Sunday, March 9, 2008

Paula Begoun on natural skin care -- high prices at the counter do not gurantee quality -- go the Omega 5 oil way

POMEGA5 Party girls
Paula -- the 'Cosmetics cop'

It's been 16 years since Paula Begoun first told us not to go to the cosmetics counter without her, and even longer since she decreed that blue eyeshadow should be illegal.

The self-described "cosmetics cop" has convinced legions of women to look beyond the high-priced hype cranked out by the beauty industry and to be more critical of the products they're putting on their skin.

Seattle-based Begoun has sold more than 2.5 million copies of her four books about the cosmetics industry and has just come out with the seventh edition of her product-buying guide, Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me -- even though she told readers of the sixth edition that it would be the last.

But the thousands of questions she gets every month, via her syndicated newspaper column and websites, from consumers confused about claims made by cosmetics manufacturers convinced her she can't put away her badge and billy club just yet.

"There is good and bad news," Begoun said in a recent visit to Vancouver. "Products are better than ever before. We know so much more about what damages skin, and how skin can repair itself to some degree."

But those advances have brought with them more buzzwords, more unsubstantiated claims and more confusion among consumers.

The way cosmetics are marketed "is all about miracles," she says. And many women want to believe that there is a miracle product that can cure all their skin-care woes.

Begoun, who suffered from both acne and eczema when she was younger, can empathize with that. But her efforts to resolve her skin problems and her work as a makeup artist and cosmetics salesperson, where she was told that selling products was more important than giving skincare advice, led her to take a closer look at what those products contained.

Even though ingredient labelling has been mandatory in the U.S. since 1979 (similar legislation will come into effect in Canada in 2010), there are roughly 20,000 ingredients that can go into skincare products and you'd need a PhD in chemistry to understand what they can all do for your skin, she says.

"I don't know how a consumer could ever educate themselves," Begoun says. So that's where she and her team of researchers comes in.

"Much the way most people shop for food, I shop for skincare," she says. That means wading through ingredient lists to determine which ones are beneficial to the skin and which are potentially harmful. And just as importantly, she says, "when are the claims [of manufacturers] just downright stupid or lying, or misleading to the point that they're just silly?"

Begoun rolls her eyes when asked whether terms on cosmetics labels like "organic" or "all-natural" mean anything.

Take, for example, products like mineral foundations, which are being hyped by several companies these days. "Most of these so-called mineral makeups use an ingredient called bismuth oxychloride, which is about as natural as polyester, but they call themselves all-natural," she says.

And there are entire categories of skin-care products that Begoun says are entirely unnecessary -- eye creams, for one.

"I can't think of a more useless, overly hyped part of skin care that every woman thinks is mandatory," she says. "They're a complete waste of money. There isn't a shred of evidence that the eye area needs anything different than the rest of the face."

She's equally savage about all moisturizers packaged in jars. Even high-end ones that contain antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients "don't like air ... these ingredients are very fragile. So you open up a jar, air and light come in and these ingredients don't stay stable very long."

Green technology in pomegranate seed oil

So Begoun suggests you bypass all those pricey glass jars that look so attractive on your bathroom vanity in favour of pumps, tubes or any other kind of packaging that minimizes the amount of air and light they allow into the product.

In general, she says, a high price is no guarantee of quality, and there is no one product that you should pay top dollar for -- from anti-wrinkle creams to mascaras, there are good products in all price categories.

In fact, Begoun says, you'll sometimes do your skin more favours by buying an inexpensive product instead of a pricey one. Sunscreen, for example, needs to be applied liberally to be effective, so you shouldn't buy one you're afraid to slather on because it costs a bundle.

"How liberally are you going to apply a $70 one-ounce sunscreen versus a $20 two-ounce sunscreen? So in that category, expensive may actually be dangerous."

Since she dishes out a lot of critical comments, it shouldn't be a surprise that Begoun doesn't get a lot of cooperation from cosmetics companies when she calls to ask for scientific studies and other information to substantiate their product claims.

"In the 30 years I've been doing this, I can count on one hand the number of times a company has sent me the studies," she says.

Try out of the Pomega5 girl

By Joanne Ballain

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1 comment:

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