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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Personal Care Products That Mother Nature Would Applaud : Trillium Organics Locally Made Formulations That Began in a Bailey's Harbor Kitchen.

Dec 04, 2011 11:21AM ● By Linda Sechrist

Who amongst us hasn’t tried a safe and gentle natural rem­edy as a solution to a minor discomfort: baking soda for heartburn, chamomile tea for a restful night’s sleep, or Epsom salts for sore muscles. It was the lack of harmful side effects to common-sense home remedies like these that first drew Karen Ciesar, founder of Trillium Organics, to comb through her collection of home remedy books searching for natural recipes to use in personal care products. “My friends and I still get a kick out of paging through my home library where we always find formulas for preparations that our mothers and grandmoth­ers used,” says Ciesar. Her Organic Body Polish, which took four years of ground-level product formulation and person-to-person product testing to perfect, was the first salt scrub formulated and packaged for home use at a national level. Unfortunately, her application for a utility patent for her USDA Certified recipe was refused. “You would think that my law degree would have been good for something,” jokes Ciesar, who started Trillium Organics in 1995.

Karen Ciesar
Karen Ciesar
Prior to her first pregnancy in 1994, Ciesar was a social justice attorney who advocated for women’s rights in the workplace, as well as an activist involved in numerous wom­en’s issues. During her pregnancy she studied to be a mid­wife, which introduced her to the world of the herbalist. “I was intrigued with how women were once deeply connected to the Earth and herbal formulas were passed down through generations. Regrettably, our society stopped honoring that wisdom and handed over preparation of personal care items to commercial manufacturers much in the same way as the preparation of our food, and, with similar negative results,” explains Ciesar. “Next to processed foods and prescription drugs, I believe that commercially made personal and skin­care products are major contributors to the body’s toxicity.”

It wasn’t just being a new mom that convinced Ciesar that her legal career was no longer her passion. The loss of two grandmothers to breast cancer and the fact that no re­tailer carried even one baby-care product that didn’t contain either cancerous or incomprehensible ingredients, tipped the scales in favor of Ciesar becoming part of a greener, cleaner, and better solution in personal care products.

“I had already spent so much time on research and had such an avid interest in non-toxic solutions for cleansing, moisturizing, and protecting the skin that it was a natural leap,” recalls the enthusiastic entrepreneur. Her one-woman

business that began with an organic body polish made in a rustic cabin in Bailey’s Harbor, now has six employees. Its longer list of organic offerings, which includes botani­cal perfume roll-ons and baby-care products, even gets exported to exotic places like Dubai, United Arab Emirates and China.

Trillium Organics continues to advocate for the rights of individuals to care for them­selves in a safe manner while supporting the Earth for future generations. It was one of the first signers of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.

Since its inception the Trillium Organics formulation philosophy has never changed. “We exclusively use ingredi­ents which have an evolutionarily significant history of safe and beneficial use by humans,” notes Ciesar. “And, our cold pressed oils and therapeutic-grade essential oils and botani­cals, which are beneficial to the skin and safe for the health of the whole body, are certified organic.”

Unlike the majority of conventional personal care products, Trillium products are made by hand, contain no preservatives, and are not made from ingredients that enhance the performance of the product to the detriment of the skin and body. “The modern shelf-life expectation for personal care products is upwards of seven years,” advises Ciesar, who explains that this long period is achieved through using broad spectrum anti-microbials such as parabens, phenoxyethanol or other alcohols.

According to the Journal of Applied Toxicology 2004, parabens have been linked to human breast tumors. Phenoxyethanol and other alcohols ultimately dry the skin. And all anti-microbials, by design, kill micro-flora in the lo­tion. When applied to the skin, they destroy the skin’s surface micro-flora. The acid mantle, or outermost layer of epidermis, is host to a plethora of beneficial micro-flora that exists in balance to support healthy function of the skin. The use of preservatives disturbs this balance.

“In my opinion, we’ve all been part of a big experiment in personal care. Products that we’ve been using since the 1930s were found to be toxic in the `70s,” muses Ciesar. “It’s time to go back to the basics; the ones that Mother Nature provides.”

Location: 185 E. Walnut St., Sturgeon Bay. For more information, call 920-746-5207 or 800-734-7253 or visit

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