You are a
skin care purist.
And quite frankly, you can’t get half way through the list of ingredients on your lotion before running across a word you can’t even pronounce. Fortunately, in a world where a host of icky, long-syllabled chemicals have invaded your beauty regime, Paul and Peggy Lieber have your back. This is the story of how they founded Royal Labs Natural Cosmetics – with a single mixer, a dream, and the will to build something spectacular.
Royal Labs Natural Cosmetics formulates products for hundreds of companies worldwide, many of which are name brands you know and use every day. If it’s a natural or organic product in your cosmetics case, Royal Labs probably made it on Johns Island, South Carolina.
Peggy Lieber grew up in a remote part of Ecuador, where natural remedies were part of everyday wellness. “It’s easy for me to create from nature,” Peggy explains. “Growing up, I saw and experienced first-hand the healing power of plants, herbs, and flowers.” When Peggy was 13, her family moved to Connecticut. In their town, Paul’s family owned a health food store. One day, their hands brushed over two pounds of organic soybeans. As is only fitting for such instances, the two were soul mates.
Clean means clean.
This was the ‘70s, when aerosol hairspray was king and nothing about your mauve lipstick was natural. A purist at heart, Paul recognized that the personal care industry needed more products containing natural ingredients. “I would read the labels on the ‘natural’ skin care products in our health food store and find that the majority of their ingredients weren’t actually natural,” explains Paul. “Sure they contained some botanicals, but they were far from healthy.” As a health advocate and someone to whom his customers would look for recommendations on healthful products, Paul was conflicted.
At the age of 21, and newly married, the couple began research and development for a natural cosmetics line. For their time, they might have well announced intents to stroll around the Sun. “Our parents thought we were crazy because we were doing something that nobody cared about at the time,” recalls Paul. But the couple was curious about the natural world around them: how some plants were able to stay green for so long; how different natural extracts interacted; and how nature could be used to preserve youth.
On a Mission
Equipped with a dream to always work together, a gram scale, and a mixer donated by Peggy’s parents, Paul and Peggy founded Royal Labs Natural Cosmetics, and developed their first skin care line, Aroma Bella.
A skin aesthetician by trade, Peggy opened a skin care clinic and spa where she used Aroma Bella products during facial treatments, providing her with the opportunity to receive immediate feedback on the effects that her products had on various skin types.
“We knew that getting direct feedback from people was the best way to see, over time, how skin can be improved with the use of natural ingredients,” recalls Peggy.
“There were no case studies at the time. There were no standards. We were pioneers of completely uncharted territory, and so it became our mission to figure out how to bring natural into the mainstream.”
“We knew that because our products were natural, we had to work even harder to achieve the results of mass market luxury products,” explains Peggy.
“Our products are competing with toxic colors, Propylene Glycol, PEG, TEA, Parabens, and Phenoxyethanol, to name just of a few of the questionable ingredients that give conventional skin care products that ‘feel good’ factor.” In mass-market lotions, for instance, silicones are widely used to help give a silky smooth feel – to give the impression of supple, hydrated skin. “Our rules are simple:If the functional goal is to moisturize, then our aim is to reach that goal without compromising the integrity of ingredients, nor the experience of overall enjoyment.
By creating products that could appeal to mass-market expectations, the Liebers knew they were positioned to achieve a bigger picture goal: to build a legacy of natural living. “Synthetic and toxic ingredients in personal care products negatively impact not only our immune systems, but also our rivers and our oceans, notes Peggy. “Not adding to this problem is a personal goal that I strive to achieve every time I put on my lab coat.” In 1986, the couple fell for the charms of Charleston, South Carolina during a family vacation. Realizing their dream could work anywhere, they packed up and moved their 3 children to Kiawah Island. “Above all else, we wanted healthy living for our family, and Charleston really spoke to our values.”
By 2000, the green movement took off and so did Royal Labs. By this time, awareness of the harmful impact of parabens, SLS, phthalates, and other chemicals used often in mainstream personal care products began rising to the surface. “We were right there waiting to catch the wave,” explains Peggy. “Not only that, but we were way ahead of other formulators who hadn’t yet discovered how to create truly natural products. Our vision, and our commitment to that vision, positioned us to lead the way.”
Throughout the years, the Liebers have created their own in-house brands, including their flagship, Deep Steep, a luxurious collection of bath & body care products that feature high quality botanicals, fragrances, and natural ingredients. “Our brands are an expression of the level of quality we have been able to attain in our formulations,” says Peggy. “We use them, our children use them, and our grandchildren use them.”
The Liebers work from the dream campus they built for Royal Labs in 2005. Situated on 16 acres of lush land, complete with an on-site luxury day spa – the Cottage Aroma Bella – and an 85,000 sq. ft. FDA/USDA registered laboratory, Labs is capable of producing millions of units per year.
“Worldwide, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are the fastest growing segments of the cosmetics industry – by far,” says Peggy. “People are looking for ways to take better care of themselves, and that’s very exciting for us.”
“The more that people become educated about the ingredients in their personal care products, the more they are demanding that those products be clean and safe,” says Paul. “As a world-class manufacturer, we believe that we have a responsibility to set an example for how making natural more mainstream can benefit everyone.”
But as a couple who revolutionized the cosmetics industry – without even realizing it – Paul and Peggy and remarkably humble. After all, it’s what you would expect from a couple that brushed hands, and lived happily ever after, over soybeans.