Why I can’t recommend Beautycounter products

posted in: Personal Care/Cosmetics | 38

This post may contain "affiliate links." This means if you click on the affiliate link and purchase the item, I'll receive a commission. I disclose this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255. I only recommend products that passed my strict criteria. Read about my research methods in the Start Here page.

Last updated on September 26th, 2017

Why I cannot recommend BeautycounterI am writing this post for four reasons. First, I want you to see the lengths to which I go before becoming comfortable recommending a product.


Second, I am often asked about my opinion on Beautycounter, and I wanted to tell this story to explain why I cannot recommend their products at present.


Third, every once in a blue moon, someone sends me an e-mail and seems to insinuate that all of my recommendations are suspect because sometimes I make a small amount of money from some of the products I recommend. This post shows the extent to which I value my reputation for honesty and integrity over the ability to make money, and refuse to recommend a product until it has met my standards.


And the fourth reason (the most important one) you will learn at the end of this post, so please keep reading.


Here’s the story.


Ever since I read the FDA test results of 400 lipsticks, heavy metal contamination in cosmetics has been a big concern of mine. When I learned that Beautycounter took a proactive approach, I was thrilled and thought we could partner to bring heavy metal-safe cosmetics to consumers. And that was back in 2015. Read my journey with Beautycounter to find out what actually happened.


Just so you know, it would be very easy and potentially lucrative for me just to jump on the bandwagon and say how much I love their products. However, I can’t do that in good conscience, because too many people trust my opinions, and I never want to do anything to lead anyone astray simply for my financial gain. Our health and beauty are my priorities.


Beautycounter claims they do not rely on their color suppliers to tell them what heavy metals levels are in their colors. Instead, Beautycounter says that they send their color products to an independent lab to test for 12 heavy metals. Moreover, they state that they have defined their own strict standards for heavy metals. Here is what they said. “For the most dangerous metals (lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium), these levels are usually undetectable, but we ensure that they are always under 2 ppm.” (source)


And Beautycounter proceeds to tell us in no uncertain terms that, “The only way to be sure that your color cosmetics have undetectable or only extremely low levels of heavy metals is to use Beautycounter.” (source)


These were impressive claims. I contacted them back in 2015 and asked them about their heavy metal claims. In December 2015, a Beautycounter customer service representative replied, stating, “Each heavy metal has a different limit, so we cannot say that the metals are below 2ppm. They have let me know that we do not share actual reports to the customers, but we never release a batch for sale if it does not pass our stringent heavy metal testing standards.”


I was disappointed that the customer service representative could not confirm the claim featured on their website so I decided not to recommend their products.


In July 2016, I decided to take up one of my blog readers on an offer. She had become a Beautycounter salesperson and offered to get answers to my questions. In August 2016, the Beautycounter salesperson forwarded me an email from Beautycounter, which stated the following to my question as to whether their 2 ppm limit of a heavy metal is per product or per color batch. This matters, because normally a product is made with a few different colors. Beautycounter replied, “2 ppm is the limit per product.  We test for over a dozen metals, including lead, mercury, nickel, chromium, cobalt.  We do additional testing from what suppliers provide. Although we are not sharing test reports at this time, we don’t call supplier specs/certification “testing,” we just consider that a standard, or even background information. We test every color cosmetic product during formulation and every time we’re about to reorder a batch, which we do when we’re about to run out of stock. This is because the suppliers might have changed raw ingredients, and even the same colorant from the same mineral mine could have different contamination if it is sourced from a different part of the mine.”


I was confused as to why they would not want to show me their test reports. If it were me, I would be so proud of my clean products that I would show my test reports to everybody, even to people who did not want to see them. So I thought I needed to learn more about that.


The Beautycounter salesperson was able to put me in touch directly with the Beautycounter team.


As a result of her efforts, I had a conference call with Beautycounter on November 11, 2016. Among other things, I asked them for the heavy metal test results they said they had performed on samples. They said they would get back to me on that.


By the way, sometime in November 2016, the webpage where Beautycounter talked about their impressive limit of 2 ppm of a heavy metal, became unavailable. Now they have a different page on their website where they are not so specific. It says, “Beautycounter is screening all of our color cosmetics for heavy metals and doing our best to reach “non-detectable” heavy metal limits when possible, while always keeping them within our health-protective company standards.”


On December 6, 2016, they sent me a Non-Disclosure Agreement (“NDA”) to sign. Companies often use non-disclosure agreements in order to protect their trade secrets, and I was fully prepared to sign a non-disclosure agreement that would work for both of us. However, the NDA they provided me was so rigid that it would not have permitted me to say anything about the test results, even that I signed an NDA with them.


Accordingly, it would have been foolish of me to sign it as it was written. If I had signed it as it was written, I could look at the test results, but would not have been allowed to say anything about them, good or bad, and so merely signing the NDA would have satisfied my own curiosity, but would have prevented me from reporting back to you, and the many people who rely on my opinions, and who have asked for my opinion on Beautycounter’s products. What I needed was some language in the NDA that would have allowed me to say something, even if it were very vague, such as, “I don’t recommend their products.” This is called “safe harbor” language – as long as the language is specifically agreed-to beforehand, it would be okay to say it. So, on December 8, 2016, I wrote back to them and suggested the following addition to the NDA:


  1. Safe Harbor Language

Notwithstanding the foregoing, if asked her opinion as to any Counterbrands [i.e. Beautycounter] product, Recipient [i.e. Irina Webb] may state as follows:

  1. “I have looked into their product ingredients and decided not to recommend their products.”
  2. “I have looked into their product ingredients and have decided to recommend only _________ [or: the following products: __________].”
  3. If asked to elaborate, Recipient may state, “I am prevented by the terms of a non-disclosure agreement I signed with Beautycounter from saying anything further.”


On December 19, 2016, I talked to them about revising the NDA, and they said they would look into revising it but that they were busy.


On February 13, 2016, I received an email from them suggesting that they would show me test results with redacted sensitive information via a webinar, (which I took to mean via skype or something similar), and I did not need to sign an NDA for that.

Why I cannot recommend Beautycounter products

In an email dated February 25, I explained to them why this approach would not work. Obviously, sometimes I say things about companies that they might not like.  This means that before I say anything about Beautycounter, I have to make sure that I can prove what it is that I am saying. This means that I cannot rely on information that I cannot prove to be true.  I do not put myself in “he said/she said” situations — I rely on documents and other verifiable information so that nobody has to believe me; they just have to see the documents and can decide for themselves.


On March 6, 2017, they sent me a revised NDA to sign. Luckily, I gave it to my husband, who is an attorney, to review it before signing. However, this “new” NDA had the same problems as the first one – if I signed it, I would not be able to say anything, even that I signed an NDA.


Later in March my husband spoke with the Beautycounter attorney about the possibility of revising the NDA. He followed up with an email asking them to insert the safe harbor language we had asked them to insert back in December 2016.


Instead of agreeing to the “safe harbor” language on March 24, 2017, Beautycounter again offered to walk me through the requested test results showing the product name, compound, and result with proprietary partner information redacted (I think that means that they would “white-out” the name of the testing facility) on a web/video conference, or I could fly to Santa Monica – at my own expense – to see the actual test results, again with proprietary partner information redacted.  However, they said in this email that, “As for sending any copies of the test result outside of the office, we will need to abide by our internal protocols and respectfully decline, given that it contains proprietary partner information and the company has not provided such documentation in this manner.”


Beautycounter has not explained to my satisfaction why they could not email me test results with the information they claim is too sensitive redacted.


I informed them that this option would not work because if I was going to say anything that someone might think would be negative, I had to be able to prove its truth and needed documents in my possession for my defense, if necessary.


This is the end of our Odyssey with Beautycounter. I am saddened and disappointed but I am still hopeful and here is why.


I am hopeful because you are still reading this, which means this post will be read and shared widely. Thank you for doing this!


There are two reasons I am so adamant about knowing heavy metal levels in cosmetics before recommending them. First of all, most heavy metals tend to accumulate in our bodies and stay there for a long time. There is no perfect way to get rid of them. I recently discovered that lead and mercury were elevated in my body – apparently, it accumulated during years when I was not aware I was being exposed to heavy metals. After I found out about them, I did a 5-month chelating therapy to try to get rid of them. While there is a significant improvement, they are still there at elevated levels.


Second, as Beautycounter informed us in the article that they removed from their website, a cosmetic product may contain disproportionally large amounts of heavy metals. The article stated:


“We wanted to know if heavy metal contamination was a problem beyond lead in lipstick and beyond our in-formulation cosmetics, so we purchased 12 types of products (eye shadows, lip colors, blushes, and bronzers) from six other cosmetics brands. We sent the products to the lab to test for 12 different metals at very low levels of detection. The results revealed that every single product—from luxury brands that use synthetic colorants to natural brands that use mineral colorants—contained heavy metals. The most disturbing finding was 240 ppm of lead in a natural, mineral-based product meant for use on the lips. This level is so far above the FDA findings that we asked the lab to run the sample again. The second run of the test showed the same staggeringly high result.”


Please share this post. By spreading this information, I am confident we will find a cosmetics company who will be willing to invest money on heavy metal testing and making products with only minimum levels of heavy metals. And this manufacturer will show us test results without hesitation, maybe even post them on their website. And we will reward this company with our purchases. I can’t wait to use these products! Thank for your help!


Get this free guide and take 5 powerful steps to a non-toxic home today!

I read labels for you

When you join the I Read Labels For You community, you'll gain clarity and confidence to create a non-toxic home.

"I find your knowledge so helpful, to the point and like a gold mine. You have saved me so much time and have taught me so much.” Toni

Powered by ConvertKit

38 Responses

  1. Heather

    This is a great article! Thank you for sharing. I am a PUREhaven essentials consultant and every time I do an event with a BeautyCounter Rep I end up so frustrated! They “sell” their products as having no harmful chemicals and I know otherwise. It gives a bad name to the rest of us who are trying to educate others on these harmful items

    • Sarah

      And PUREHaven was Ava Anderson ….. and we all know what happened there.

      • Heather

        Facts? 3rd party company did not disclose all ingredients. That has changed how everything is done with our products now. Everything is made in house and tested by an outside company. All testing protocols and ingredients are available. Yes, someone very high up in the company made a mistake and they are no longer a part of this company and it has only made our products better and safer.
        You should know that not everything on the internet is truthful

  2. Julia E

    Thank you!!

    I was just looking at their sunscreen yesterday. I guess I will not be buying it…

    This is off-topic, but have you done any research on upholstery fabrics? I am about to have my sofa re-upholstered and I am concerned that the fabric, as well as the foam may be toxic…

    • Irina Webb

      Hi, Julia: My favorite upholstered fabric is hemp but there are many other good choices. Have you looked into the flame retardants issue? After the change to TB 117, we bought a new couch and refurbished the other. We could have a phone consult and devise a plan of action for your budget and preferences. Let me know what you think. ~Irina

  3. Shaunna

    I find this company to be worse than mainstream cosmetic companies. They tout themselves as a revolutionary clean beauty company, and have even gone so far as to become EWG verified, and yet they still have questionable ingredients in their products. So while they talk about taking on the government and the need for higher and healthier standards in the beauty industry it seems like they are talking out of the other side of their mouths. We are all aware of greenwashing but the fact that they refuse to back up their claims and be transparent about their testing practices (and results) makes them downright despicable. Just another MLM company doing a huge disservice to the public. I for one will be refusing to buy any of their products and will continue to put my money towards truly clean products. Thank you for this website and all that you do Irina!

  4. Stephanie E

    You gave me a birthday present early! You have just helped me justify and add closure to a decision I made about a year ago. Thank you. What is your opinion on cosmetic companies that have ECO certified iron oxides? Is that the highest standard to assure heavy metals are at the smallest amount possible? Are there other ingredients companies can use for pigmentation? Always wanting to learn to make sure I am using and offering the best choices. Thank you.

  5. Heather

    Thank you for your hard work in delivering transparency to consumers! We have a right to know what we put in or on our bodies.

  6. Sherry

    I am very curious what cosmetic companies you do recommend, as most don’t appear to test for heavy metals at all-even the “clean” brands.

      • Allison

        Poofy Organics just released their heavy metal testing for cosmetics. They use organic ingredients in their makeup and are waaaaay more affordable than BC. Plus the company has their organic certification with many individually certified products. AND all products are handmade! It’s a win, win, win!

        • Irina Webb

          Hi Allison, I understand that you are a Poofy Organics consultant. Where can the test reports be viewed? I do not see them on the website… ~Irina

  7. Chev

    Thank you for your hard work. I hope a company steps up quickly because I’m beginning to look pretty frumpy. Tee Hee.

  8. Kendra

    Thank you so much for this article! I have been looking into Beautycounter but honestly hadn’t taken the plunge yet because I thought it was odd you had not ever recommended them in any of your posts. Now I know why! Thank you again for all you do.

  9. Geri

    Can I ask what company you do recommend? What company has given you access to their heavy metal testing results?
    I’m curious what other company has given you the amount of time Beautycounter did.

    • Sherry

      I have the same question. I’d like to know which of the touted “clean” lines with a large variety of products does testing and is willing to provide all of it.

      • Allison

        I posted in an above comment that Poofy Organics has released their metal testing.

  10. Sarah

    I love Beautycounter. I love the products. The important thing to me is that they are moving the needle in the right direction!! They do a lot of work in Washington and a lot of grass-roots educating. I think that in this day and age, that is commendable and I applaud their efforts!!

    • RSK

      agreed. this is not a article but rather an opinion. not sharing their test results does not make them liars, that’s just silly. BC is doing more for the industry than any other company by advocating for regulation and laws for safer ingredients. This writer should be recognizing that and helping along the way by sharing her opinion and urging BC to listen rather than telling everyone to boycott it. So ridiculous.

  11. Louisa

    I love Beautycounter. I love the products. The important thing to me is that they are moving the needle in the right direction!! They do a lot of work in Washington and a lot of grass-roots educating. I think that in this day and age, that is commendable and I applaud their efforts!!
    I would love to know what other companies are doing that level of testing? Maybe I’ll suggest that as your next blog post. 😊

    • Teri

      Wow, Sarah and Louisa both have the same comment, word.for.word. in first paragraph. Script much Beautycounter?

      • Sarah McCormick


        Not sure who Louisa or why she copied and pasted my response but I assure you that is not a script. That is exactly how I feel about BC. I use that and a few other brands that I love and I’m glad they are moving the needle in the right direction!

        • Irina Webb

          Hi, Sarah: just so you know your comment and Louise’s comment came in less than 30 minutes apart, and I approved them at the same time. I guess some people think alike. 🙂 ~Irina

          • RSK

            Interesting, I just tried to leave a comment but you won’t approve it Irina? Is it because I too love BC and find some fault in your blog? I appreciate your work, but I don’t think you did enough research to fully understand the business model. Don’t be so quick to dismiss and hurt a company that advocates for safe beauty laws and maintains a Certified B corp status.

          • Irina Webb

            Hi, RSK: Thanks for your comment! I’m not sure what you mean that this post is not an “article,” but you are correct that this blog is a set of my opinions. And you are also correct that not everybody agrees with my opinions, especially when their ox is being gored because they have a financial interest in the subject matter. Is that the case here? You don’t say, but are you a sales consultant of BeautyCounter products?
            Yes, BeautyCounter does do some work trying to change the law to require more disclosure, and that is laudable. But it doesn’t change the fact that BeautyCounter itself does not disclose its test results. I worked patiently with them for two years trying to get the information I needed, and in the end . . . well, you read the post. I wish it weren’t so, and I am happy to review any information they send me. I still haven’t heard from them after publishing this post, and this is information that most of my readers appreciate knowing.
            It’s also important to note that even if they had provided me the information, their products simply do not rise to the standards I have set. You can read those standards here: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/product-review-criteria/ BeautyCounter uses phenoxyethanol, which the American Society of Contact Dermatitis lists phenoxyethanol as one of its core allergens, even in concentrations as low as 1%: https://www.contactderm.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3563
            Parenthetically, while I am on the subject, there are brands that I recommend that do not test their pigments for heavy metals. That’s not my standard, because in order to be conclusive, a manufacturer would have to test every new batch of all products they are making. This would be prohibitively expensive, and, to my knowledge, nobody does that. Instead, my standard is to require EcoCert certified mineral pigments that are NOT made in China due to their high levels of background pollution.
            If you are a representative of BeautyCounter, it sounds as if you have “drunk the Kool-Aid.” And that works for you, but my goal is to encourage companies to be fully disclosive and to remind consumers of the importance of not taking manufacturers’ claims about their products uncritically; a point of view shared by the vast majority of my readers.
            You also fault me for not appreciating BeautyCounter’s business model. The problem is threefold. First, apparently, part of BeautyCounter’s business model is to use ingredients that, in my opinion, are not as safe as my readers deserve. Second, apparently, part of BeautyCounter’s business model is to not disclose the test results that I tried for two years to try to obtain, as outlined in the post. Finally, I don’t put manufacturers’ business models on my skin, and I don’t think any of my readers do, either. I just look at the ingredients and provide my opinions as to whether a product is healthy.
            And yes, these are my opinions. Most of my readers seem to appreciate the fact that I take the time to develop my opinions, and to provide support for them, and then share them. In fact, I am asked for my opinions on products and issues, multiple times, every day. Maybe your opinion is different, and that’s fine. I respect your ability to form and express them.
            Finally, you were critical because I did not approve your comment within four minutes of you sending it to me. You may have a misunderstanding that I was simply waiting for your comment and made a determination on whether to approve your comment the instant you sent it. Far from it. I am at present a one-person operation. I approve many comments, even from those who disagree with me. My criteria on whether to approve a comment is whether a comment adds to the discussion of ideas discussed on this blog.
            Your comments do meet this standard, because I think it is important for my readers to understand how there can be a difference between a manufacturers’ claims and its actions, and that it is important for consumers to think critically, including reading labels and demanding transparency and the use of healthy ingredients. Our exchange here also helps educate others as to the dangers of uncritically lumping companies into “good guys” and “bad guys” when there are really shades of gray. Obviously, I spent a lot of time coming to the opinion set forth in the post.
            I will close with an anecdote. When I started this blog, one of my first posts was on Kirkland Baby Wipes. I did a review of them, and did not recommend them. I was pretty critical of them, actually. The post was well-received, and did very well on Google, to the point where it would show up just under the official Kirkland Baby Wipes page, so anybody Googling “Kirkland Baby Wipes” would also likely see my review of them.
            I do not know whether my post had any effect on the good people at Costco/Kirkland, but I noticed that over time, they improved their ingredients. Was this a coincidence? Maybe. But I’d like to think that perhaps having light shed on the issues provided them with an incentive to improve their product. And when this happened, I changed my post to reflect the positive changes they made.
            That’s the thing about this blog – I am happy to change my opinions as circumstances change. I am very open-minded when it comes to this type of thing. But I notice that BeautyCounter’s response to this post has been silence. They have not provided the test reports. If and when this changes, I am happy to re-visit my opinion. I’m not vain enough to think that I can impose these changes all by myself. I am also not vain enough to think that my opinions matter to BeautyCounter.
            But if enough consumers complain, companies either adapt or suffer the consequences of not bowing to consumer demands.
            Thanks for reading this blog!

  12. Maria Ryan

    Honestly, none of this suprises me. It is sad the lengths we have to go through to find out what is in any product. It goes well beyond the flip phrase ” do your research”.

    Thank you for digging deep.

  13. Sarah P

    I have a question? If there are concerns about products and the companies won’t share their info for whatever reason, Have you ever personally sent products you use to get tested. That way you know what you are getting. Or do you just go off what’s on their site and by talking with them? I’m curious to what your standards are?

    • Irina Webb

      Hi, Sarah: I am thinking about testing some products soon once I get some resources. Testing is expensive. It is sad/frustrating that in order to make sure that we buy safe products, we have to invest time (I spent the last 5 years researching consumer products as a full-time occupation) and money. So the easiest way to buy products of companies that disclose their test reports. ~Irina

      • Myrto Ashe

        This is making me think about 3rd party testing that is available for vitamins and supplements. This is a well-known problem, where some of the supplements on store shelves do not contain what they claim to contain. So a company sprang up called ConsumerLab. It costs $65 yearly to join, and they third-party test supplements. Their info cannot be cut and pasted, so if you want to see a detailed review, you really need a membership. If the results are bad, a company is given the option to pay ConsumerLab to keep the info out of the writeup. Thus, one can trust the writeup but can’t draw any conclusions on the products not listed. Also, it usually only tests one aspect – might tell you if there’s any coenzyme Q10 in the product, but not if it’s also contaminated with something.

        I think it’s an interesting model, and it sounds like many other industries are ripe for that.

  14. Allison

    It’s rare to find a company that will release heavy metal test results. Poofy Organics just did for anyone interested. They are one of the few companies willing to release results including sunscreen SPF and Broad Spectrum tests as well as their USDA organic certification.

    • tracy

      since it is rare why are you so upset about Beautycounter not releasing them? What company have you found that will release these to you? Other than Poofy?

  15. Tanya


    I would love to hear about the other companies that do share their results with you. Beautycounter products rate very well on EWG and I have been doing my own research for the last 7 years because of infertility issues. I have been using their products for over 2 years and have had my heavy metals levels tested and they came back much lower than 5 years ago. I am very happy with them.


  16. Jimmie

    I guess I’m confused here. It sounds like you had a hard time getting documents released to you, which is frustrating, but at the same time you don’t have independent testing to back up a claim that the company is misleading people. I am a small business owner and even I would consult a lawyer before releasing any info about my work! Sounds like your blog post is based on your frustration and not a true review on the product. I’ll keep doing my own research.

  17. TW


    This obviously is an old post, but I’m surprised to see your stance on Beautycounter, and I also wanted to leave a comment just in case this helps someone with Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis. I’m not affiliated with the Beautycounter, but I’m a happy customer of their products, especially the Protect Allover Sunscreen. I suffer from Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis, and practically this is the only sunscreen I can wear without having to scratch my face. While I’m interested in going more natural and organic route to cosmetics and that is why I discovered your website, I’d also mention that just because ingredients are ‘organic’ or ‘plant-based’, they don’t really mean that it is gentle for your skin – especially for those like me with skin conditions. I’d love to see you give it a try for reviewing some of their products (even if your opinion of lipsticks is a no-go). Thanks!

Leave a Reply