Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: this post might be controversial. I’m going to talk about some touchy subjects, but I’m trying to bring some transparency and enlightenment into the world. If you’re a regular reader, you know I don’t normally post like this and pretty soon we will be back to our regularly scheduled programming. If you’re new to my blog, stick around and read a few other posts. Normally, I’m posting about happy-go-lucky, informative (if a bit long-winded) stuff. If you have really passionate feelings about anything in this post, feel free to comment. However, any comments should be made in a polite and respectful manner with no cussing or name-calling. It’s okay if you disagree with me or anyone else, but let’s keep it civil. So what’s all this brouhaha about? Five Things You NEED to Know on the Beautycounter Launch at Target.
Target is pretty awesome. Women can always count on it to be a one stop shop for everything from groceries to cute shoes. Like most big box stores, I usually can’t leave without spending money. But at Target, they always have the cutest stuff so I can’t leave without spending at least $200! They are known for exclusive collaborations with awesome creators like fashion designers, interior decorators and celebrity lines.
Beautycounter is their latest exclusive launch. Beautycounter’s mission is “to get safer products into the hands of everyone”, so they created a “The Never List,” a compilation of 1,500 ingredients, including parabens, formaldehyde and mercury, that the brand will never use when making it’s products. That’s great, right? Yes, if that were the end of the story. You know I love supporting safe products. In fact, I was looking up the launch date to put into my calendar when I found all the information I’m about to share with you. So, let’s rip off the proverbial band-aid, shall we?
Direct Sales or Multi-Level Marketing
The first thing that caught my eye when I started reading some reviews from other green bloggers was that apparently Beautycounter is a multi-level marketing company. If you want the rundown on MLMs, I really loved Janny Organically’s post. But if you ask a Beautycounter consultant, they would say they are absolutely not multi-level marketing, but a “direct sales company”. The Beautycounter site says: ” We are a member of the Direct Selling Association (DSA), a national trade organization of the leading firms that manufacture and distribute goods and services sold directly to consumers.” If you look at DSA’s member listing, I think you might find several other companies that are “direct sales”, like: Advocare, Amway, Arbonne, Jamberry, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, and Young Living. All of these are well known as multi-level marketing companies. A rose by any other name…
Now, are all MLMs inherently bad? NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT! I have a multitude of friends that are distributors, consultants or representatives for MLMs. They are committed to selling a product they believe in that you can get exclusively through them or other consultants. But the truth is, MLMs are not usually a good business investment. According to an independent study report by the FTC: “…less than 1% of MLM participants profit. MLM makes even gambling look like a safe bet in comparison.” Ouch. I was even a card-carrying seller with an MLM, whose products I loved (and still do), but how their organization treated me almost cost me this whole blog and a whole lot more. Again, there are long-running MLM companies that are very generous and I have several friends who have been very successful. I don’t want to discount those in any way, but those successes are the exception. If you keep reading I think you’ll agree that Beautycounter is not one of those exceptions.
Safety & Semantics
So let’s go back to what initially drew my eye: Beautycounter’s commitment to products with safe ingredients. They have a list of over 1,500 ingredients that they promise to never use. They regularly pour over all sorts of studies and even commission some of their own to examine ingredients for toxicity. That’s awesome. But that’s not the whole story.
They don’t claim to be all-natural, “Over 80% of the ingredients in our products are organic, natural or plant derived. The others are synthetic…but that doesn’t mean that they are unsafe.” I get it. To mass-produce things economically and safely, you often have to include synthetic preservatives to make sure your products don’t spoil and kill someone. That is always my answer when a reader asks why I don’t sell my own products. And I’ve said time and again (most recently in my Detoxified Makeup post) that natural skincare is not an all or nothing process. Any little step helps in the journey towards a healthier life. To foster transparency, Beautycounter even provides a complete glossary of their ingredients. But they still use some ingredients where the “safety” is questionable and the skin irritation is confirmed, like Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, and Sodium Benzoate. Phenoxyethanol has been on a lot of other companies’ “black list” for longer than Beautycounter has even existed. You say Pa-tay-toe, I say Po-tah-toe.
And as for their “guarantee” of safety, read that last paragraph in this graphic. —–> It says they actually can’t guarantee that trace amounts of ingredients on their “never list” won’t actually end up in their final products due to supply chain complexities. So, they can pour over safety studies about an ingredients’ toxicity, and even commission their own when they want to know more about that ingredient to see if they need to add it to the never list or use it in their product. But what they can’t do is test their own products at the end of the line for said ingredients before they get to consumers? Putting together a list of banned ingredients you won’t intentionally add is useless if you don’t actually guarantee those ingredients aren’t in your products!
Natural and Effective
Digging a little deeper into the subject of the ingredients they use, I searched several times for the specifics of their “organic, natural or plant-derived” ingredients. I love plant-derived ingredients y’all and I wanted to know all about the skin goodies in their products. But, I could not find details anywhere (even that handy ingredient glossary) on which of their ingredients were organic, whether the ingredients were raw, unfiltered, processed, cold pressed, expeller pressed or steam distilled. I even did a page search on several of these terms on the ingredient page: “Organic” occurred zero times, as did “pressed”, “steamed”, “processed”, and “unfiltered”. Now, the term “raw” did occur three times, twice within the word “strawberry”, and once when talking about the “raw supplier” of a product that has assured them the product is gluten free. The term I did find in a search of their 319 ingredients (yes, I counted) was “synthetic”, which occurred 76 times.
Why is this important? Simply put, natural and plant-derived ingredients are at their most effective when they are the least processed. Like when you are talking about bread, whole grain is healthier and contains more vitamins and nutrients than refined white bread. When you refine an ingredient through heat, steam distillation or process it with a chemical, you are essentially “cooking” out the good parts that make it effective. Sunflower seed oil can be harvested by either cold-pressing the seeds, a press process that adds steam to the mix, or a process that also adds a chemical. The chemical process yields the most oil, followed by steam process, but they both also break down more nutrients in the oil, leaving them both less nutritious and effective than cold pressed oils. Most other companies take a lot of pains to disclose when they use the best of the best ingredients.
For Comparison’s sake
Let’s just compare Beautycounter’s Hydrating Face Oil to one of my favorites, Blissoma’s Restore Deep Healing Oil Serum. Sorry the text is so small. I tried to get all the relevant information close together for comparison. You can still see all the details on each product at the links above.
On the left you have Beautycounter’s Hydrating Face Oil, which sells for $68 for a 0.67 oz bottle (that’s a rate of $98.52 per ounce). Blissoma’s Restore Oil sells for $48 for a 1.0 oz bottle, so less than half the price. Beautycounter’s product contains 10 oils, one of which is indicated to be organic (as denoted by *). Blissoma’s oil contains: Nine oils (all certified organic), 3 Plant Extracts (1 certified organic), 4 essential Oils (1 certified organic) & Vitamin E. Again, 11 of those ingredients are organic, and 10 of them are cold-pressed and unrefined. In summary, Blissoma offers more product of significantly better quality (1 vs 11) at half the price. Not to mention the reviews. I can find zero product reviews on the Beautycounter website. The reviews I did find were not good. The reviews on Beautypedia listed 31 items. Several of the brushes had five star reviews, but the highest an actual product received was 2 out of 5 stars. Two out of the three reviews I found on Consumer Affairs were 1 star reviews.
Marketing & Availability
When the Beautycounter products launch at Target, it appears face oil will be one of the offerings, but in a 0.33 ounce version. No word on prices yet, but it would stand to reason you’d pay around the same rate, so approximately $34. Target’s announcement said the products would range in price from $12 to $39. If you think about it, Beautycounter really does have a genius marketing strategy beyond that of the standard MLM…errrr, I mean, Direct Sales company. They sell sample sizes at every woman’s favorite store for a limited time and then the way you get more is you have to sign up to either be a member or a consultant.
Let’s talk about those two options for a second. To become a Band of Beauty Member (either directly with the Company or signing up under an existing consultant), you have to pay a $25 enrollment fee (which increases to $29 on 9/01/2016), but you get 15% credit on future orders (like a rewards program, but the credit expires after 60 days), a free gift (which is no longer available as of 9/01/2016), and free shipping on orders over $100. That enrollment fee automatically bills you again in a year, at whatever the existing enrollment fee is at the time of re-enroll. Again, this is just for the privilege of buying their products. You still have to pay for the actual products. Oh, and one of the enrollment terms is you automatically consent to receive any and all communication emails from the Company and any Consultant. If you opt out of those emails, your membership is automatically closed, without refund.
Or let’s say you like the products you tried at Target and you want to sign on to become a consultant (even though you’re paying twice the price for lower quality products), because the packaging is pretty and you could make some money. The price to become a Consultant is $85, which includes a Starter Kit (a free personalized subdomain on their site, 15 Opportunity Brochures; 20 Client Order Forms; 25 Postcard Invitations; 10 Host Brochures; and a USB drive with training guides on Career Plan, products, and how to operate a Beautycounter business). That $85 includes zero product, but does entitle you to 25% off products. The Commission, called the “Career Plan”, pays up to 35% commission on retail sales and the potential to earn bonuses, override commissions, special incentives, including trips, exclusive Beautycounter items, and access to invitation-only events based on sales and recruiting requirements.
Don’t forget the fine print! All of these potential earnings are based Beautycounter’s activity requirements for all Consultants. “In order to maintain active Consultant status, you must meet the following requirement: 1,200 in Qualifying Volume (QV) every six months, 250 of which must be New Volume (NV). This amount includes your personal orders and sales to Clients and Members. Those Consultants who do not meet their six-month activity requirement will be repositioned to Band of Beauty Member status.” In most direct sales companies, “Volume” is generally equivalent to Dollars. In other words, you pay them $85 for an additional portal on their site and some promotional paperwork, plus 25% off products. Then if you don’t turn around and either sell or buy yourself $1,200 worth of product in the first six months (and every six months thereafter), they kick you out and demote you to member status, without refunding your signup fee. If you do happen to make it through the first year, you are charged another $50 per year on the anniversary of enrollment to cover “back office expenses”. I think these terms speak for themselves.
Am I saying Beautycounter is evil and Target is cavorting with the devil? No! I still think Beautycounter’s mission, “to get safer products into the hands of everyone” is an honorable one, even if they may have priced their products well outside of everyone’s wallet. By all means, go buy that grossly overpriced teeny tiny bottle of oil. What I am saying though is you don’t have to buy Beautycounter to get safer products at Target! Several of their brands are there on the shelves ALL THE TIME (not just for a limited release) and probably just an aisle or two away from where Beautycounter will be, if not in the very same aisle. Those products are of even better quality at cheaper prices and you don’t have to sign up for an undisclosed number of emails or selling $2,400 worth of product in a year. What brands you ask?
One of my all-time favorites is Acure Organics, with prices ranging from $3.99 to $17.49 for face and body skin care, cosmetics, and even baby products. Their products all score between 1-3 on the EWG’s website (same range as Beautycounter). Several of their products are USDA certified organic. It is a family owned and operated company founded on sustainable principles to provide the highest quality natural and certified organic personal care. Everything they make is free of gluten, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, petroleum, silicone, harmful preservatives and artificial colors and fragrances, plus no animal testing.
W3ll People is another great one. Their Bio Correct Concealer was featured in my Detoxified Makeup post. Target carries 25 of their products ranging in price from $13.99 to $75.00 (kits with multiple products are that high). EWG scores range between 1-3 on their website, and in fact their products are EWG certified. All products are formulated with no petrochemicals, artifical preservatives, gmo, parabens, dyes, frangrances, sulfates, phthalates, glycols or nano-particles.
And don’t forget about the Honest Company, Pacifica, SheaMoisture, Babyganics, S. W. Basics, and White & Elm. All available at Target stores or online, all with EWG scores under three, and all more affordable by volume than Beautycounter.
I love and use all of these brands. But if I’m being 100% honest, my favorite green beauty all-natural skin care brand is without a doubt Blissoma Holistic Skincare. Their commitment to safe ingredients and truly transparent practices gives me so much confidence in purchasing all of their products. Every product I’ve entered into the EWG’s website has come back with a toxicity score of 1. I am positively in love with their Free – Rejuvenating Herbal Gel Cleanser and Makeup Remover and the Restore Healing Oil Serum (the same one I compared above). They carry so many products carefully formulated with your specific skin type in mind and every one is packed full of cold-pressed, raw unfiltered and organic ingredients. And at HALF the price of Beautycounter’s prices.
“At Blissoma, we have chosen to work with a much stricter ingredient palette than even most “natural” brands. The texture, color, and smell of our products tell the story of raw nature, hand-blended to perfection, and delivered to you. Every product in our collection is 100% natural, Certified Vegan, made in-house, and packed with certified organic botanicals, bioavailable vitamins, essential fatty acids, and skin-soothing seed oils. They are also 100% free of petrochemicals, parabens, synthetic colors, fragrances, vegetable emulsifying wax, pthalates, neuropeptides, or other artificial chemicals commonly found in beauty products. ” -Julie, Blissoma Founder
You can get them on Amazon, but they aren’t Prime eligible. I recommend you buy directly from their site because they offer a rewards program towards free products (no paid membership required) and free shipping on orders over $50 with email sign up. You can unsubcribe at any time to their emails and still keep the benefits.
I hope I’ve enlightened you on the awesome availability of wonderful natural products. I am so happy there is such an abundance of competition out there for affordable, safe and effective beauty products. I hope you will try one today.