Natural cosmetics pioneer Rachel Perry passed away on March 13, 2016, after complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. From 1977 to 2010, her company, Rachel Perry Inc., provided holistic skin care products that combined aromatherapy, natural ingredients, and color therapy through their eye-catching labels and designs. Perry was also a devoted environmentalist and animal rights activist who promoted sustainable harvesting techniques and rainforest preservation.
Born Carol Solat in New York City, Perry’s family moved to Hollywood, California, when she was seven. As a teen, Perry decided to pursue a career in the music industry and began working for Coty Inc., a cosmetics company, to support herself. Through her work in cosmetics, she began to learn about dermatology and the chemistry of skin care, and saw promising results from natural and herbal preparations.
“I spend a great amount of my time studying books on dermatology, chemistry, and natural chemistry,” Perry was quoted as saying in an Awareness Magazine article.1 “I am always keeping up on the latest finds in health and nutrition because if it is good for the body, why not the skin?”
Working as a cosmetologist, Perry began teaching skin care classes and formulating her own recipes for facial scrubs in her kitchen. Her all-natural formulations were tested by her friends and students in conventional and unconventional ways. “One of my favorite memories is from back in the late 60s, when she was living in Laurel Canyon [Los Angeles] and conjuring up potions in her kitchen,” recalled longtime friend Jorjana Kellaway (email to M. Blumenthal, June 1, 2016). “[Her boyfriend] got hungry in the middle of the night and got up to rummage through her refrigerator. In the morning, she was mortified to find that he had eaten a whole jar of her sea kelp facial scrub on crackers!”
Perry’s students encouraged her to form her own line, which was originally called Potions Eternal and became Rachel Perry Inc. in 1977. The products’ eye-catching packaging, with bold, bright colors and art-deco inspired label designs, followed what Perry called “Radiant Light Color Therapy,” with each color aligning to one of the seven chakras. Each product also had soothing aromatherapeutic qualities, ensuring user engagement even before the product was applied.
“I was always very impressed by her personal excitement when expressing concepts and ideas she had for new skin care products,” said Stephen Sturm of Threshold Enterprises (email, June 22, 2016). “I can still see the twinkle in her eyes when she would ask me to try a new creation that was still in the development stage. She created many innovative and exceptional products long before our industry had anything notable to offer.”
The holistic quality of Perry’s line was influenced by her love of music, as well. “To add to the phenomenon, natural and organic fragrance chemistry describes all aromas (scents/essences) as being made up of the top notes, middle notes, and bottom notes,” Perry told Awareness Magazine. “This most certainly correlates to musical notes and chords as well as specific colors and fusions of color.”
Perry, who was a member of the Rainforest Network, later introduced a line inspired by rainforest preservation that used only sustainably harvested rainforest products, the proceeds of which funded conservation efforts. In recognition of her achievements, Perry was a recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Small Business Administration and appeared on the cover of the first issue of Entrepreneurial Woman.
In addition to her achievements in skin care and cosmetics, she earned a gold record for writing the song “Fine, Fine Day.” The song was recorded by Roberta Flack and debuted on her 1977 album Blue Lights in the Basement.
“She was intelligent, creative, dynamic, energetic, effervescent, and brilliant,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, and whose former herb company in Austin, Texas, was an early distributor of Perry’s cosmetic line in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “One of the interesting and inspiring aspects of the natural products business is the quality of people who are attracted to it. I never met anyone like Rachel. She was one of a kind!”
Rachel Perry is survived by her husband, pianist and songwriter Jon Mayer.
- Walburger K. Rachel Perry Reveals Secrets of Reversing the Aging Process of Your Face! Awareness Magazine. March/April 2002. Available at: www.awarenessmag.com/marapr2/ma2_rachel_perry.html. Accessed June 16, 2016.