Austrian-born hairstylist who went on to found Aveda, a company whose pledge to eliminate toxic chemicals from its products helped give rise to a vast market for so-called natural cosmetics in the United States.
He started Aveda in 1978, when making fragrances and hair-care products from herbs and other plants was widely seen as an ephemeral pursuit, doomed to vanish with the receding tide of the counterculture. He made batches of his first product, a clove shampoo, in his kitchen sink in Minneapolis.
By 1997, when he sold the company to Estée Lauder for a reported $300 million, Mr. Rechelbacher had “put natural cosmetics on the map in the United States.”
After selling Aveda, Mr. Rechelbacher started a new company, Intelligent Nutrients, to produce cosmetics with organic ingredients. He grew most of the ingredients on his 570-acre organic farm in Osceola, Wisconsin.
At 14, facing diminished opportunities in Austria after World War II, Horst was apprenticed to a local hairdresser’s shop. He proved talented; by 17, he was working in a hair salon in Rome. After that, he moved to salons in London and then New York, where in the early 1960s an employer began entering him in hairstyling competitions organized by trade groups.
Mr. Rechelbacher was attending a competition in Minneapolis in 1965 when he was seriously injured in a car accident. After a six-month recovery, he decided to settle there and open a salon. It grew to become a small chain known as Horst & Friends.
His childhood interest in herbal medicine was rekindled in 1970 by an Indian guru he had met in Minneapolis when he attended his lecture on the ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine, which uses herbs and plants. (The name Aveda was derived from the Sanskrit word Ayurveda, which means “science of life.”)
Mr. Rechelbacher is survived by his wife, Kiran Stordalen; two children from a previous marriage, Nicole Thomas and Peter Rechelbacher; and four grandchildren.