Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Paula “The Cosmetics Cop” Begoun: Friend or Foe to the Skincare Consumer? February 23, 2010

If you are interested in cosmetic and skincare products you have probably come across Paula Begoun’s best-selling books and even visited her website.  In my estimation, Begoun is the best known and most prolific consumer advocate working today who concentrates solely on critiquing and evaluating the cosmetic and skincare industry.  Begoun and her staff are constantly turning our product reviews (of make-up, hair, and skincare products), answering questions from consumers, and researching ingredients.  In addition, Begoun even has her own line of skincare and make-up products (more about that later).

Paula Begoun has written numerous books of which the best known was are Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me and The Beauty Bible.  I own the older editions of both books; new editions of both books (8th and 3rd respectively) have just been published.  You can find all of Begoun’s books at your local chain bookstore.  If you spend some time on Begoun’s website and sign-up for her weekly email updates it is obvious that many, many people admire her and turn to her for seemingly unbiased advice about the cosmetic and skincare industry and its products.  For all of Begoun’s positive work I still have some issues with her reviews and some of her statements about skincare.  I’ll elaborate below.

The Good

The cosmetic and skincare industry certainly needs a reality check, and I applaud Begoun for devoting her career to being a consumer advocate, to helping educate the public, and to helping people make better choices when it comes to buying skincare and make-up products.  The cosmetic and skincare industry is based upon hype, false hopes and promises, unattainable beauty, youth, and even in some cases out right lies.  It is great that Begoun and her staff try to cut through all the lies and illusions in order to help the public make educated choices about what make-up and skincare products to buy and how to take care of their skin.   Another hallmark of Begoun’s work is how well researched it is.  She always cites her sources (which I greatly appreciate) and it obvious that she and her workers are really looking into subjects from numerous perspectives before publishing their opinions.

The Beauty Bible has a great chapter all about why sun protection is so important.  In addition the book explains very well how to see through all the hype of the cosmetic industry so that you base your consumer decisions on facts instead of marketing claims.  There is mostly thoughtful information in the book about how to care for all the different skin types.  I even thought that the discussion about animal testing, at the back of the book, was interesting and a worthwhile addition to the book.  This book can be a good resource for information about skincare.

Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me contains tens of thousands of product reviews.  It is exhausting just to look at.  Begoun conveniently labels and rates her reviews with faces – smiley faces for great products, neutral faces for so-so products, and faces with frowns for products she doesn’t like.  If she considers the products a good buy there is a check next to the review.  Prices and  a brief explanation about why the rating that was given to the review are included.  Product companies are listed alphabetically so it is easy to find the review you are looking for.  The book includes skincare tips, ingredient explanations, and an explanation of how the product evaluations were done.  Certainly this book is the most exhaustive collection of product reviews currently available.

As someone who likes to play with make-up but is very far from being a make-up artist, I greatly appreciate Begoun’s make-up product reviews.  I find those reviews helpful so that I can spend my money on the right products to get the results that I want.  I appreciate her research about skincare ingredients, and I do find myself looking up what she has to say about different ingredients before making my final decision on how I feel about the ingredient.  I think her research, which is well done, is a definite help to anyone who wants to be better educated about skincare ingredients and formulations.

The Bad

At times I have been confounded by Begoun’s skincare advice and upset that such a wide audience of people was receiving this advice.  Begoun actually began her career as a make-up artist.  When she refused to sell products she didn’t believe were effective her career as a consumer advocate began.  It should be pointed out that Begoun never trained as an esthetician and certainly has never had any medical training.  She is an extremely well-educated, but self-educated, lay person who has made an interest in cosmetics into a very successful career.  I certainly don’t believe that just because Begoun is not a licensed esthetician or a physician that her advice is no good, quite to the contrary at times.  But I do think there is a big difference between someone who examines skin up close on a daily basis (and touches it) and their knowledge compared to someone who deals with all these issues in a simply theoretical way.  There is a huge difference between talking about skin versus caring, looking at, and touching it.  Certainly when it comes Begoun’s reviews of products I find that the lack of actually using and trying the products versus just looking at ingredients in order to evaluate the product is a big issue.  I disagree with some of Begoun’s product reviews for that reason.  Some products she pans I have used with great success and recommend them to my clients.  I haven’t done a scientific study about this but I would say that her product reviews lean toward being generally neutral to negative.  Now is that more a reflection on her exacting standards or on the sad state of cosmetic and skincare industry?  I don’t have an answer for that.

Begoun is extremely opinionated on every cosmetic and skincare topic and product.  I guess you need to be to that way in her line of work, but I find her attitude a bit off-putting at times.  I generally think that you need to stay open-minded when it comes to skincare issues.  There are always new products and research to discover.  You need to able to bend a bit in order to stay abreast with the latest findings.

Begoun has declared war on fragrance in cosmetic and skincare products.  Yes, it is true that fragrance can cause irritation and people with sensitive skin should look for products that are fragrance free but should all fragrance be banned from make-up and skincare products?  I don’t think so.  But when I read Begoun’s The Beauty Bible I think I figured out why she is so against fragrance.  Begoun suffered from severe eczema for many years, and so I believe that her hatred of fragrance is purely personal.  I wish her own personal issues wouldn’t loom so large over her reviews.

Another bit of advice that Begoun gives just annoys me.  She writes the following in The Beauty Bible (page 190, 2nd edition):

“If you have dry skin, dry, wrinkled skin, or dry areas (like on the cheeks or around the eyes), you need a moisturizer; otherwise you don’t.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t have dry skin or you have normal to oily skin, you can obtain many of the benefits moisturizers contain (antioxidants, anti-irritants, water-binding agents, natural moisturizing factors) in a well-formulated toner.  Avoiding using a cream-, lotion-, or serum-style moisturizer when you don’t have dry skin can help prevent breakouts and feeling greasy and shiny through your makeup by midday, and encourage your skin to do its natural exfoliation.”

I couldn’t disagree more!!!   Even if you have breakouts you definitely could feel that you want to use a moisturizer.  It is very wrong to tell people that if they use a moisturizer they can cause breakouts.  I know few people who don’t need a moisturizer.  As a matter of fact, many dermatologists even say that a lot of the skin redness and irritation that they see on patients could simply to relieved by using a good moisturizer.  I have never been able to figure out why Begoun continues to give the above advice.

Begoun began her career as a make-up artist so it was strange for me to read her come out against experimenting with eyeshadow color in her chapter about make-up.  Since make-up washes off it is a great medium to experiment with and cosmetic companies certainly offer plenty of color options with which to do so.  I feel that once again this is a personal preference of Begoun’s passed off as fact.  I wish she would encourage “free thinking” when it comes to make-up colors.

The Ugly

As I have already mentioned Begoun has her line of skincare products called Paula’s Choice.  Full disclosure – I use one of her sunscreens and love it.  I also have a client of mine using one of her BHA lotions nightly with great results.  Yet I do have an issue with a consumer advocate having her own products particularly because Begoun shamelessly self-promotes.  In Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me she even goes so far as to review her own products!  Not surprisingly she gives all her products her highest rating.  I found that ridiculous, self-serving, unnecessary, and even slightly unethical.  I turn to Begoun for unbiased reviews; I don’t need her to review her own products as well.

And lastly, none of Begoun’s books have indexes.  Is it too much to ask for a book that is so full of information to have an index???  I don’t think so.  I find myself wasting lots of time trying to find information in The Beauty Bible because of the lack of an index.  I also find the format of “the best product summary” in Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me to be hard to read.

Bottom Line:  I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to stand by it – Paula Begoun is doing important and needed work as a consumer advocate but don’t take her word as the final word on cosmetic and skincare products.  Use her as a reference and do your own research as well.

For another perspective  on Paula Begoun read Caroline Hirons excellent post with her take on the good and bad when it comes to Paula Begoun.


57 Responses to “Paula “The Cosmetics Cop” Begoun: Friend or Foe to the Skincare Consumer?”

  1. Cat Mallory Says:

    Your opinion/review of Paula Begoun’s book/work is a bit flawed. First of all, you really don’t have any basis/evidence for your opinions other than basing them on your own skin and clients. In addition, many of your statements are very general basing them on your personal opinion and what your heard dermatalogist said. There are dermatalogist and physicians who don’t know what they are talking about when they perscribe a patient a product for their skin issue. Paula’s book is based on scientific studies published in peer reviewed scientific journals as well as agreed upon facts within the medical/dermatological society. Her books are probably the only ones that disclosed this much factual information about the beauty industry and its’ products. As for her selling her own product, yes, it is unethical in some form, but if what she is selling is scientifically better than the rediculous $100 to $1000 useless cream that is being sold in department stores and by luxury cosmetic lines, then I don’t see any problems with it. After all, her products do come with a money back quarantee. And about what you said about being open to skin care issues (or products), you can be as open minded as you want but it is irrevelavent to whether that skin product actually works or not and in alot of cases they don’t. The fact of the matter is the cosmetic industry comes up with new anti-wrinkle creams every month and we consumers (women) need to be aware of factual informations to assist us to determine what actually will works and what won’t. The cosmetic industry is a multi-billioin industry that feeds women’s fear of aging. I think Ms. Begoun’s books are more informative than any other out there because she sites her sources. Essentially she can substantiate her work as well as her skin care line.

  2. sue osciak Says:

    Why wouldn’t paula’s products be given her highest rating? I do not understand why you would fault someone for using science based information to make well formulated products to sell to consumers. I actually feel that if someone is telling me a skincare product does not work, I would say, “ok smartypants, why don’t you make a better one?” And she did!

    • It is so interesting how my post in which I tried very hard to present both why I love yet also have some issues with Paula Begoun has angered some people. As I stated in my post I actually like and use (and have recommended more than once in this blog) Paula’s Choice products. My issue is with the way in which she promotes her products not with the products themselves. I feel that if she wants me to trust her unbiased opinion about other company’s products then she shouldn’t be rating her own products in her books. Overall Paula Begoun’s work as a consumer advocate of the beauty industry is important and needed, as I stated above in my post. I just don’t always agree with everything she says or how she goes about promoting herself. I believe it is important to question and discuss the work of others in the beauty industry since so much of the industry is based on half-truths and marketing. And that includes a discussion of Paula Begoun and her statements and methods.

      • Haley Says:

        Thank you for speaking up. When you read her reviews she always always always finds things wrong with non PC products. Not a single time have I seen one where she has actually said this product is good full stop. There is always something wrong and low and behold … you may wish to try my product instead! This is biased and not used in the way in which it was intended.

        Again, thanks and well done for speaking up. She needs to pull her head in for a change.

  3. Lizrox Says:

    I totally agree with you. Paula is totally under-qualified to be any sort of officianato of any skincare expert. No license of any type and shameless plugs of her own crap-filled ingredient-deck products.
    It’s only been in the last, what, year? that she took out all of the parabens and silicone fillers from them? Hi. How can you talk so much smack about products and recommend your own products so highly when you just complained about another brand’s similar ingredient deck? Again, it’s only been within the last YEAR that her “team” put in actual active ingredients to provide any sort of change in the skin.
    I think she is worthless, she has no credibility. She should change her name from “Cosmetic Cop” to “Cosmetic Bully”.

  4. Suzanne Coy Says:

    Paula rates hers the best then recommends 20 comparable products for you to try too. Who does that? No one. If it wasn’t for her I would be wearing $200 lotions that do nothing for me. I’ve been using Paula’s products for 3 years now and at the age of 47 stopped using foundation. It can be done!

  5. Rae Says:

    It’s the first time I read this article and I must agree to almost everything you said.

    Bottomline is people shouldn’t get their knowledge from only one source and treat it like a bible of beauty. Sometimes I agree with Paula, sometimes I don’t. Same goes for all other blogs and beauty-related websites.

  6. Katie Says:

    I completely agree with with what Rae said!

    I appreciate what Paula does for consumer advocacy, but I’ve often thought it was pretty unethical for her to test and rate her own products. I think a neutral 3rd party tester would have been a wiser choice. I also don’t agree with her skincare strategies, but that’s just from my own personal experience. I have sensitive/combo skin and the suggested regime was way too aggressive and harsh for me. There isn’t a magic combination of skin care products for oily skin or dry skin. It’s pretty individual and there are so many factors that go into it (diet for example).

    Great post and good conversation!

  7. Lynn Says:

    1st comment on any blog ever

  8. Lynn Says:

    As you can see above, I don’t know how to do this. Great post, thoughtful opinions. I’m a fan of Paulas books & products & sell the line in my esthetics practice but that doesn’t mean that it is the only valid skin care line on the planet. My philosophy is that if you love your skin care products and you believe that you are receiving the full benefit of the claims that that line makes, then you are not looking for a sales pitch from me, and you will not get one. I went into esthetics because it is a SERVICE that I love to provide, not a retail sales opportunity. However, most clients want to evaluate and discuss their skin care routine, and rely on me for honest direction. Trust and integrity are invaluable in the skin care arena and that is why I offer Paula’s Choice.

  9. juststoppinby Says:

    Agree with your opinion very much. After having suffered and brainwashed from sources like such, I also actively avoided any fragrance or fragrant, and even plant derived ingredients. However, I had a chance to get aroma therapy facials, and it worked wonderfully. I’ve used Aromessence (Rose D’Orient, Neroli, and Angelique) from Decleor, all three of them with great success. Quite frankly, I think these are really decent products, because they use all plant based ingredients without any synthetic ingredients. There are products made for similar purpose with synthetic oils and fragrances (this happens from prestigious brands as well). I’ve noticed that she prefers mostly acids as active ingredients, fragrance free, she tends to think all, or most plant extracts are irritants, and when it comes to make up she likes flat, matte look. It also appears she lacks understanding of aromatherapy and the needs for dry skin. Also it is quite controversial that she critiques other’s products when she has her own line (which I think is focused on sunscreen, fragrance free and acid as active ingredients). While I wouldn’t look to her advice when choosing a product (because I have a different guideline for choosing product that I have set up on my own, and a lot of the product she rated poorly worked out great for me), I do think that there are some good that she has done for the public, which is to be more aware and inspire them to cut through illusion.

    • Jason Says:

      As Paula often says,being plant based doesn’t make a cosmetic ingredient good. The chemical in poison ivy is plant based but you wouldn’t want to put it on your skin. Similarly there is valid scientific research out there that shows natural oils like Lavender actually damage skin over time, whether you feel it doing anything or not. Its horrifying to think of how many things use lavendar oil in them. Fragrance is bad for skin and should be avoided. Use essential oil candles if you want to smell something good 🙂 All the best

      • Gabriella Says:

        Whether Lavender oil can damage skin is still controversial and there are laboratory results showing that lavender DOES heal skin over time. Leaving out this part of the scientific data, consciously or not, is definitely showing Paula’s biases.

    • Jason Says:

      BTW, she does critic other people’s products but more often than not she will rate other products as good as hers, even ones that are cheaper.

  10. Jason Says:

    A few things you seem to leave out are:

    1) Paula has a background in science
    2) Even if fragrance doesn’t cause noticeable irritation in some people does not mean it is good for anyone. Fragrance may well cause problems for people even if they don’t necessarily feel it on their skin. If people with sensitive skin notice it, then what is it doing to people who don’t notice it. There is also some science to back up the idea that fragrance is bad
    3) Paula is the only person I know that links her “opinions” as you call them to actuall scientific research. Good, peer-reviewed research and I don’t know anyone else doing that.

    My skin has improved greatly since following Paula’s advice. I hope others can benefit from her scientific approach to skin care rather than how some others approach it which tends to be by heresay or myth.

    • Paula Begoun is definitely not the only beauty blogger who cites scientific sources. Check out Future Derm and The Beauty Brains. You’ll find links to both sites on my blog home page, right side.

      • Jason Says:

        Its nice to see people following Paula’s lead in this regard then and advancing skin care through good, peer-reviewed research. Through science instead of via anecdotal evidence, old wive’s tales, myth, tradition, etc 🙂

      • Jason Says:

        Already I see a problem with FutureDerm. In an article a reviewer on the site talks about a product and then states there is a real problem with Sodium Laureth Sulfate saying that it is an irritant. The reviewer gives only one quote from one Doctor in a book to provide evidence. Paula’s site clearly states that Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a mild cleansing agent considered to be gentle and effective and instead of supporting her position with a book she links to several peer-reviewed scientific journals. It sounds like FutureDerm has problems with the way they do science. Perhaps it is just a problem with this one reviewer but still, furthering the myth that all sulfates are bad for the skin is really bad practice.

  11. snsbeauty Says:

    I completely agree with your post. I think her concept is a great one–the beauty industry needs accountability and the consumer would be greatly helped to get information from a non-biased, well researched source. However, I think it needs to come from someone who is not trying to pitch her own products. It’s a conflict of interest. I found her website originally when I was doing some additional research on one of my favorite products. I found her review misinformative, and was really disappointed when the alternative product she suggested was her own. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  12. Tara Says:

    Thanks for this post. I recently discovered Paula’s site and found a lot helpful but was concerned about her pushing her own products. I went through products I’ve used for 20 years , and she really nailed ones which did something and ones that did not. In fact, I thought a retinol cream I was using was doing something but after reading her review realized I was just trying to convince myself it was helping when I really didn’t see any changes. I’ve switched my moisturizer to one she gave as a Best and VERY happy especially at the price. I’m curious to try her products, especially a toner for dry skin BUT I don’t like she includes her products with the Best of. I am also curious about peels and am not comfortable about that info and ratings on her site. Up until now I had been relying just one what people recommended by trying products- but too often I think we all are swayed by marketing and convince ourselves a product is working when it is not, especially when loyal to a brand. I’ll be checking out the links you gave to other skin care sites and compile what I find. Certainly if 2 or 3 sites say something is bad- it saves me a lot of money!

  13. Amy Miller Says:

    I LOVED your post, I found it fair & basically expresses the same pros & cons I have w/Begoun. The (2) biggest issues that plague me w/her is 1. She has her own line of products, which of course she thinks highly of, but it’s business for her. 2. She doesn’t use the products she trashes, she ONLY goes by the ingredients. That is silly, there are products made w/mineral oil & water that people swear by because for whatever reason it works for them. On the other hand there are products like Retin-A that don’t do a darn thing except maybe cause irritation depending on the person.

    I remember when she wasn’t a big fan of retinol, I think that’s changed. And I would respect her opinions far more if she actually did testing like Allure magazine does.

    • Alyssia Says:

      exactly. I think its not justified to comment on something you have never even tried. It can be a personal choice not to use certain types of ingredients on yourself but when you’re advocating it to millions out there…its just a bunch of theory. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I totally disagree with alot of her claims from having actually tried out the stuff. For example, retin-a is amazing for me… faded my chicken pox scars to nothingness in 3 weeks but it was terrible for my irritated her skin to no end. But i’m not going to go round claiming that its terrible because of that…but only cause i know for myself how it can be a saviour for people who can tolerate it.

  14. Anja Says:

    I also feel it looks a bit odd that she gives her own products the highest mark – on the other hand, why should she produce anything which she doesn’t believe in?
    I think one should also remember that she started reviewing products long time before she invented her own.

  15. Alyssia Says:

    I can’t stand that woman! I have no idea why everyone is singing her praises. Her products were horrible on my skin! I broke out like there was no tomorrow. Then realised that her serums were loaded with silicons and her cleansers only resulted in dry dull skin. I think skin is a very individual subject. What works for one person may not work for another. It baffles me how multitudes of people blindly follow everything she says like its the law. She has an annoying tendency to harp on a certain ingredient as being bad for the skin…evil and shouldn’t be touched. I personally love the use of essential oils…if not overdone, i find that it does my skin so much of good. I use a moisturiser with parabens in it because personally, i don’t mind and would rather have my product kept fresh. What i’m trying to say is, i think women should be smart enough to experiment, read up and decide what might be good for their skin and not listen to some lady who claims that practically everything out there irritates the skin and causes problems for it. Everything is made up for chemicals…theres no avoiding it..its whether your skin likes it or not that matters.

  16. Nina Says:

    I am an Esthetician, I study & examine skin; I have also suffered from horrible skin conditions myself, using products that did nothing or made it worse, and I have done, (& still do) some broad research on skincare products and ingredients to help clients, as well as myself. And what I am going to say is, you’re information regarding some of Paula’s advice is unaccurate. Paula herself, may be inaccurate with a lot of things (such as a lot of her skincare containing comedogenic ingredients), but then your “opinions”, arent so accurate either. For example, using a toner as a moisturizer for oily skin, is a great idea. If you cannot find something with solid humectants.
    Humectants- hydrating, attracts water from the environment to the skin
    Occlusives- moisturizing, provides a layer of oil to the surface of the skin
    Humectants are good for oily skin. Occlusives are good for dry. Since they leave a layer of oil on your skin, it would be best to avoid them if you have oily, acneic skin. Most Toners, carry more humectants and hydrate. Most moisturizers, creams and lotions carry occlusives and moisturize. It just makes sense. Many dermatoligsts will tell you to use a moisturizer, to soothe irritated skin, yes, but many of the same dermatologists have told us that because the products they gave us have irritated our skin to begin with, and so many dermatologists have mis guided us by selling us a bunch of products, with pore clogging (comedogenic ingredients) that do not work. And then all of a sudden our skin is getting worse, hmmmm…. Fyi, most Dermatologists do not study product ingredients. They are just there to make money off of them. Unless you find one that steps outside of the box, typically one that believes in a holistic lifestyle. Hyluronic acid is a great example of a humectant, and it is rare to find a moisturizer with this ingredient in it, that does not contain occlusives as well. (the combo can make you break out more); hyluronic acid can be found in serums or toners alone, or with other humectants. But most companies add occlusives to it to make it a moisturizer, and sell it as a moisturizer. Paula, Is also correct about majority of the skincare lines being decietful. Do your own research, with a legit version of a “comedogenic list” in your hand (example: journal of the society of cosmetic chemists) and read through the ingredients of all of these skincare products, and see how many contain comedogenic ingredients, even though they claim they don’t. You will find that a good majority do, it’s quite sad actually. And fragerance should absolutely be banned from skincare designed for oily/acneic/sensitive skincare, it is an irritant! And it is highly comedogenic, it will absolutely clog your pores, once again do your research, not based on blogs like this. When I discovered all of this information, before I even knew who Paula was, and eliminated all this bs skincare, my skin cleared. Go figure. My only problem with Paula, is, like I said, not all her products contain non comedogenic ingredients which makes her very hypocritical, which I do not understand to this very day. And my point is, your blog is mostly based off opinion, with no real research to back up your points, therefore making a good chunk of your defense invalid. And I encourage everyone to do their own broad research before they take anyone else’s advice, even mine! If you research a few of the things I have mentioned, you will see that is information is accurate though. And I really hope it helps.

  17. David Says:

    Paula has taught me quite a bit about cosmetics, and her website is a valuable resource; however, her reviews invariably lead you toward buying her products. They are now even automatically displayed at the bottom of the page. She alludes to her “team” who I suspect are her children or at best a badgered assistant. Even when a product is good, she’ll allude to it snidely “if you want to pay a lot more than you should for a toner, this product has visible benefits!” How can a makeup-artist-cum-skincare-cop know better how to formulate a product than the doctors and chemists at a billion-dollar skincare company? As to her citations, try following up on one. I can never find the clear citation, and think that too is just an illusion. Lastly, this woman hates menthol, but who hasn’t drunk a cup of mint tea to calm an upset stomach or fall to sleep? Some of what she says is just nonsense. Scent, texture, and packaging are important parts of a luxurious skincare routine, and she ignores that.

    • Tina Says:

      I agree with you, and really I don’t think a psychiatric journal is the best place to get your skin care references. She uses other odd medical journals to get a lot of her references. I have tried several of her products and they feel and smell blah to yuck on the skin. I like putting something on my skin that makes me feel beautiful. I also agree with you on the point that companies with money invest in research can make a good product. A Paula’s review disagrees with a company that uses petri dishes for experimentation. Really! Skin cells can be placed on a dish and observed through a microscope for their reaction to a certain ingredient. I come from scientific background and I don’t agree with her use of science. I have also worked with dermatologists and plastic surgeons that don’ t sell product lines in their offices and they state there are no amazing products. So I just use what makes me feel good and I don’t run in fear if Paula doesn’t like them. Of course I read the labels and I know what I am putting on my skin. Paula also writes of irritation from fragrances even if it is not visible, what? She promotes retinol products that cause major visible irritation and glycolic acid that peels off a protective layer of skin and leaves you open to more sun damage if you are not diligent in sun care.

    • k8 Says:

      “Lastly, this woman hates menthol, but who hasn’t drunk a cup of mint tea to calm an upset stomach or fall to sleep?”

      lol what does this have to do w how menthol acts when you put it directly on your skin though…….

    • Haley Says:

      Goodness, I thought I was going mad not being able to fine a single one of her citations! So they really are a red herring! I have tried quite hard, going to the sites of the publications she mentions, looking through back issues carefully but have not been able to fine any of them. If any of you guys have please speak up.

  18. k8 Says:

    i recently decided to put her to the test and revamp my skincare routine using only products rated best on the beautypedia (excluding her products lol, i’m not shading her hustle but i dont quite believe the hype, either), and i’ve had great success– the main thing for me, i think, is that i’m probably more sensitive to different volatile oils than i thought! as you say, it’s great what she’s doing to bring more awareness to consumers about the ingredients we’re putting on our faces and what effect they can have on us. obviously her reviews would probably be much more trustworthy if the products were actually tested, but i’m not sure how anyone could justify testing thousands of products just for consumer benefit without funding for the government or something. the way i look at her reviews is that they’re a great tool to help find products with the types of ingredients that you’re looking to put on your skin and avoid products with ingredients you don’t, and shouldn’t be taken as gospel but just another factor to consider. like all resources, they can help point you in the right direction, but you never know until you try!

  19. Suzi McCrory Says:

    ~Paula needs to be open-minded and ‘bend’ a bit? That would defeat the whole purpose of what she does. The ingredients and the ingredients; she’s a consumer advocate, not the author of Vogue magazine cosmetic puff pieces.
    ~Saying she’s not as knowledgeable about the effects of skin-care ingredients because she doesn’t ‘touch skin’ (what do you think she’s encased in? + she and her staff do actually try the products she reviews) would be discounting the professions of pharmacists, chemists, and the like, by that logic, as pharmacists don’t examine bodies and chemists aren’t their own end users. Again, the ingredients are what the ingredients are, The properties don’t change.
    ~Fragrance has no business in skincare products and cosmetics, sensitive skin or not, it is not good to put on your face. Perfume is an entirely different product. Don’t apply perfume or cologne to your face, either.
    ~Paula does not give her own products a rating.

    • Since I’ve written this post about Paula Begoun years ago it still attracts numerous negative responses (and some positive ones as well) that I choose to publish since I believe in the freedom of speech. I choose not to respond to the negative comments, for the most part, since they are usually so negative that I feel that no matter what I say the person who commented will not take my opinion seriously. But I do have to respond to one part of the negative comment written above – the part that says that “Paula does not give her own products a rating”. Nothing can be further from the truth. All you need to do is log-on to Paula Begoun’s Beautypedia and look up her products to see that not only does she rate her own products she gives them all her best rating:

  20. beauty_editor Says:

    paula is a hack. she used to take (and may still?) money as a “consultant” from MANY companies in the industry. Once they stopped paying her, her reviews turned. Do your research. see brands she used to rate high that she’s flipped her opinion of. Truth be told, big box brands like Olay, Nuetrogena, Cetaphil, Dove, they can afford to do research – and cant afford not to (lawsuits). Small hack brands (like hers) can fly under the radar.

  21. Lucy Says:

    I really enjoy reading Paula’s reccommendations. Like her, I’m a Makeup Artist that is very intelligent and fascinated at looking closely at ingredients that are effective in skincare products. However, I work for a company that had an acne-fighting product rated as “poor to NO acne-fighting properties”. That said, I’ve had countless blemish proned individuals have INCREDIBLE success in a matter of weeks from the product. Many of them saw differences from even 1 or 2 of the products (especially the facial wipes and facial mask, in which I suggest to lazy teen boys). Don’t you dare label someone a hack when all they’re striving to do is HELP the clueless and confused. Instead of you wasting countless dollars trying each different option that, perhaps, your self-conscious son/daughter needs to banish their blemishes, she has carefully scoured through ingredient lists to deliver to you some possible winners. I’m positive that, unfortunately, some of my customers could end up being let down once again by ANOTHER skincare range. It’s for that reason that I appreciate what Paula does for the industry, even though I do believe in what I sell. You have to be able to look at this in the way I do. At first, I was embarrassed by my company, HOWEVER, our Combination/Oily Skin range has seen my skin TRANSFORM, even though it is rated average-poor… And looking at the ingredients, Paula is totally right, but that hasn’t stopped me from loving and believing in it. I think my attitude about Paula is exactly what some of you need to imbrace.

  22. Jessica Says:

    I agree completely with this post. While I do find Paula’s reviews of various products to be extremely helpful when deciding whether or not to make a purchase, I have a big problem with her giving her products the “best” rating. I really believe there should be a 3rd party to really determine if such a rating is actually warranted. And to the commenter who said that she does have a science background, please keep in mind that she only has a bachelor’s degree. I myself have a science degree, specifically in biochemistry, but in no way would I feel justified in making some of the claims she does unless I held a PhD. Her science background is extremely limited, and while she defends her assertions with peer reviewed articles, we need to also keep in mind that these scientific articles can also be flawed. Has no one ever heard of a journal retracting an article? Happens very often, even in the most prestigious journals, like Science and Cell. I also agree wholeheartedly about her angst towards fragrances. I have no sensitivity to fragrances but I understand how bothersome and irritating it would be for those who are, but does a product really deserve a “poor” rating simply because there is fragrance in it? I have read countless reviews on her website where she seems to praise a product but gives it a poor rating simply because it contains a fragrance. And then of course there are those reviews where she states that even though a product contains a fragrance, it can be dismissed because the product works so well. Which is it, Paula? Yes or no to fragrance? Lastly, my issue is that she doesn’t actually try the products before she reviews them nor does her support team, I suspect. They likely simply look at the ingredients and oh there’s a fragrance, all right give it a poor rating.

  23. Madeline Says:

    The way I see it, I would rather listen to Paula’s researched ingredient advice than listen to women who are only giving their personal opinions on a product. There are hundreds of claims and reviews for a certain skin product that wants you to pay $150 a month to receive their skin cream which can do everything including fighting gravity and facial bones shrinkage. The women claim in 17 seconds their wrinkles look smoother! Their skin keeps getting younger every month until I thought they were going to say they have now turned into infants. Women will say what they want to believe and see. They believe the hype for awhile and then go to the next product. Most of them wish on stars. I prefer to be intelligently informed and then make decisions made with good info and my own preferences. Paula has a right to rate her products high. Why would she make products she thinks are junk with her knowledge? if women want to spend money on caviar oil that’s only good for baby fish in a egg, that’s fine with me. But I would rather be educated and base my choices on what science believes to be factual, unless proved wrong. I do my homework, make choices and then see what works for me. I don’t pay attention to the herds of people mooing about the latest from Vogue that is miraculous.

  24. MirrorMe Says:

    I’ve been reading Paula Begoun’s reviews for many years and find they serve as good guidelines. But they’re just that–guidelines. Everyone has their own preferences, and not every product she recommends has worked well for me, just as not every product she complains about has caused me problems. For example, Paula maintains that pink undertones in foundation are always a no-no because no one has pink skin. But I definitely have pink undertones in my skin and need that pinkish cast in my foundation, or else I look too washed out.

    Paula was writing reviews for a long time before she started her own cosmetics line, so I actually thought the debut of Paula’s Choice was a welcome progression, the solution to the two main problems she identified in the beauty industry–the inflated expense of designer products and the irritants they contained. I’ve used her skin care products for quite some time and love them. However, in the last few years, I’ve noticed that I’m paying more for less. Her prices have increased substantially even as the bottles get smaller and smaller.

    The secrecy surrounding certain ingredients also seems hypocritical to me. For example, when she started selling retinol, I inquired about how much retinol her product contained. I was told that the percentage was “proprietary,” and now, a few years later, her site tries to head off this question by stating that the percentage of retinol is unimportant. That’s ridiculous. If the percentage wasn’t important, then a dermatologist wouldn’t be needed to prescribe it at higher strengths. I don’t care for this lack of transparency about an active ingredient, so I purchase my retinol from a company that believes in full disclosure and sells 1% retinol.

    The bottom line for me is that Paula Begoun is a mixed bag. I take what I like and leave the rest. My recommendation to anyone reading this is to remember that individual preferences vary widely, and no one can guarantee that a given product will work for you. You can use her reviews as a starting point to narrow your choices, but if you take every word she says as gospel, you may miss out on some great products. As for the Paula’s Choice skin care line, I have only good things to say about it, but that’s just my experience.

    • MirrorMe Says:

      Oh, and one more thing…Paula used to disparage products that claimed to be “anti-aging.” She said no one but a plastic surgeon could make wrinkles vanish or tighten up eye bags and so on. But now she too has products that she claims do just that! I have some of these products, and while they definitely make my skin softer and smoother, the fine lines haven’t gone anywhere. I see this as more evidence that she’s become increasingly hypocritical over time.

  25. pilatesfreak Says:

    The only information I have found with Paula Begoun has been sheer confusion. She is so avidly against certain natural oils or natural ingredients stating that they cause irritation and therefore giving bad reviews for products that contain these ingredients. I must say that I have used some of the products she deems “poor” and have not caused any skin irritations. My skin has actually been better using products with these natural ingredients in them and I have used them for years. I am not a fan of Paula and her opinions on products and here is why. A few years ago when I found her book at Barnes and Noble I was really excited. I really wanted expert opinions on products to help me make better decisions about what I was putting on my skin. I was fascinated by reading what she “deemed” “poor” And when I discovered she had her own skin care line, I thought why not try it. I thought she has made her products in the way she claimed were the best way to get results. So I ordered samples of the products that were for my specific skin type. What a huge mistake!!! The very minute I put any of her products on my skin I immediately had a massive allergic reaction. The first day was bad. My skin was so sensitive and itchy all day long, but I thought perhaps my skin would need to adjust to the use of her anti-oxidants. So I tried the products again the next morning. I had an even worse allergic reaction. So I admit I have sensitive skin, but some the products that she has givin “poor” ratings to, have come no where even close to causing the reaction that I had with her products. My face was burning, itching without relief, swollen, hives and redness all over. I have never, repeat never had an allergic reaction to ANY skin care product like this before. I had to be on benadryl for over a week to get this reaction under control. I repeat no skin care product has ever done this to me before. I am just frustrated with her “Best” product reviews because what she deems “Best” are worthless products. Look what her products did to me. And I am not just talking about hers. I did try others that were in the “Best” category and can give my own negative feedback. I have done research looking for reviews of people who have actually used some her “Best” products and the reviews are also negative. I was about to invest in a anti-aging serum based on Paula’s review, until I read the reviews of people to had actually used it. Perhaps, like stated in this blog, she hasn’t actually tried these products to know their benefit, she is just basing it on research written down. I don’t know. All I know is that I put little to no stock in her reviews after the experiences I have had. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but her reviews of products are confusing and to me infuriating.

  26. Adobogiona Says:

    I am glad I came across your review. I am glad I am not the only one who has a problem with Paula Begoun’s narcissism. She clearly poses herself as a prophet and I do find it disturbing. Especially when I bought a certain product named: Skin Recovery Replenishing Moisturizer. Well this product happens to be full of silicons, this is actually one of the most siliconey products I have ever come across. What about people who are allergic to silicons?

    So she and her team spent their time badmouthing products with fragrance or foundations with too low a SPF (some people prefer applying their sunscreen separately so how is that even a con?), but she delivers a daily moisturizer full of cons, which gets the highest rating by her own standard. Kind of a joke. She and her team are so self aggrandizing and biased that they actually lost my trust and as a result, I will neither buy from Paula’s Choice again nor take their reviews into account.

  27. Kay Says:

    I only use her site to get an ingredient list on products that I couldn’t otherwise find. I’m only recently getting started into an anti-aging skin care routine and at first read her reviews on products but have since picked up on all that’s been observed in this blog entry and following comments. I consider her review and advice but not really that seriously. I’ve gathered more information from skin care forums.

    And coincidentally, I am looking for silicone free face and hair care products. Not so good, Paula.

  28. […] Paula “The Cosmetics Cop” Begoun: Friend or Foe to the … – If you are interested in cosmetic and skincare products you have probably come across Paula Begoun’s best-selling books and even visited her website. […]

  29. Sue Says:

    Interesting. I started reading her reviews years ago. When I later learned she had her own product line and was continuing to review other products, conflict of interest came to mind. Nonetheless, I recently decided to try a couple of her products. Prior to trying these products, I had tried another skincare line that was rather expensive, but I did like the results. The main reason I tried Paula Begoun’s product line had a lot to do with the lower price point. The problem is that I really didn’t care for her products. I then decided to read her reviews of the skincare line that I did like and discovered mostly negative reviews. So, I’ve decided to rely on the advice of my dermatologist, friends with similar skin type, and my own firsthand experience in products.

  30. She’s far from “objective”. Her reviews are really pushing for the ideology behind her line by dismissing all those other lines that do not use the same kind of philosophy or ingredients. The polemics in her reviews are off-putting. Also, I tried to post a comment to one of her reviews of a product, and it got truncated. They did not ask my permission. Interestingly they are sneaky about it–they did not cut out the part where I say this particular product is better than some of the PC ones I’ve used, but instead cut out the substantial arguments where I gave my reason for why their critique of this product is wrong—such as there are many different grades of mineral oil, and many of the medical grade ones are not bad for one’s skin; and also there are obviously different species of plants, e.g. is there really only one kind of seaweed in the entire ocean, that was used in cosmetic products. And they just cut out these reasonings. This is a sign what they are promoting and how ugly some of the self-promotion can get while maintaining a facade of “objectivity”.

  31. Amy Says:

    Great objective article, Hanah! It seems to me that a lot of the critical comments towards your article here are very biased and there is not enough rationality to back them up. I have a research background, and I know full well how many scientific studies are based on wrong experiment methods or bad statistical analysis. Also, most researchers themselves cannot give such absolute opinions as Paula does. Since most consumers will not actually dig up the scientific literature and many would not be able to comprehend the contents of them, people tend to blindly believe the conclusions Paula draw just because she threw out the word “scientific”. I also suspect that Paula might intentionally give biased reviews in order to promote her own line of products, which would be extremely unethical since most consumers who read her reviews want to trust that she is giving genuinely unbiased reviews. Anyways, I just wanted to say, I applaud for your effort to be as objective as you can in the article, and I think you are really trying to help others to make informed and rational decisions when it comes to cosmetic purchases. Keep up the good work!

  32. Brad P Says:

    Paula Begoun has zero medical training. She has no science degree. She isn’t a trained professional. It’s that simple. Perhaps she should examine the ingredients in herself before she laments as a know it all on the terrible ingredients of other products. Furthermore, to call herself the cosmetic cop is a joke. Cop? Really? When she writes about the “science” of things one wonders who is really writing it, because she isn’t educated. She’s a good talker. She’s a good saleswoman. Typical con artist who attacks other cons. How ironic. And women are so gullible. Look at the blank, idiotic faces of the women who sit in the audiences of TV talks shows. Just out to lunch, perfect targets for the Paula Begouns of the world…..

    • Daisy Daniels Says:

      “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln. Paula Begoun must love this. Any publicity is good publicity. Right? Lol. She must be doing something right to evoke such passion in her followers. As any individual ought, I will only speak for myself concerning her books. For me the books were a great eye opener. After reading her books, a spark was ignited inside me, a desire to do more in-depth research on skincare from other sources as well, to confirm her findings and gather more information. Finally, I had something more to go on than false advertising. It’s frustrating to try one useless product after another, not to mention so much wasted money. For the first time, I went to see an aesthetician in a dermatologist’s office. I got advice on MY skin. I got a series of peels. 🙂 They were gentle ones, but what a difference! Entirely worth it! Also, I now know the difference between bha and aha and which is best for me and which is best for my daughters and son, and I know it’s important to know. I now know retinol products are indispensable. You just need the patience to learn when to use them, how to use them, and how often to use them for your skin (not your friend’s skin or your sister’s skin, or anyone else’s skin ;-)). That is just a small example of what I have learned thanks to a basic foundation of knowledge and a kickstart to learn more from Paula Begoun. Also, I have more confidence in the products I’m now buying and using because of the information I have from Paula and from that point, other sources. For that I thank Paula Begoun with all my heart. She got me started on the road to learning which ingredients really work and how they work and just what I can honestly expect to get out of a jar, so to speak, since I now know jars are not the best way to package antioxidants. Thank You, Paula, for all the information. Thank you, Hanah, for the forum to speak one’s mind. Thank you, Courtney (my first aesthetician :-)). I miss you. What I do not miss is blindly spending hundreds of dollars on useless products and having no idea how to find the truly effective products. I knew they were out there, and now I know how to find them.

  33. cbiancardi Says:

    OMG – thank you for your blog post. I’ve run into Paula’s Cult and you cannot say anything negative about her. I do use her site as a research one, but also many others as well, plus I use my own personal experiences with a skincare item as well. It always bothers me that she can knock a product down without testing it herself.

    It now makes sense that if she suffers from a skin disease, that she would hate certain ingredients, but that should be clearly marked as a personal bias. It is ironic that her products made me break out in horrible acne for weeks – hard, nasty bumps that took over a month to go away – and yet, she rates her products the best.

  34. cbiancardi Says:

    Reblogged this on Unboxing Beauty and commented:
    This is an oldie, but goodie. I use Paula’s Choice site as one of the many research areas about ingredients, but it is NOT the be all and end all of sites. I take in account her own personal biases towards certain ingredients with other sites plus I do test products personally. It is good to read a wonderfully written piece about PC that is quite fair.

  35. tedoymisojos Says:

    I want to comment on what you said about oily acne prone skin needing a moisturizer. I have sensitive, acne prone skin, and i use moisturizer VERY sparingly, and try not to use it daily. Almost every single product ive tried contributes to clogged potes one way or another. Instead i wash my face, apply Cliniques mild toner and aloe vera gel on top. During the day i top this with sunscreen, im using breakout free spf 50 by Neutrogena at the moment. The only moisturizers ive tried that dont clog my pores, are not very good at moistutizing or giving me any benefits. Cliniques moisture surge, for example. It feels silicony, like a primer, but does little beyond what my toner does. There are cheaper options for priming. Yesterday i tried Olay pore refining night moisturizer. It felt light, and. Was reccomended fir oily skin. I woke up with clogged pores all over my face, plus my face now feels bumpy. Been using the thing fir two days. Agh! If i could find SOMETHING tjat didnt contribute to clogged pores, that would be great, but i haven gound it. Im planning to try active moist by Dermalogica though.

  36. Roxie Says:

    Thanks for writing this timely article. Just today I emailed Paula’s choice regarding the garbage ingredients in her products. Most of it is chemical junk that will harm your skin. Her “research” is bogus and that’s coming from a nurse who has worked in the skin care field for 20 years. As for the reviews…..fake!

  37. Roxie Says:

    To give you an idea of how much junk is in her products…RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ingredients:
    Key Ingredients:ferulic acidtocotrienolstetrahexyldecyl ascorbateskin-restoring ingredientsmagnesium ascorbyl phosphateepigallocatechin gallateCurcuma longa rootergothioneineglycerinLupinus albus extractxanthophyllceramide NPtocopherolthioctic acidantioxidantpalmitoyl tripeptide-5ubiquinonesoy extractbeta-glucansuperoxide dismutaseArctostaphylos uva ursi leaftocopheryl acetate
    Product Ingredients:
    Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone (hydrations/suspending agents), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin c/antioxidant), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 (skin-restoring ingredient), Ceramide NP, Tocotrienols, Tocopherol (vitamin e/antioxidant), Ubiquinone (coenzyme q10/antioxidant), Thioctic Acid (alpha lipoic acid/antioxidant), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin e/antioxidant), Magnesium Ascorbyl, Phosphate ( vitamin c/antioxidant), Ferulic Acid (antioxidant), Beta-Glucan (skin-soothing), Superoxide Dismutase (antioxidant), Epigallocatechin Gallate (antioxidant), Ergothioneine (antioxidant), Glutathione (antioxidant), Xanthophylls (antioxidant), Glycine Soja Seed Extract (soybean extract/antioxidant), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract (bearberry extract/skin-soothing), Lupinus Albus Seed Extract (white lupin extract/antioxidant), Curcuma Longa Root Extract (turmeric extract/antioxidant), Elaeis Guineensis Oil (palm oil/emollient), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

    • tedoymisojos Says:

      That product looks pretty good. It has active ingredients, antioxidants, and skin-identical ingredients in a silicone base. What is the problem?

      • TRoddenham Says:

        What is your problem tedoymisojos? She already stated the problem: “chemical junk”!!
        On a serious note, Roxie was probably told by some celeb or whole foods employee or someone equally unqualified to never put stuff on (or in) her body that has any ingredient she can’t pronounce. That advice was going around a few years ago and been a part of the worsening “ZOMG chemicals” zombies…
        Lack of critical thinking is a very common problem these days.

  38. Nama Says:

    Paula’s book and website is good as a reference. But do not take her word as everything. Essential oils have been a very important part of my routine. I also believe that a wholesome lifestyle like drinking enough clean water and eating greens are keys to maintaining good skin.

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