Arbonne International is a direct-sales line many of my readers have an intense curiosity about. There must be lots of assertive Arbonne salespeople out there, because no other line with this type of business structure has generated the amount of email I receive, all asking if Arbonne products are worth it and whether or not many of the company's outlandish claims are true. More than many other lines, Arbonne is big on playing up the alleged evil of many benign cosmetic ingredients. Topping this list is mineral oil, which the company maintains interferes with skin functions and delivery systems. Cosmetics-grade mineral oil is not a problem for skin and is in fact one of the mildest and most effective ingredients for making dry skin look and feel better. It doesn't have the best texture or finish, but its effectiveness is indisputable (Sources: Cosmetics & Toiletries, January 2001, page 79; Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2000, pages 44–46; Dermatitis, September 2004, pages 109-116).
I have also been asked about whether it is true that all mascaras except Arbonne's contain bat excrement. Yes, you read that correctly. It seems many Arbonne salespeople are telling potential customers that their mascaras contain this substance, along with the untruth that their lipsticks contain road kill remnants. I wouldn't mention these tall tales if it was a few isolated incidents, but dozens upon dozens of women have contacted me asking for the truth behind these ludicrous claims. Just to be clear, cosmetic chemists are not venturing into dark caves to collect bat excrement or picking up carcasses of animals on the side of the road all in an effort to save money and create harmful cosmetics. And you have to wonder: if Arbonne products are so wonderfully effective, why do they need to sell themselves using scare tactics about what every other company's products supposedly contain?
NutriMinC RE9 REactivating Facial Serum, Day & Night ($40 for 1 ounce) lists several fruit extracts in the hopes that you'll think they exfoliate skin, but they don't. Arbonne also included lactic acid at about 2%, an amount that's below ideal for exfoliation although the pH of this product is in the correct range. The tiny amount of salicylic acid has no exfoliating action on skin. Although not worthy as an exfoliant, this stably-packaged serum is packed with helpful ingredients for skin, from antioxidants to non-irritating plant oils and (mostly) soothing plant extracts. Although the tiny amount of comfrey extract is not likely cause for concern, it keeps this product from earning a Paula's Pick rating. This product is best for normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin.
NutriMinC RE9 REnewing Gelée Crème Hydrating Wash ($35 for 3.15 ounces) is a very good water-soluble cleanser but one whose price should give you serious pause. Of course, the cost has to do with the bevy of antioxidants and other high-tech ingredients in this cleanser, but your money is better spend on leave-on products that contain these ingredients. The tiny amount of orange oil adds fragrance and may prove problematic for use around the eye area. Otherwise, this is best for those with large budgets and normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin.
NutriMinC RE9 REstoring Mist Balancing Toner ($30 for 3.15 ounces) lists witch hazel as its second ingredient and also contains a significant amount of comfrey extract, which is a problem in products meant to be left on skin (Sources: Chemical Research in Toxicology, November 2001, pages 1546–1551; and Public Health Nutrition, December 2000, pages 501–508.)
Strengths: Most of the NutriMinC RE9 products have merit and contain an exciting blend of antioxidants and ingredients that mimic the structure and function of healthy skin; a small selection of basic but effective cleansers and masks; good powder, eyeshadow, and blush; brush and color sets are worth a look.
Weaknesses: Consistent and pervasive use of volatile fragrant oils that are irritating, allergenic, and/or photosensitizing for skin; no effective AHA or BHA products; no skin-lightening or effective anti-acne products; only one sun-care product that does not contain problematic ingredients; average foundations and eye pencils; bad concealer and mascara; this direct sales line perpetuates false information about several cosmetic ingredients; overzealous sales representatives; returning a product is not easy or convenient.
ABOUT PAULA BEGOUN: SKIN CARE COP
Paula Begoun is the creator and innovative force behind Paula's Choice skin care and cosmetics. With more than 25 years of extensive experience in the beauty industry, combined with in-depth research and study of skin and cosmetic ingredients.