Have you been contacted yet by your friendly neighbourhood Arbonne consultant?
We all know one, don't we? This might have something to do with the fact that the number of Arbonne consultants has doubled, worldwide, in the past year.
Unfortunately, Arbonne is not living up to what they claim to be.
In the last six months, I have been approached by an Arbonne consultant nearly weekly. I would be a prime candidate to be a consultant: I cheerlead for the pure, healthy, clean lifestyle. I also have access to you, my very well informed, intelligent community who might be open to spending a little more for great quality products when they come with the assurance of non-toxicity.
I thought that rather than continue to kindly decline offers to sign up as a consultant, I would look into the products a little further, because maybe this could be a widely available brand that, even if I didn't sell it, I might feel okay recommending it- after all, I have seen them at natural health shows and most recently, at the Green Living Show.
For those of you who don't have a neighbourhood Arbonne rep, Arbonne works much like Avon, or Mary Kay cosmetics, Usana, Juice Plus, or the old school Tupperware. It's a multi-level, or what they refer to as "network marketing", company where independent reps go out and promote and sell the products to friends and family, and hopefully get those friends and family to sign up as consultants too, so they will earn income not just from their own sales, but also a commission on the sales their friends/family make. Top sellers are rewarded with lavish gifts like cars, cruises and financial bonuses, It's an effective structure for a business, and is a great, self-empowering way for consultants to be in control of their careers, income and schedule. You know how I LOVE that!
For the cost of $95 and 35% off your purchases, anyone can be an Arbonne consultant, no training needed- at anytime. It is the responsibility of consumers to become their own best expert, and ideally, that information should not be coming exclusively from the company's own promotional materials.
Many people are choosing Arbonne, because of the image the company promotes as being high-end, pure, simple and plant-based. As it states on their website:
At Arbonne, beauty begins with premium botanical ingredients, an integrative approach to beauty 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. 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.
One might think from this description that the products really are quite pure. I might also then ask you to name any skincare, or even supplement that could not prove to be botanically based. Nearly everything in our world once came from plant or earth matter in some form or another. The other small catch is that from the sounds of it, all of their products are being tested by their own research labs, something pharmaceutical companies get in trouble for rather often.
I went into my research thinking Arbonne was better than most, especially as they also highlight these key features:
Arbonne personal care products are formulated without:
- Animal products or animal by-products
- Formaldehyde donating preservatives
- The following petroleum-based ingredients:• PABA• Benzene
- Mineral Oil
Arbonne nutrition products are formulated without:
- Artificial colours
- Artificial flavours
- Artificial sweeteners
- Animal products
- Animal by-products
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
It's equally important to know what's not in a product, as to know what is in there. As you know, I am not a fan of healthwashing and so rarely take claims at face value.
I first called the company, but no one called me back. I am still waiting. I then sent an email to Arbonne, using the form they provide, requesting ingredient information and received the following auto-response:
2. Click on The Products
3. Select the Product Category
Access to the Product Line will be displayed with information about the product and its ingredients.
So off I went, only to discover there are no ingredients listed on the website- anywhere.
I put a call out on Facebook and we were flooded with comments and emails from people who knew reps, but none readily came forward with ingredient information.
Finally, ten days after I first went searching, I got a call from an Arbonne consultant who was willing to share, and proudly, information about the company and the products. I immediately loved her passion for what she was doing.
I shared my surprise at how tricky it was to get ingredient information on the products and was told it was due to the proprietary nature, to ensure other companies wouldn't copy formulas.
Most botanically based, pure and natural cosmetic companies however, freely share, and even highlight their ingredient lists with pride. Look at Living Libations, Thera Wise, Green Beaver, and even Alba Botanicals which is on the border for me of how natural it really is. I share the ingredients of my own All Purpose Body Butter- and would encourage you to make it in your kitchen.
My first question was about how pure the products are and I got the response that always makes me cringe: We use the purest ingredients we can, wherever possible.
That stance allows for a great, big wide open door to use whatever is the easiest, cheapest or most accessible but still maintain their principles of being vegan, and cholesterol free, which by-the-way, would have to go together as cholesterol is only ever found in animal based products. From what I can tell, Arbonne cartwheeled through that loophole.
As the consultant wrote to me following our conversation:
The motto we stand by is 'Pure, Safe, Beneficial.' We aim to use the purest ingredients possible, married with the safest of science to provide products that provide benefit to our clients. I know there is some confusion around whether Arbonne is "100% natural". This is not our claim. Arbonne wants to ensure that it provides the purest quality in skincare, health & wellness while maintaining safety. To do so, we combine ingredients and technology (like airless pumps to prevent oxidization which means we can use fewer preservatives) that are proven to be safe while doing the job required of the product.Wait, they are not 100% natural? But the Arbonne manifesto declares it so, using words like green, pure, simple, natural and healthy. They say they are "Earth lovers and protectors", "Champions of wellness", "Forward-thinking", "Forward looking" and "Future-friendly". You know I love a good manifesto, but you do have to actually do what the manifesto says for it to hold merit.
The consultant went on to stress the importance that all of their products have gone through rigorous testing, all are FDA approved and all have a Drug Identification number (DIN). What she said to me was this:
Wouldn't you rather know the products are tested and use ingredients that will keep the product stable and not go off, than stuff people just made up in their own kitchen?
A valid question and one certainly worth asking. Many of you may agree too. My personal stance on this is that if someone is making something in their own kitchen, then at least I know they are not using Polysorbate 20 and Butylene Glycol as the main ingredient in a body mist, hydrogenated olive oil stearyl esters in an eyeliner, dimethicone in a facial moisturizer, or HDI/trimethylol hexyllactone crosspolymer as an anti-caking agent in my make-up. You can bet my man is not using a cetyl ethylhexanoate based after shave lotion. Not to mention that the oils that form the base of most of the Arbonne products, sunflower, safflower and in some cases canola, could not be confirmed as GMO-free.
Unfortunately, many of their formulations are not living up to their own green, simple, pure, natural, healthy, forward thinking, planet-protecting manifesto. The simple use of GMOs negates all of that, on its very own.
If you look up any of those aforementioned ingredients, most of the risks listed are between low and moderate in terms of being carcinogenic, hormone disrupting, allergenic and immuno-toxic. That may seem like a good place to start, and for many, it might just be a great place to start. This is why most women buy into the brand.
The definition of the word Pure:
How pure are products that use upwards of 20-30 plant-derived ingredients, that are not in their whole or unadulterated form?
Consider this: the toxicity of a product is much greater when we consider the sum of its parts. Suddenly, if using a selection of Arbonne skin-care and cosmetics products, plus their supplements, meal replacement shakes, and appetite suppressing 'Fit Chews' (which are mainly sugar, and really just blood sugar spiking candies), we are taking on a massively un-pure cocktail, of which the combined toxicity is not known, not tested and not harmless.
Arbonne's "unwavering commitment to pure, safe and beneficial products" has hit a blip and most certainly has wavered. Or perhaps Arbonne and I just define "pure, safe and beneficial" differently.
With what we now know about these 'science-made', 'botanically-derived' chemicals, we should know better than to keep using them, and companies need to know better than to keep telling us they are okay.
There is no need to continue to use products that are ultimately a work of chemical engineering.
My original intention for looking into all of this was just to be informed, so that when people asked, I knew for sure how I felt about the products based on facts.
Prior to gathering this information I thought that Arbonne would likely make a great transitional product, and would be a better, more health supportive, more natural option than what you would find in your local pharmacy or department store. This is why, most people switch to Arbonne- because they believe it to be a more natural option, whether Arbonne uses the word or not. Many of the products are better than a lot of what you'll find in comparable price points, but is better enough?
More pure, more safe, or more beneficial, is not the same as actually being pure, safe and beneficial. Similar to how healthier, is not the same as healthy.
I requested the ingredient list of a random selection of products so I could get an idea of the full spectrum of their products. You can download the entire ingredient list of what I collected here.
The list included the following:
- Item#: 4555 Brightening Moisture Face Cream with SPF 30
- Item#: 637 RE9 Advanced for Men Post-Shave Balm
- Item#: 811 RE9 Advanced Smoothing Facial Cleanser
- Item#: 8703 Calm Soothing Eye Gel
- Item#: 7621 Perfecting Liquid Foundation with SPF 15 Alabaster
- Item#: 7892 Eye Liner Charcoal
- Item#: 7905 Eye Makeup Remover
- Item#: 849 Arbonne Baby Care Sunscreen SPF 30+
- Item#: 7085 Awaken Rejuvenating Body Mist
- Item#: 7316 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil
- Item#: 2067 Fit Chews - Caramel
- Item#: 2069 Arbonne Essentials Protein Shake Mix Meal Replacement - Chocolate
- Item#: 2065 Antioxidant and Immunity Booster
The ingredient labels for each of these products is long. Really, really long.
Most of the chemicals we are exposed to daily were once plants that have been so stripped down and refined to such an extreme as to evolve into a science-based synthetic chemical, also known as a drug.
Even abiding by their mission outlined above, Arbonne products contain such varied substances as hydrogenated castor-oil, sunflower, safflower and canola that are NOT certified to be GMO-free. The Fit Chews gets 16 calories from pure sugar and 4 calories from palm oil, making them, yes- a candy through and through. The Antioxidant and Immunity Booster is made up primarily of various juices from concentrate- making those sweetener sources very much fructose concentrates, similar to that of high fructose corn syrup. The eye-make-up remover that can easily be replaced by pure coconut oil or jojoba oil contains nearly 20 ingredients including babassuamidopropyl betaine an anti-static, foam boosting cleansing agent that is not particularly harmful, but also not particularly necessary either.
The products all just seems very, very complicated when the solutions can actually be remarkably clean and simple.
When I asked the Arbonne consultant what training the consultants have to make recommendations for specific creams and lotions for skin conditions, or supplements for client's health needs, she said it is up to the consultant to get their education, beyond the company's own promotional materials and training. She compared it to asking an employee at a drug store to recommend a vitamin. You know how I feel about drug store supplements and untrained people recommending supplements.
Why am I telling you this?
I have nothing against Arbonne, or their consultants. I love that so many women are taking ownership over their lives, their businesses, their finances and setting themselves up for a life they love. That is UnDiet living through and through!
The challenge is that most of the information being circulated by Arbonne has been generated by the company itself and many consultants, understandably, trust it. Without having any prior education in cosmetology, aesthetics or nutrition, many consultants also don't know the questions they should be, or need to be asking of the brand they are representing.
With a global network of consultants, Arbonne is in a very powerful position to create new standards of purity and transparency. I certainly would not want all of these consultants to have to re-think their decision to work with the company, but I do think they are in a mighty position to initiate amazing and powerful change in the cosmetic industry worldwide. That's a great place to be standing!
As we know, change happens from the ground up and it starts with each one of us.
Are you an Arbonne customer? When you get approached by a consultant, ask them the questions I have posed here. Why are the products using this ingredient? Why aren't they GMO-free? How is this Meal Replacement drink and Fit Chew candy making me healthier? What is the difference between this mascara and that one?
Are you an Arbonne consultant? Start asking your company the very same questions and make sure you understand the answers, fully and completely to be able to inform yourselves and your customers who are trusting your expertise. Start calling for change, for transparency in the products, their ingredients and ensure they are truly as pure and beneficial as you are being told.
We have so much choice! There is now the option to choose sustainable, stable, chemical-free, GMO-free, non-allergenic, filler-free products. If this is what you are seeking, then it is your responsibility to make sure this is what you are getting- no matter where you are getting it from and who is selling it to you.
Please help share this important message so we can all do our part!
Update: As of June 9 2014, more than a year after this post was originally published, we received a notice from Arbonne that they had added an ingredient guide to their website. This guide includes a list of ingredients included in Arbonne products, but at this time, it still doesn't appear to be possible to look up the ingredients lists for specific, individual products.