant in Rosh Pina later this year to meet the growing demand.

Her mother Drora, a popular singer and composer in Israel (contemporary pop stars still sing her songs), made a dramatic career switch when she was diagnosed with cancer, and found that plants seemed to have a positive healing effect and could help her recovery. To be closer to nature, she decided to walk off the stage and move to the clean, quiet village of Rosh Pina.

“She had over 200 herbs in her garden–over 40 varieties of lavender, and 20 varieties of basil,” said Nishri, recalling his mother’s verdant enterprise.

“She read a lot and consulted with many experts, and learned the folklore of medicinal herbs. From the experts, she got seedlings with which she would experiment. She started cooking different mixtures in the kitchen, and would give them to friends to try. They kept coming back for more,” he said.

Drora’s fascination (she called it an agricultural romance) with her spice and herb garden continued a family heritage.

“We traced a long tradition going back 200 years ago to family in Mogilev, Belarus, who brewed remedies for itches, aches, scratches, and acted as village doctors. One family member (Dr. Waldemar Mordechai Haffkin), a bacteriologist who worked in Pasteur’s lab in 1897, developed the cholera vaccine,” said Nishri. “Drora’s grandfather, Nathan Ben Zion Havkin, an inventor, was a pioneer of the world vegetarian movement. When he moved to Jerusalem in 1921, he began the Palestine/Israel Vegetarian Foundation. A somewhat quirky guy, he grew his own food, sewed his own clothes, and rode a horse everywhere. My mother used to visit him in his garden.”

Drora plunged into the task of learning about and growing natural herbs in 1984. She worked ten hours a day in her garden. “Interaction with the plant world supplies the intangible inner energy that lets the body work to heal itself,” she commented.

“For many people, she became a guru, giving advice on holistic medicine, as well as candid advise on the need for a new lifestyle,” said Nishri. She chronicled her own change of lifestyle in Spices and Medicinal Herbs, published in 1995, a history of folklore, plants and herbs native to the Middle East. The beautifully illustrated book, published by the Ministry of Defense, describes 50 spices and herbs, gives tips on growing, their medicinal use, and recipes. It was a surprise best-seller, and is still selling every day. An English edition is pending.

Shiri Havkin, like her mother, whose work she took over when her mother died of a heart attack, is very attuned to a holistic approach. A Bach Flowers practitioner, she favors nature’s remedies – “use the garden as your pharmacy,” she says – and uses feng shui to create calm and positive energies in her home.

Shiri lives with her three sons, ages 7, 9, and 13 in a one hundred year old stone house in Rosh Pina. The window and doorframes are still turquoise, the color her mother had them painted when she moved in. The stream that Madonna covets flows though the acre of land where Drora spent over ten years experimenting with herbs and spices she grew in her own garden.

Havkin products are made from high quality natural ingredients and do not contain any added fragrance, color or alcohol. “Our products and their packaging were selected with eco-preservation in mind.” And as expected, the company supports the battle against animal testing.

A visitor to the Havkin shop and garden in Rosh Pina not only gets a chance to enjoy the wonderful scents and aromas from natural herbs – sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender – and try the superior all-natural skincare and cosmetic products already commercialized, they also get a chance to try products in the pipeline. Teas with medicinal benefits, ointments (for headaches, hemorrhoids, hernia, muscle pains), a line of baby products, and a Spa Line are all in the works.

Shiri Havkin is very excited about the Spa Line which will be launched in two months. “We use a unique combination of six or seven medicinal herbs, a bouquet. The scent is good for the soul. There is nothing like it.”

“Drora Havkin had so many ideas. We just have to get the recipes out of the drawer. Development and commercialization are moving fast now. The fruits of my mother’s labor are taking on their own energy,” said Shiri.


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