Friday, July 26, 2013

Arbonne: The Misdirection and Smoke & Mirrors Approach

EcoYogini shares some thoughts on Arbonne and their smoke and mirrors approach....

Recently Arbonne has taken Canada by storm. No really, suddenly I have three to four facebook friends messaging me, urging me to host an Arbonne party... all because I share my "EcoYogini" blog posts and fit the perfect demographic.

I've been continuously, politely, declining parties and invitations based solely on the fact that Arbonne does not disclose their ingredients. I will say, that Arbonne consultants feel *extremely* strongly about their products. To the point of my discomfort at the level of their passion.

The kicker, was when my mother attended an Arbonne party, purchased some products and proudly called me so I could be proud that she was using "natural and pure" beauty products.
"About Our Products"
At Arbonne, beauty begins with premium botanical ingredients, innovative scientific discovery, and an unwavering commitment to pure, safe and beneficial products. Arbonne creates personal care and wellness products that preserve and enhance the skin, body and mind for an integrative approach to beauty. Working closely with scientists around the world and our Arbonne Institute of Research and Development (AIRD®) facility in Switzerland, we continually explore and develop scientifically advanced, botanically based proprietary formulas that meet our exacting standards for quality, safety and sustainability (Arbonne About our Products 2013)
"Arbonne Ingredient Policy"
"The Arbonne Promise: To deliver pure, safe, and beneficial products in line with our botanical tradition"
Arbonne is committed to the development of unparalleled products free of harmful ingredients, using a combination of botanical principles and scientific discovery. Our commitment begins with research and testing to ensure that each of our ingredients meets or exceeds industry standards for purity. (Arbonne About our Products 2013)
One quick look at Arbonne's ingredient policy, and you can see that they make some fairly strong statements about ingredient purity. However, a lot of these statements are purely "fillers": as virtually everything in our world (even plastic- originally petroleum originally oil which comes from organic matter like zooplankton) can be 'botanically based'.

These statements make you think: 100% natural. I mean, the word "PURE" used superfluously throughout their website, implies no synthetic chemicals. However, what Arbonne is actually saying is: "some natural products with our definition of safe synthetic chemicals that are tested for safety in our own labs".

Since all of my polite refusals were met with insistent answers, I finally asked if I could see a list of ingredients to make an informed decision. One consultant provided me with four pdfs listing ingredients to four products. (which, after some searching, is pretty rare. Arbonne ingredients are hard to come by).

After her lengthy spiel promoting the 'natural' and healthy benefits of Arbonne as a 'pure' and clean product, I was shocked to see some of the ingredients on that list. Even more shocking was that the consultant, who claimed to have chosen to be an Arbonne consultant based solely on supporting a healthy, natural product, didn't think to even check some of the ingredients herself.

The ingredient list for each product is LONG (I mean over 30 ingredients) and most list the source as "plant"... which for reasons listed above is extremely misleading.

The following ingredients were listed in one product:
- (4th) PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate: Rated 5 on Skin Deep.
- (5th) Cocamidopropyl Betaine: Rated 4 on Skin Deep
- (18th) Retinyl Palmitate: Rated 8 on Skin Deep
There are another 4-5 ingredients that rate a 3 or 4 on Skin Deep.

Sure, many ingredients were rated "in the green" or low on Skin Deep, but you can easily see a combination of one third that rate higher. What science is beginning to realize is it's not simply the safety of each individual ingredient or product, but the synergy (or how ingredients interact) that has the potential for upping the toxicity level. The scientific community is only beginning to understand how chemicals interact together, exponentially increasing our body burden.

Despite their claims of safety policies and abiding by various difference regulatory body standards: The FDA and Health Canada do not in fact have to test ingredient interaction. It's a ridiculous claim really, because most standards are actually considered frighteningly low (David Suzuki's "Dirty Dozen" Ingredients Investigated In the David Suzuki Foundation Survey of Chemicals in Cosmetics, 2010).

My grief with Arbonne is the sheer level of misdirection and "greenwashing" involved in promoting their products. It irks me to no end when companies take advantage of people (like my mom) without allowing them to make a fully informed decision. Unlike other companies that aren't 100% green but make "eco" claims (such as Lush), Arbonne appears to purposefully mislead customers, withholding ingredient information and using vague, faux scientific-speak to sell a product that doesn't live up to their "PURE" manifesto.

(For another fantastic review of Arbonne, check out "Is Arbonne Really as Safe and Pure as you Think?" by Meghan Telpner).

9 comments:

Heather Rodman said...

Thank you! This is really good to know!

Christy said...

Phew! As with everything I am learning on my eco path - the best way is to just make it myself. Buyer beware so I just don't buy.

Thanks for answering our questions! Your diligence is appreciated.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Interesting. Arbonne hit the mommy market in my circle some time ago. I've already seen it come and go. Any company that makes it so hard to figure out the ingredients is not worth dealing with, and not very green in my book. In my book, part of being eco-friendly is being open with consumers. Plus I hate direct marketing. Good for you for digging in and finding the truth! I also hate to see friends who know just enough to be dangerous sucked in by greenwashing -- they will buy anything that says organic, natural, green, eco-friendly. They know it's a good idea, but they don't understand all the particulars so they are easily duped. Hate that greenwashing junk.

Melissa A said...

Someone sent me a free sample once, stuff for the feet. I think it was some bath salts and an oil. She had a before and after photo on flickr that showed her dry, cracked feet totally healed. I was skeptical but said sure, I'll take a sample. The stuff didn't do much for my feet to be honest, but I did look it up and noticed how expensive the stuff is. For that reason, I would never buy it. Surely there are more affordable and eco friendly ways to treat bad feet.

meghan telpner said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. It has just been brought to my attention that Arbonne is now circulating my private communications with them- for their reps as a form of "training". Essentially sharing the questions I asked (which they would not answer without legal vetting), despite them not permitting me to share a recorded call to their customer service department. Despite all the hate we are sent, almost daily, it's nice not to be harassed by the reps anymore- which was also happening daily.

Anonymous said...

Can you post the ingredients lists?

Anonymous said...

Whether the ingredients are pure enough for you, is a personal decision. Very likely they are better than what the consumer is already using. Regarding the "smoke and mirrors" effect, I don't agree that they are doing that. I asked my Arbonne rep the ingredients of some products, and she very willingly showed them to me. As well, there is a wealth of information available regarding ingredients on-line --- so I found it very easy to find the ingredients for everything I was interested in on my own.

Francesca Stranix said...

I am not surprised by the feedback you are presenting but I do encourage you to please also disclose that these "pushy reps" or misdirection is by no way a respresentation of the entire company. There are tens of thousands of women and men conducting their arbonne businesses with much disclosure and honesty. in addition, please be aware of your ingredient sources. for example: using a cosmetic ingredient dictionary on line uses only the root words to identify define and rate in aingredient. arbonne's retinyl palmitate(-yl organic chemical naming convention for esters different from retinol used by other companies) for example is given the exact same definition and rating as retinol. there are fish liver sources of retinol(retin-A) etc but there are also botanical sources of retinol. does your source identify which it is referring to? do you also know that arbonne chooses the botanical retinol and combines it with an acid (found in acidic fruits for example) to create another ingredient retinyl palmitate? perhaps you did not know that. so before making claims be sure you are referencing legitimate ingredient sights and giving a 34 + yr company its due. we would not be in a position to market and claim falsehoods- we would be sued. so when you find accounts of arbonne being sued for "greenwashing" or false marketing claims, then can your above findings be held as truths.

Luke said...

I'm so glad someone else realises this. I'm about to write a blog post on Arbonne's 'green' initiatives as well. I can't believe you didn't host a party! Sheesh..

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