Rachael’s weight loss — from 200 down to 120 — “was a lot of work and took a lot of time. I had to go through lots of trial and error before I discovered what was causing my body to retain the weight, and then more time to clean up the diet and lifestyle and get back on track. Sixty of those pounds came off in the last year. It would have taken far less time if I had a health coach to guide me through the process! This is one of the reasons I do this type of work.”

by Barbara Sherf

A ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo in Rachael Pontillo’s brochure for her company Holistically Haute™ is a proven method for turning non-believers into believers.

A board-certified holistic health practitioner and licensed aesthetician, the Flourtown resident teaches classes about natural skin care from the inside out and outside in.

On Nov. 7 and Dec. 8, Pontillo will again be offering her “Make Your Own All-Natural, Organic Skin Care” classes through the Mt. Airy Learning Tree (MALT).

She will also be offering classes at Boomer U., an adult community education organization in Ambler, similar to the Center on the Hill in Chestnut Hill. She will be teaching classes there in the winter and next spring of 2013, as well as online and tele-classes on skincare, health and wellness.

When she isn’t teaching, she is working one-on-one with individuals, as well as in groups, to help them achieve their health and wellness goals. “I typically meet with someone twice a month over a six-month period to get them on track with eating the right foods, eliminating chemicals and additives from their lives where possible and motivating them to get in shape,” she said.

During her July MALT class at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, Pontillo gave a 20-minute introductory talk about how and why to choose natural skin care. She then directed the group over to her army of basic ingredients set up on the kitchen island.

West Mount Airy resident Myrna Crawford offered to stir the bubbling concoctions while Pontillo discussed the ingredients and supplies and then provided recommendations for where to purchase them. Crawford was a walking testimonial for the class following the two-hour session.

“I really liked the class. I wasn’t satisfied going to CVS and looking at the ingredients in the products, many of which I couldn’t pronounce, and then paying a high price. I had a bad reaction to one of the products off the shelf. I am so excited about seeing what I can make at home without all of the chemicals,” Crawford said at the conclusion of the session.

Some of the raw materials can be purchased at specialty stores like Whole Foods and Weavers Way, while others are available from online suppliers. “I purchase my raw products from Mountain Rose Herbs and doTERRA®,” she added, giving each attendee a bag filled with the catalogs and samples of the products demonstrated in class.

Some examples of the natural ingredients used in the products include castile soap, distilled water, aloe vera gel, essential oils and beeswax. “If you know someone who has beehives, that’s great. They can supply you with raw beeswax,“ she noted, adding that if you purchase beeswax, it’s best to get it in small pastilles or chunks instead of block form. “It’s just easier to handle and melts faster.”

Pontillo discussed the potential hazards associated with several commonly used chemical ingredients. She told her audience that anything that has perfume/synthetic fragrance in it can be a potential allergen. “About 80 percent of irritant and allergic skin reactions can be traced back to synthetic fragrance ingredients,” she said. “You want to look for fragrance-free and also look for pure botanical extracts and essential oils that will be listed on labels by their Latin names.”

The skin cleanser, moisturizer and lip balm made in the class, for example, contained no synthetic preservatives. “You should really use this up in two months and keep it in a cool, dry place away from the sun. You can store products longer if you refrigerate them.”

She also urged the group to use distilled water instead of regular tap water. “It’s very important. Basically when a huge pot of water is boiled and the steam is collected and the collected steam water is considered distilled or sterilized, it is in its purest form without the presence of contaminants or micro-organisms.”

Pontillo’s passion for holistic skin care, health and wellness comes from her own personal experience of developing acne at a very young age, which persisted through the years even into adulthood. She also gained 80 pounds after her second pregnancy and was up to 200.

“I didn’t want to be on antibiotics or steroids for the acne for any length of time, so I started experimenting with my diet and some of the products I was using. By eating the right foods and avoiding processed food and chemicals where possible, my skin cleared up, and I lost the baby weight.”

Pontillo grew up in Hillsdale, NJ, a suburb of New York City, and has been in the Philadelphia area since 1997, when she attended Philadelphia University (then Textile). She then enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City to earn a holistic health coaching certification, and she started her company 18 months ago. She is also a certified Reiki practitioner, certified Wull Stone Therapist and holds additional certifications in detoxification and Ayurveda. Her Nov. 7 session will be held at the Unitarian Society of Germantown from 7 to 9 p.m. The Dec. 8 session will be held the Unitarian Society of Germantown from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, visit www.mtairylearningtree.org or www.holisticallyhautewellness.com.