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.
Update as of May 11, 2018
Let me tell you what has happened since I published the Beautycounter review in April of 2017.
First of all, I think Beautycounter non-colorant ingredients are safer than those used by a lot of mainstream brands. So if you are using something like Lancome or Maybelline, you may do yourself a favor by switching to Beautycounter because they do not have any bad ingredients discussed in my Superpower method.
Second, my mission is to help you make informed decisions. What I mean by that is the following. When we know we use something that can be potentially bad for our health, we can prepare for it and use it accordingly. But if a company convinces us that their products are safe under the wrong pretense, we won’t know that we need to take precautions. For example, if we think that Beautycounter is free of heavy metals, you might use their lipstick on your baby not knowing that you might be exposing your precious baby to dangerous levels of heavy metals.
Thus, my main issue with Beautycounter remains that they continue claiming that they test all of their color cosmetics for heavy metals but they do not back up their claims. In other words, if you read the statement they make on their Q&A section, you might think that their pigments are safer than other companies,’ whereas, in my opinion, we do not know that.
This is what they say:
Some of you have made inquiries into what specific levels of heavy metals they have been finding in their products and have received no response. Thus, it seems that at the very least they do not promise “under 2 ppm” per product or per heavy metal or per pigment anymore, neither on the website nor in private emails, which is an improvement. And if you are a Beautycounter consultant, you should be grateful to those have made inquiries and made Beautycounter more transparent.
However, in my opinion, some people might be still lured into thinking that their products have the lowest levels of heavy metals as compared to all other products. Again, in my opinion, we do not have enough information to conclude that.
Now, let’s talk about what I use. Since the time I found out that I can’t recommend Beautycounter, I have been searching for other cosmetics companies that would have safe ingredients and work well. After all, what is the point of using cosmetics, if they do not work?
I found that there is NO cosmetics company that sends every batch of their products to an independent lab to test for heavy metals and discloses the findings to us consumers. A company really has to do it on an ongoing basis to yield meaningful and actionable information. Yes, there is one company that has tested for some heavy metals once but that did not seem to clarify anything.
While searching for a cosmetics company that would test for heavy metals that I would feel comfortable using (I want to use makeup after all), I found Crunchi. No, they do not test for heavy metals, at least not yet. (They would love to when they become more established and have more resources.) However, their mineral pigments are EcoCert-certified and are NOT sourced from China. The background levels of environmental pollution in China are so high, and the laws over there are so lenient, that a lot of products that come from there are suspect, in my opinion. EcoCert is a European standard that guarantees that the ingredients are free of synthetic components/additives, and they require documentation on heavy metals presented to them before they issue a certification.
Thus, in the absence of a company that would test every batch of their products and back up their claim, I believe EcoCert pigment not made in China is the best current standard and can give us the best indication whether heavy metal contamination levels are low in a cosmetic product.
Even though I use and love Crunchi products, I continue contacting a lot of cosmetic companies to see if their pigments are EcoCert certified and NOT made in China and have not found any other ones besides Crunchi so far. If you know of any, please let me know.
Just to be clear. I published my Beautycounter post on April 5, 2017, and I started recommending Crunchi on February 6, 2018 so I did NOT do my investigation into Beautycounter to boost my Crunchi sales. Back in April of 2017, I did not know anything about Crunchi so I could not be boosting Crunchi sales. And yes, I get paid commissions if you click on the link on my website and buy Crunchi products. Note that I could have been paid commissions for promoting Beautycounter as well.
Please know that any makeup may contain heavy metals, so do your best not to inhale or ingest it when you use it as these are the main routes of exposure to heavy metals.
If you are a Beautycounter consultant, I encourage you to tell your customers that any makeup may contain elevated levels of heavy metals and teach your customers how to reduce exposure to them while using makeup. At very least, do not let your babies and kids play with makeup.
And please check out my consulting services, if you need help on your healthy journey.
You can read my review of Crunchi products here and below you will find an interesting story of my 2-year inquiry into Beautycounter.
Original Beautycounter Post as of April 5, 2017
I 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:
- 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:
- “I have looked into their product ingredients and decided not to recommend their products.”
- “I have looked into their product ingredients and have decided to recommend only _________ [or: the following products: __________].”
- 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.
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!
Your Superpower To Read Ingredients
Imagine looking at the ingredients of any shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or cream and in a matter of seconds being able to decide if it is safe to use!
With this easy unprecendented method, you will be able to spot potentially harmful personal care or skincare products that may cause irritation, an allergic reaction, or increase the risk of endocrine disruption or cancer.