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Are Jessica Alba’s beauty secrets worth stealing?

July 2, 2011 Reviewed by admin 1 Comment
Recently, StyleList published an article about Jessica Alba’s summer beauty secrets. Some of her responses to questions were vaguely interesting (like using lipstick as a cheek stain). Some were no brainers (like name dropping Revlon when discussing nail polishes; Alba is a Revlon spokeswoman). But a few of the products she mentioned really caught my attention. The first was her go-to sunscreen: California Baby. I’d never heard of it, and I had my doubts that it could be any good. I’m not sure whether they actually use them, but celebrities often endorse pretty underwhelming products.

But Alba’s sunscreen choice is surprisingly safe. I can’t speak to California Baby’s effectiveness and Alba doesn’t mention which California Baby SPF products she uses, but all of them have been rated either a 1 or 2 by the Environmental Working Group. All California Baby products use Titanium Dioxide as their sunscreen agent; no chemical agents are used, and no sulfates, dyes, phthalates, etc. are used, either.

I was impressed with Alba’s choice of sunscreen, but less so with her favorite fragrance: Honoré des Prés Vamp à NY. Honoré des Prés is a French perfume company that makes “100% natural organic products.” At first glance, the company seems worthy of further inspection. It’s rare to find a perfumery that prides itself in safe ingredients, but that’s exactly what Honoré des Prés does. No petrochemical products, synthetic perfumes, coloring agents or phthalates. Interesting and commendable – if true. I couldn’t find ingredients anywhere on the Honoré des Prés website, but the perfumery does list Spirit Beauty Lounge as one of its sellers. Luckily, that site listed the ingredients in Vamp à NY.

The first ingredient is Alcohol, which is typical of perfumes. Second, as you might expect, is Fragrance. Don’t ask me what that means, because I can guarantee you that nobody knows except insiders at Honoré des Prés. Next up is Benzyl Benzoate, a solvent that the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has restricted in fragrances “because of potential sensitization.” The book What’s Toxic, What’s Not lists cinnimal (the perfume’s next ingredient) as “among the most common allergens in fragrance mixes.” Eugenol is another ingredient, and yet another allergen. Farnesol has been deemed “an infrequent but important cause of allergic contact dermatitis.” The IFRA has also restricted use of another Vamp à NY ingredient, thanks to potential sensitization: Geraniol. Isoeugenol, the next ingredient listed, is a “well-known moderate human sensitizer.” Bottom line: the vast majority of this perfume’s ingredients are allergy overloads.

Still, what about the whole “100% natural” shtick? Plus, Vamp à NY has been certified organic by EcoCert (one of the largest organic certification organizations in the world). Unlike here in the United States, where the word “natural” means absolutely nothing (or really anything manufacturers want it to mean), the Autorité de regulation professionnelle de la publicité (ARPP), or France’s self-regulatory advertising organization, maintains that a product can only be called natural if at least 95% of ingredients are actually of natural origin. And a product can only be called organic if it has all organic ingredients or has been certified as organic by a certifying body. Since Vamp à NY has been certified by EcoCert, I suppose it makes the cut. But bear in mind that EcoCert permits “synthetic preservatives and petrochemical agents entirely forbidden elsewhere (ie. carboxylates, sarcosinates, amphoacetates, and amidopropyl betaine).” Also important is the fact that technically there will be no legal repercussions if companies to do not play by the advertising organization’s new rules. Also, ARPP restricts companies from using phrases like “free of parabens” or “free from phthalates,” as they “encourage consumer suspicion.” Too bad Honoré des Prés does make those very claims on its website. So if the company isn’t complying with one of ARPP’s standards, who’s to say it’s complying with any of them?

Oh, and on a separate note, don’t get me started on Alba citing La Mer as her favorite moisturizer. The company’s products seem to be over priced and less than impressive.

Ingredients in California Baby No Fragrance Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30+: Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 9.6% Other Ingredients (INCI): Purified water, alkyl benzoate (coconut/moisturizer), cyclomeythicone (silicone/water repellent), *vegetable glycerin (coconut), dipolyhydyroxystearate (coconut/works to emulsify), candelilla cera (candelilla plant wax/protects against moisture loss), tocopherol (vit. e/antioxidant), *squalane (olive oil/emollient), *cocos nucifera oil (coconut oil), magnesium sulfate (epsom salts), panthenol and allantoin (vit. b complex factor), magnesium stearate, capryloyl glycine and undecylenoyl glycine (amino acids). No fragrance or scent masking agents. *organic, sustainable or renewable

Ingredients in Honoré des Prés Vamp à NY: Alcohol, Fragrance, Water, Benzyl Benzoate, Cinnimal, Citral, Eugenol, Farnesol, Geraniol, Isoeugenol, Limonene, Linalol.  Ingredients are 100% Natural. Product is EcoCert Certified Organic.
  • July 2, 2011

    by Doris

    Oh come on!

    Benzyl Benzoate, Cinnimal, Citral, Eugenol, Farnesol, Geraniol, Isoeugenol, Limonene and Linalol are all constituents of essential oils, they just have to be listed seperately in the EU for being *potential* allergens

    To chide a fragrance company for using organic essential oils is like berating an organic restaurant for using organic spices. Cinnamon does have eugenol too, and that's just one example.

    If you have a problem with fragrances, natural or otherwise, don't use them, period. I don't. But if I would, I'd pick an organic fragrance such as Honoré des Prés. "Fragrance" in this case means a proprietary mixture of organic essential oils, nothing more, nothing less, no mystery.

    And as far as I can tell, many of the products endorsed and sold on this site also have essential oils (some if not most conventionally grown and extracted) and nobody's going into paroxysms of indignation over those. This article is badly researched and a simple case of misplaced alarmism.

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