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Makeup Primer, Arbonne, and my Cosmetics Quest (Part 2 of 2)

This post is a continuation. To read Part 1, click here.  

As I was telling you in my post yesterday, I went to an Arbonne party. I had fun. I tried stuff. I bought stuff.

Arbonne is different from a number of other products on the shelves of my drugstore because they are formulated without:

  • Parabens
  • Formaldehyde donating preservatives
  • The following petroleum-based ingredients:
    • Benzene
    • Mineral Oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Phthalates
    • Toluene
  • PABA

However, what I didn’t do was my own research and label-reading before the party. And it turns out, this would have been a smart thing for me to have done because, although products were passed around the room for us to sample, the ingredients are not listed on the product itself — only on the exterior packaging.

But, like I mentioned yesterday, I happily (naively?) went ahead and ordered two products. These products arrived to my house only a couple of days later and I was particularly pleased with how great the makeup primer was. And then I read the label on the box and felt a tad confused. I didn’t recognize most of the ingredients, let alone know how to pronounce them.

ingredients in arbonne makeup primer

So I started doing some research on the internet …

And honestly, I had a hard time. I spent hours — HOURS! — diligently seeking out these ingredients so that I could look terribly clever so that I could share the research findings with you, my dear readers. But after all that time, I could only find partial information, which you can see noted beside the items in bold below.

Ingredients (as noted on Arbonne Makeup Primer package)

  • Cyclopentasiloxane (“one or more animal studies shows tumor formation at moderate doses,” source is EWG)
  • Dimethicone Crosspolymer (I don’t know what the “crosspolymer” means here, but Dimethicone on its own is expected to be toxic or harmful for organ systems according to Environment Canada Domestic Substance List, says EWC)
  • Cyclohexasiloxane (“classified as expected to be toxic or harmful and associated with environmental toxicity. Persistent, bioaccumulative in wildlife. One or more animal studies show endocrine disruption at moderate doses. Changes in liver and fatty liver degeneration observed,” source is Colorful Canary)
  • HDI/Trimethylol Hexylactone Crosspolymer
  • C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (suspected to be an environmental toxin, according to EWG)
  • Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernal Oil
  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract
  • Equisetum Arvense Extract
  • Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract
  • Silica
  • Tribehenin (“considered a low hazard ingredient by the Cosmetics Database, which notes that it can be a penetration enhancer and assist other chemicals in reaching lower levels of the skin,” source is Truth in Aging)
  • Ceramide-2
  • PEG-10 (Receives a moderate hazard rating on EWG’s Skin Deep database, due to contaminate risk with 1,4-Dioxane, a banned ingredient due to strong evidence of its link to cancer.)
  • Rapeseed Sterol
  • Palmitoyl Oligopeptide
  • Ethylhexyl Palmitate (strong evidence that this is a “human irritant” and considered an “uncertain environmental toxin with uncertain persistent or bioaccumulative,” source EWG)
  • Silica Dimenthyl Silyate
  • Butylene Glucol
  • Sodium Hyaluronate (“Although HA and its various formations have been used in skincare products and cosmetics for some time, there have been no published clinical studies on its topical application,” source is Truth in Aging)
  • Caprylyl Gylcol
  • Hexylene Glycol (classified as an irritant by the European Union, source EWG)
  • Phenoxyethanol (“harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin and that it can cause reproductive damage. There are several animal studies that demonstrate that it is toxic – with effects on the brain and the nervous system – at moderate concentrations” – source is Be Beauty Smart)
  • Mica
  • Tin Oxide
  • Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)
  • Iron Oxides (CI 77491)

In desperation, I reached out to Gillian Deacon, author of There’s Lead in Your Lipstick.

Here is my email to her:

Thanks for responding to my tweet re Arbonne! I met you a couple of weeks back at Terra20 and have been really digging my teeth into your book. 

Not long ago, I attended an Arbonne party and came home with a product called Makeup Primer. It is like heaven on a stick … really awesome and makes my face look 10 years younger (okay, not really. but it is still good.) However, I am trying to decipher the ingredient list and having a heck of time trying to find any information on many of the “chemical”-sounding ones. 

For those that I have found info on, I’ve bolded them and inserted a source in parenthesis. For the others, I’ve come up empty. If you happen to have other sources for ingredient info, I’d really appreciate a point in the right direction. 

I really appreciated Gillian taking the time to respond to me. And here is her answer to my email:

thanks for getting in touch. you are not the first reader who has asked me about arbonne, it is a popular product line. the trouble is, it is not *actually* all-natural bodycare. of course it’s excellent that the products are paraben and phthalate-free—that puts them way ahead of most drugstore brands. however, do not confuse that with completely chemical-free products.
while the company does use lots of promising language—”vegan”, “no animal testing”, “free of harmful ingredients”—those claims are unfortunately not backed up by the product ingredient lists. remember that the government standards which companies like arbonne claim to meet are incredibly lax and based on outdated science. (read the introductory chapter in “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick” for a refresher on greenwash and shoddy safety standards.)
if you look at the ingredient lists on many arbonne products, you will still see several synthetic ingredients. in short, i am not a fan. there are so many other companies out there making better products that are truly free of petrochemicals, and not just posing as green.
good luck on your search for safer products. I hope you enjoy the book!
arbonne ingredient policy

So there you have it my friends. Arbonne is better than most, but perhaps not as toxin-free as its marketing materials would suggest.

Have you bought any products that you were surprised or disappointed to find were not as “green” as you thought? I’m pretty bummed out about my miracle makeup primer, that’s for sure. 

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