Michelle Hillis knew she wanted to work in natural medicine after researching the side effects of prescription drugs while working at the University of Washington. After subsequently attending medical school and becoming a general practitioner, she knew she wanted to hone in on the skin when patient after patient showed up in her office with complaints of eczema, acne, psoriasis and other skin irritations.
“It really made an impact on me because I saw how it affected their daily life. A lot of times patients felt held back and didn’t want to do everyday things because they didn’t feel comfortable in their own skin,” Hillis says.
“Furthermore, I found a lot of patients’ skin conditions were being exacerbated by certain skin products, everyday products—lotions, makeup, soaps. Really, I saw it on a very regular basis.”
That’s when she closed her practice to focus on easing people’s skin troubles full-time. But she didn’t want to do so in a clinical setting. “I decided it should be something helpful for daily life, something people use every day and something people could easily access—that was really important to me.”
So about three years ago Hillis began making organic soaps and room sprays in her kitchen, and now her company, Tate Naturals, has grown by leaps and bounds. Recently, her soap was featured in Mantra magazine as one of their “best natural skincare products.” And she has been asked to attend national events regarding natural health, including a fund-raiser for thyroid cancer with Jill Zarin of The Real Housewives of New York City in July.
Her soaps and room sprays—free of sulfates, parabens, dyes and synthetic fragrances—have also appeared in self-care subscription boxes and are available in various boutiques and stores around the Pacific Northwest. Hillis is currently in discussion with a few large national chain stores, which she hopes will help take the accessibility of products to the next level.
But outside of sales or commercial success, she says the real pride comes when she hears stories of her products relieving people of their skin issues. “The most rewarding thing has been having people tell me they feel better, their skin feels better. Several people who use the soap say they’ve seen their children’s eczema or acne improve,” Hillis says.
She credits the effectiveness of the soap to the ingredients, which are simple and thought to restore a natural balance to the skin.
“Instead of stripping oil from the skin with chemicals, we’ve combined natural plant oils and essential oils. Our combinations do three things—cleanse the skin, nourish the skin and soothe it. The products are gentle, but your skin will feel nourished instead of being tight and itchy from other products,” Hillis says.
For more information, please visit tatenaturals.com.