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).


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..

Anonymous said...

I read David Suzuki's article: 'Dirty Dozen' cosmetic chemicals to avoid. Yes there are some products that contain PEGs, Retinyl Palmitate ingredidents. In fact, Retinyl Palmitate has been removed from ABC Baby care. I have a FC 5 hand cream and a Neurogena Fast Absorbing hand cream in front of me. Let me read the HARMFUL ingredients from Neurogena hand cream: Paraffinum, PEG-75, Propylparaben and parfum. If read David Suzuki's article, you know 3 of them are on the list. On the FC 5 hand cream box. It's said formulated WITHOUT: Paraben, Phthalates, propylene Gloycol, Mineral oil, PABA. Petrolatum, Paraffin, Diethanolamine and Animal derived ingredients. And let's do a price comparsion, 75ml Neutrogena Fast Absorbing Hand cream from shoppers drugstore is CAD$15+. 118ml FC 5 hand cream CAD$17.60. If everyone really wants ALL nature, we should just cut cucumbers into slices and cover ours eyes every night. What do we need skincare products for?

Anonymous said...

I am an Arbonne Consultant and I never withhold ingredient information from people. We consultants have been complaining for years that this information needs to be readily available on the website and finally that is going to be the case with our new computer system in the new year. We are 1% preservative and we are NOT 100% natural. Having said that, all ingredients are not created equal and even 2 ingredients with the same name can differ significantly in purity. Even our preservatives are the purest form in the smallest quantity. We formulate to European standards which are much more stringent (over 2000 banned ingredients for skincare but only 20 of those are banned in North America) As such, our ingredient deck needs to include even ingredients used in the processing even if they are not in the end product. Our main scientist recommends 3 websites that are accurate for checking the safety of ingredients. Much of what you find on other sites is biased and based on bad science - ie. EWG gets kick backs for any product they promote and sell on their site. I could go on and on and we email our scientists with ingredient questions all the time to get answers for clients. Most of the products people use do not fully list ingredients the way we do and no one seems to care about using their favourite drug store brands which are full or toxins. Arbonne is a company with huge integrity and we stand behind our products 100%. Im sorry if you and your mom had bad experiences -each consultant runs their own business.

Anonymous said...

I have been approached and pressurised so many times by arbonne sellers as I use Eco products at home and on myself. A friend recently gave me a sample of serum and moisturiser. I normally use ren or organic pharmacy products. I tried out the samples and my face went bright red and my eyes were watering all day. I have never had this from my chemical free, organic products. I think that arbonne puts a strain on friendships and is incredibly misleading.

Anonymous said...

For the post above you say you use Ren? Maybe google some of those ingredients? They use Phenoxyethanol & Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate amongst other things! They really aren't much better!

Jennifer Landry said...

Love your reply! Arbonne does shield anything, we are always willing to inform about everything.

Jennifer Landry said...


Jennifer Landry said...

I can tell you know your biz!'

Jennifer Landry said...

I'd like someone to show me a better product line other than Arbonne

Anonymous said...

Arbonne is shit. It creates Zombies of people that were once your friends. They still look like them and sound like them but they have been arbonned. It only takes a week but everyone that gets on board loses all their friends. I've seen it time and time again.
Yeh you get Arbonne friends and go to parties, yay!!!
It's a brainwashing cult. Lost two friends to this. Nobody can stand them anymore. And guess what - 3 years in and no white Mercedes...

valeriobailey said...

I would love to see a review of Ava Anderson Non Toxic products. All the product ingredients are listed right on the website for everyone to see PRIOR to purchasing... and the prices are lower than most "natural" products.

Joanne Galloway said...

EWG does not do their own independent study of cosmetic products and ingredients. They take published information and provide a rating based on other peoples’ data. As their web site states, "EWG provides information on personal care product ingredients from the published scientific literature, to supplement incomplete data available from companies and the government. The product ratings indicate the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the INGREDIENTS in the product – NOT THE PRODUCT ITSELF - compared to other product formulations. The ratings reflect potential health hazards but DO NOT ACCOUNT FOR THE LEVEL OF EXPOSURE or individual susceptibility, FACTORS WHICH DETERMINE ACTUAL HEALTH RISKS, IF ANY."

Many ingredients used in many cosmetic preparations can be harmful if used in their pure form. Arbonne’s ingredient policy states that we use no harmful level of chemicals. Some chemicals HAVE to be used to make the cream viable and to keep it from going rancid. And as EWG states in the above, they are rating a “level of concern posed by exposure to the INGREDIENTS…NOT THE PRODUCT ITSELF.” Being that we use no harmful levels of ANY ingredients, this to me is a non-issue and Arbonne products are pure, safe and beneficial.

Of course, there's so much more to share ... from the ethical standards that Arbonne uses harvests its botanicals, to the recycled papers & vegetable dyes for their catalogues... etc.

One living room at a time, Arbonne consultants ignite a dialogue around safe ingredients and how it affects their overall health.

Lynn White said...

check out, the products they denote as certified organic truly are. Wealth of info on their web site....:-)


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