Since writing my original piece on Arbonne, followed by my write-up on DoTerra and Young Living, Beauty Counter is the brand I am most frequently asked about. What do I think about Beauty Counter? So many of you asked and so here is my review that is free from any affiliation or compensation from the company.
First, I'd like to say how grateful I am that you value my insights so much. I'd like to think that the posts I've written about fragrance, ingredients to avoid in personal care products, and this one on deodorant empowers you to be able to dig in and work out the yay or nay factor for yourself. I also know how nice it is to have a trusted source to do the work and deliver the answer. Alas, here I am, at your service.
If you want me to cut to the chase, here it is: Beauty Counter seems to be a great alternative to conventional beauty care products but... Yes, I have a but, so please keep reading.
What Is Beauty Counter?
Beauty Counter is a network marketing (also known as multi-level marketing) cosmetic brand that has been at the forefront of the 'clean beauty' movement since its inception in 2013. Beauty Counter is sold in some retail stores, online with membership, but focuses primarily on recruiting a network of consultants who sell direct to consumer. A portion of the sale is kept for the consultant (higher than most other MLMs), a portion goes to whoever signed the consultant up if they were referred, and of course, the company gets paid. More on this below.
Beauty Counter came out of the gate with a commitment to keeping the heavy chemicals out of their products and their 'Never List' lines up pretty closely with mine – staying away from formaldehyde, parabens, fragrance, and the like. They're a Certified B-Corp which means they have to maintain a certain standard of responsibility within the company and with their products. And so, from the get-go, this seems like a great option for clean cosmetics.
As with all healthwashing claims, however, knowing what the claims are and what's not in a product is not enough. You want to know what is there!
what are their Product Ingredients like?
It's fantastic that they have a list of some 1,800 ingredients that are on the 'no' list (though other brans like Arbonne do as well). The key is always looking at what actually is in the products. I appreciate that many of their ingredients are organic or verified non-GMO. That's a great place to start.
The product line, however, isn't what would be considered 100% natural. Often organic and natural are tied together, but they aren't the same thing. Whether that matters to you becomes a question of personal values.
There are an abundance of synthetics used for many products and the ingredient lists are long which increases the risk of reactions for people. Now keep in mind that all of their ingredients, even the synthetic ones are considered very low risk according to the EWG Cosmetic Database. However, it's also important to consider the cumulative effect and with synthetics, you never quite know. When the average woman unknowingly is using around 515 synthetic chemicals on her body daily, it's certainly worth considering. There remains a lack of research around the cumulative load and impact.
Some of the ingredients in Beauty Counter that I personally prefer not using on a regular basis include:
- Phenoxyethanol: This ingredient is a preservative commonly found in beauty care products and can cause skin irritations.
- Hydrogenated Oils: Some Beauty Counter products contain hydrogenated oils. As we know from culinary oils, hydrogenation transforms more liquid oils so they become hard and spreadable. I don't eat hydrogenated oils, and I don't want to spread them on my skin either. Our skin is one of our largest organs.
- Synthetics: The synthetic ingredients and colourants that are used are deemed neutral or non-toxic to humans – but there is also limited data about their safety. Synthetic doesn't automatically mean horrible, just as natural doesn't always mean good (plus, 'natural' is largely unregulated in the cosmetics industry).
Though neutral in small amounts in a single product, most people who love to amass beauty care products are not using a single product. So ultimately, this comes down to a big picture thing for me. If I'm going to be using a product regularly, like moisturizer or deodorant, I want ingredients that I am comfortable going onto and into my body every single day.
The bottom line, I prefer to avoid synthetics in my food, my clothes, and on my body on any type of regular basis.
Are There Healthwashing Ingredient Claims?
Yes. However, that too is nearly impossible to avoid in the beauty care and cosmetic world. It's an industry built on claims of reversing aging and smoothing us out. While this isn't a problem that is specific to Beauty Counter (it applies to many products!), as just one example, I took a look at the Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream. I chose this one at random because it had a really fancy sounding name, I didn't have a clue what it meant, and it is priced at $89.
This is one of the claims on the product: "Fermented Sugars (Biosaccharide Gum-1): This blend of fermented sugars helps soothe skin while helping slow the visible effects of aging by optimizing hydration for renewed skin."
How was this tested? Did they have two people of the same age use this cream for five years and see who had the least amount of wrinkles at the end? We know that clear skin involves a whole lot more than the cream you use. Claims like this are a big part of my aversion to the whole cosmetic industry. There is just so much nonsense.
The Clean Deo
Ingredients: Zea Mays (Corn) Starch*, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Sodium Bicarbonate, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax/Cire de candelilla, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Jojoba Esters, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax/Cire de carnauba, Cera Alba/Beeswax/Cire d'abeille, Tocopherol, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Alcohol, Hexyl Acetate, Litsea Cubeba Fruit Oil, Dimethyl Heptenal, Raspberry Ketone, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Schinus Molle Oil, Citric Acid. Citral+, Citronellol+, Limonene+, Geraniol+, Linalool+
+ Naturally occurring in essential oils & natural materials as defined by International Organization for Standardization
This is a very long list. That alone doesn't disqualify a product, but it's a lot to wade through, and again, adds up to the cumulative load of processed and/or synthetic ingredients being used on a daily basis. These ingredients all appear to be derived from nature (though you can argue that Aspirin is, too), however, most are in a fairly processed form.
This deodorant, however, is a far better option than most of what you'll find lining the shelves at the pharmacy. Your deodorant choice is an important one given where it's used and how frequently, and so you really want to ensure that you're very much okay with every single ingredient entering your body. I am not sold on this one, personally.
beauty counter Is An Admirable Leader In The COSMETIC Industry
Yes, the ingredients could be better, cleaner and less processed. However, they could be a whole lot worse and 99% of the brands out there are.
What I love about Beauty Counter is that they are showing other big name industry-leading beauty brands what's possible on a large scale with better ethics and great transparency. No, they're not as clean and pure as I personally love, but they are heads and tails ahead of most department store brands and by far better than other MLM brands like Arbonne and Rodan & Fields. They also don't force consultants to push sign up on their downline or require major investment or product purchase to remain a consultant (more on this below). In that regards, they are leading on the ethics and transparency front as well.
Having received $86 million in funding, and listed as a 2020 disruptor in their industry, they are a model for what cosmetics can be. The less carcinogens, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors and neuro-toxins in our beauty care (and everywhere else!), the better!
Though maybe not the sexy thing to lead with, packaging also matters. Beauty Counter states that they are paying attention to the footprint of their packaging, starting from where it's sourced. They've said that in new products they don't include "plastic spatulas, overcaps, lid inserts, extra product literature, and cleansing cloth towels". I am a huge fan of this move! I know that 'unboxing' is all the rage but you can have a beautiful and inviting product experience without needing to fill the landfill in the process. They're also transitioning many products from plastic (which is rarely actually recycled) to glass.
WORTH NOTING: MLM/Network Marketing AND HIDDEN COSTS
This is typically where I run for the hills. I prefer to avoid shopping from or being part of this model of business. Typically the consultants get super aggressive and annoying and generally receive most, if not all their training from the company that serves to profit off the person selling as much as they can.
How Does The Payment/Fee Structure Work with Beauty Counter?
There are no prices or fees readily available on the FAQ page or in their enrolment terms and conditions. So that's the first small red flag. To enrol as a consultant, you have to buy an "Enrolment Kit". Great, how much is that?
I tried going through the usual channels to find out. I had to join first. In fact, I had to create a login, share my phone number, date of birth and Social Insurance/Social Security number in the first two steps. After some digging, I ended up on a help page via Beauty Counter's Zen Desk that outlined that the cost to become a consultant is $98 USD. However, on the income disclosure page, in order to join, the average a consultant spends "$570 CAD at the time of enrolment in 2019."
You can shop on the site without needing to be with a consultant, or you can pay for a membership at $29 CAD for a "10% Product Credit, a Welcome Gift & Exclusive Offers".
How do consultants earn money? Consultants earn money by selling products. "Consultants may earn up to 35%* commission on sales credited to them. Consultants also earn additional income in the form of override commissions for mentoring and leading a team."
*Most consultants will earn 25% commission. The extra 10% comes from various bonuses and incentives for top sellers.
This means that, let's say I sign up as a consultant and feel like I'm a super star at this and decide I will build out a team of consultants to work on my team. I'll get a cut of what all of 'my consultants' sell. This is a big selling feature of this company structure, and why historically the word 'pyramid' was used to describe it. There are only a few who ever are at the top.
Beauty Counter's disclosed 2019 Commission Overview shows how that pyramid looks in numbers.
See that bottom bit? Where 82% of consultants will earn $46/month and 0.2% will earn $24,371/month.
As mentioned earlier, the average consultant spends $570 at enrolment which means they'll just about break even in the first year ($46/month x 12 months = $552). This is typically due to a consultant doing their own shopping at the consultant discount, but also to build up product to allow prospective clients to try it out first hand.
And, of course, there's another catch. They expect consultants to hustle:
"In order to remain a Consultant, you must accrue at least 1,200 in Qualifying Volume (QV) every six months. This amount includes your personal orders and sales to Clients and Members. Those Consultants who do not meet this Consultant activity requirement will be offered a complimentary one-year membership to our Band of Beauty program."
An additional fee is also paid annually to remain a consultant and access the website and what not.
So aside from the $98 enrolment kit, consultants aren't required to purchase product, just sell a minimum value amount. What can and often happens is that consultants can get pressured into just buying product when they're short on sales for a period. It's no secret that people have amassed hoards of product and debt from these types of set-ups. I'm not blaming the companies, but people best be going into it eyes wide open, and unfortunately all these little caveats to the ra ra ra, sell, sell, sell are often buried pretty deep in the literature.
When I Use Beauty Counter
I have used Beauty Counter and I enjoyed the experience. I have the most epically talented make-up artist Maureen Greenstein who I just adore. I was beyond thrilled when she slowly but surely changed over her make-up kit to mostly Beauty Counter. It is a far better option than the typical professional brands.
As an addition to a business for someone who works in the beauty industry, this makes sense. As a consultant, someone in the industry would get a discount and also be able to easily sell products to clients who love what is being used on them.
Maureen does my make-up for all photo shoots, video shoots, live events, and special occasions. She has since my wedding in 2012 (pictured above!). When Maureen switched over to Beauty Counter, for the first time in my professional life, I didn't have massive eczema breakouts on my face after shoot days. My face didn't get itchy or prickly and I loved that without fragrance, my face wasn't loaded up with a smell that would punch me in the back of the throat and leave me headachy by the end of the day. I also loved that it washed off easily. How quickly I can get make-up off is a key metric for me (100% serious!).
I fully appreciate and understand the limits of 100% natural products for professional use when the make-up needs to go on, stay on, and keep fresh for hours under hot lights. Beet powder and coconut oil won't do the trick. I bought and use Beauty Counter's Lip Conditioner after Maureen used it on me, as I'm prone to chapped lips and there's nothing grosser than clumpy lipstick over chapped lips. I've since used it to mix with my lipsticks (a different brand) to make lip balms that I use regularly when doing my own video work.
All this to say, there's a time and a place for me.
The Question I Still Have: Do We Need So Many Products?
Again, if you're a product person and aren't ready to go the fully natural route, or need something for long-hold professional use, Beauty Counter could be the right fit for you.
I just don't think we need that many products. I am not a beauty care junkie in the least. I'm probably the opposite. It would take a whole lot to get me to change the one facial moisturizer I use and love. I have my preferred deodorant that works – not changing that. My shampoo is great as are my lip balm and my blush.
I can't get away from the feeling that there can be too much of all of this. The more products we hoard, the more packaging we use and the more we send straight to the landfill (as we know very little can be recycled).
My guidance therefore remains the same as it has all along. Consider the products you really, really need and want to use every day. And consider the stuff that is really just unnecessary. As how we live continues to shift and evolve, perhaps there are habits, and with that beauty products, that can be retired when we're not out socializing as often as we were.
Can we simplify our needs and focus on the few, really excellent products? Maybe for you those are Beauty Counter products. Maybe, like me, it's one or two products from a few different brands that really solve a problem and do the job. As with our food, just know what it is you're buying, what's in it, and if all of that aligns with your value set, then you've done the work of being a conscious consumer and you are good to go.
My Final Word
Though I may not have been here in my 20s or even in my early 30s, I am here now. I am grateful for the face that I have, my skin, my grey hair slowly coming in, and all that comes with moving along in life. There may have been a time in my life when I wanted to think about using more products to look 'youthful', or 'dewy', or have that 'glow', however, now I find myself happier than ever inside my skin.
You know me, though. You know I'm a purist. I'm also something of a minimalist. I like to make decisions once. I do that with products, too. I don't wear make-up every day, and when I do, unless filming, I don't use make-up that coats my face. I rarely wash my face with soap and have no belief whatsoever that a cleanser, a cream or a foundation is going to make me look younger, if that is even something that makes any sense at all. I want to look how I look, today. And in my experience, nothing provides a youthful, glowing, dewy look quite like being out in nature.
I stand behind the fact that health in the skin, in the eyes, and, most important, in the being, comes from what we eat, how well we sleep, our thoughts, our relationships, our time in nature, how well we're digesting, and the work we do in every moment to feel fulfilled and happy from the inside. No amount of lotions or potions are going to do that.
P.S. Thank you, But I'm Not Interested IN SELLING
I don't sell the products and am not interested in adding links here for you to buy through me. I do, however, love my make-up artist Maureen so if you want to shop, I'll suggest you reach out to her. And if you're in the Toronto area and need your make-up done, she's your person.
If there are any errors in this post, you are invited to leave a comment and if it all checks out, the post will be updated. Links for reference are appreciated.