Caroline Thonon knows all too well that the wrong beauty regimen can be hazardous to your health. In 2010, the certified health coach began suffering from inexplicable fatigue. After a medical exam, she was shocked to learn that her liver was swollen from arsenic poisoning. At the time, Thonon lived in a Punta Gorda home surrounded by orange groves, and she had a suspicion that she had somehow ingested toxic chemicals sprayed nearby. But that was quickly ruled out after an analysis of the weed killer.
Determined to solve the mystery, Thonon sought a homeopathic doctor who recommended eliminating coffee, water and certain foods from her diet. But no matter what she removed, the arsenic remained in her system. Finally, her doctor asked: “What are you putting on your body?” Thonon reviewed the ingredients in a body cream she applied daily from her shoulders to her toes and finally discovered the arsenic, which was listed under the guise of a Latin name.
Today, the 60-year-old Thonon tirelessly educates her clients about the harmful chemicals that are often used in mainstream products. She has filled Beautiful Health, the Liberty Plaza wellness boutique and spa she opened in September 2019, with highly vetted skin, body, nail and hair care, as well as aromatherapy, water purification and cleaning products. There’s also a section devoted to carefully curated specialty items like Innersense organic shampoos and conditioners; Naturopathica chemical-free cleansers and toners; and Jane Iredale nontoxic lipsticks and tinted moisturizers.
Long before Thonon was obsessively studying labels, she was focused on business. Born in Belgium, she attended high school and college in Switzerland and enrolled in an affiliate program with her school to attend the University of Dallas, Texas, for her master’s degree in international marketing and management. “It was eye opening for me to see the kind of possibilities a woman has at 22 years old here in the States, which you do not have in Europe,” she says. After graduation, she returned to Belgium, got married and started a family. But, because she wanted her two daughters to grow up with all the opportunities available in America, the family moved to a “dream house on the water with a boat” in Punta Gorda in 1997.
While Thonon appreciated how limitless her children’s options are here, she was disappointed to discover how limited this country’s regulations are with regard to harmful ingredients used by the beauty industry. When she opened a high-end, European-style day spa and salon in downtown Punta Gorda called Spago Day Spa in 2002, she regularly ordered inventory without thinking about whether the ingredients were natural. It wasn’t until a few years later when she found the arsenic in her body lotion that she began educating herself about the chemicals used in the manufacturing of so many serums, elixirs and creams. “In Europe, we have 1,400 or more ingredients we cannot put in skin or body care,” says Thonon. “In America, there are 11.”
She came to find that just like with food, if products contain ingredients with long, hard-to-pronounce names, they’re to be avoided. She advises her clients to pay attention to expiration dates—products with a 20-year shelf life are likely made with alcohol or preservatives. Thonon also began studying the effects of stress on the body and found they can be just as toxic as chemicals.
In an effort to combat her own stress, she made some changes designed to help her slow down. She sold the day spa in Punta Gorda, and then moved to Naples in 2016 with plans to retire. But the retirement was short-lived, thanks in part to a hankering for pressed juice. On a trip to Juicelation in Liberty Plaza, Thonon ran into the property’s owner who told her the place next door was going to be available. Energized by the possibilities, she rented the space and opened Beautiful Health with the mission to spread her particular brand of wellness to the people of Naples and beyond. “I always thought, I needed to share my awareness about all the chemicals hiding in plain sight,” she says. “And now, I love when my clients start to see the results they can get with natural ingredients.”