Fashion / Beauty

Lawyer Turned Health Warrior Launches an Online Store That Makes Clean Living Easy

Houston Mom Knew She Had to Do Something

BY // 09.13.17
photography Megan Tipps

There’s no stopping Estela Cockrell. Fiercely determined and armed with a legal background, she not only restored her own health when faced with numerous and complex health issues but also purified her family’s lifestyle after discovering the shocking number of chemicals and harmful ingredients contained in everyday products. Now she seeks to make it easier for anyone to purify theirs, too, with her new beauty e-commerce site, — an online boutique, of sorts, for clean and curated beauty, skincare, and home products.

Cockrell’s health journey began 20 years ago, when she started having medical issues and began treatment at MD Anderson for a blood disorder. Things escalated after the birth of her first child, now 11, when her heart rate inexplicably and quickly elevated.

“After that, I knew I needed to get serious, especially now that I was a mother. You have to be your own advocate and your family’s advocate,” she says during a lunch of gluten-free, dairy-free soup in the kitchen of her stunning Frank Welch-designed, Content Architecture-renovated modern home in Pine Shadows.

Since then, she has dealt with an alarming list of medical conditions stemming from allergies, autoimmune disorders, Celiac disease, a blood disorder, and even Lyme disease.

You would never know Cockrell was sick by looking at her. The beautiful 41-year old brunette could be seen smiling for the camera at an MD Anderson benefit in Aspen (where she and her husband, David, and their two sons once lived full-time and now live part of the year), hitting the tennis courts with friends, sitting front row at a Burberry fashion show in London, or attending meetings for Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Aspen Art Museum, Houston Methodist, MDACC, Yellowstone Academy, Life House Houston, Free the Captives, and Houston Grand Opera. But, in reality, she was physically struggling.

Cockrell spent years flying across the country, visiting specialists and doctors including Gwyneth Paltrow’s cleanse guru, Dr. Alejandro Junger. During this physically and emotionally wrought period, she tried seemingly every food-elimination diet and cleanse, detoxed her family’s microenvironment by installing water- and air-purification systems, and scrutinized their skincare, wellness, and home products in a quest to improve her family’s health.

What Cockrell learned about everyday products shocked her. Almost all of her daily moisturizers, sunscreens, shampoos, soaps — you name it — brimmed with chemicals banned in other countries, such as carcinogens and hormone disrupters.

Transparency was another issue. Many toxins aren’t listed on labels, nor are they required to be by a governmental regulatory body. A food allergy is quite simply an allergy, and your body absorbs products applied to your skin like it does food you ingest. “When you have a gluten intolerance and you use shampoo with gluten in it, no wonder you have dandruff — your body is allergic to it!” she says.

Performing thorough and extremely detailed research is ingrained in the former litigator’s work style. After learning that the U.S. has extremely lenient standards when it comes to chemicals in everyday beauty, skincare, and cleaning products, she researched the safest products for her family. She found a gap in the marketplace: the lack of an aesthetically pleasing, easily navigable website with a culled offering of effective, affordable, and safe products from multiple manufacturers. She knew she had the resources and motivation to create such a site.

Cockrell tapped a team of professors from University of Texas to help her formulate a list of standards to adhere to and ingredients to avoid in the products available on her site, Switch2Pure. Dubbed The Purist List, the site lists 27 ingredients Switch2Pure seeks to avoid, including Boric acid, retinols, parabens, oxybenzone, phthalates, and synthetic dyes. On the list of what Switch2Pure likes to see are transparent labels, paraben-free, cruelty-free, nontoxic chemicals, organic components, GMO-free, clean alternatives, pure, simple efficacious ingredient lists, natural and safe preservatives, gluten-free or no gluten indicated, essential oils, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar.

Cockrell hopes her website will be particularly helpful to fellow autoimmune and allergy sufferers and also cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

“No one wants to spend hours doing research, trying to figure out what products may be harmful to them,” she says. “I’ve done the work for you. If I can be a source of light for someone in such a dark spot, and help someone to not worry about just one other thing, that is huge for me.”

She hopes that individuals without any of those ailments are encouraged to make the switch to a pure and clean lifestyle, as well.

Burberry sculptural coat $2,795, and knitted boot with sculpted heel $925, both at the Burberry boutique, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, NET-A-PORTER.
Burberry sculptural coat $2,795, and knitted boot with sculpted heel $925, both at the Burberry boutique, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, NET-A-PORTER.

The selected offerings on Switch2Pure are scientifically verified products that thankfully do not sacrifice luxury or effectiveness. In addition to individual products, Switch2Pure will have kits, gift kits (for babies, new moms, teens, cancer patients, detoxers, autoimmune sufferers), and a bimonthly subscription package. The site launches this month, and Cockrell will host pop-up shops in select cities for clients to touch and feel the products in person.

“We are your obsessively informed, research-backed, label scrutinizing, product enthusiasts that hope to inspire and simplify your Switch2Pure,” she says.

The Natural Beauty High

After our photo shoot, Estela Cockrell brought out some of the products offered on Switch2Pure, including Au Naturale, Agent Nateur, Amaki, Suntegrity, and Houston-based naturopathic brand Source Vital. Our photographer, creative director, makeup artist, and intern alike all felt like teenagers again, with a big sister of sorts showing us her magical world of natural and effective cosmetics and skincare products. She explained the benefits of seaweed and algae-based skincare products and talked about her obsession with coconut oil.

The products felt and smelled amazing, and makeup artist was deeply impressed with the effectiveness and pigment in the makeup brands. Cockrell’s passion for a switch to pure is deeply infectious — and far more than skin-deep.

Art direction for this story was done by Michelle Aviña. Hair and makeup Chad Landry. Editorial assistant Ashley Cooley.

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