The so-called "philosophy" behind Philosophy Purity Made Simple one-step facial cleanser begins: "Purity is natural. We come into this world with all the right instincts. We are innocent, and therefore perceive things as they should be, rather than how they are." How profound. This philosophical nugget is emblazoned across the front of the packaging. Meanwhile, the microscopic ingredients list resides on the product's backside (where it belongs). Not to sound glib, but the unfortunate additives polluting Purity's formula are the cosmetic equivalent of crap.

As Philosophy portends, "we are innocent" and, thus, don't know any better (or at least, that's what they're hoping). If a skincare product poses as natural and pure, maybe we will buy into it without turning around the bottle and glancing at the back. Too bad Truth in Aging isn't so naive. This product may have been the winner of the 2008 "Best of Sephora" award, but we know better than to be fooled by bells and whistles when it comes to our cosmetics.

Philosophy's Purity recently materialized on my medicine cabinet shelf (a Sephora-induced purchase of my roommate, I presume). So naturally, I did my due diligence and scrutinized the rear label, expecting to find a concise, "pure" list of ingredients. And upon an initial scan, the formula didn't look so bad, densely populated with natural oils drawn from a range of botanicals including meadowfoam, geranium, rosewood, sandalwood, and sage. These plant components are known to nourish and soothe the skin, except perhaps, black pepper extract, which can cause severe skin irritation. But once I got past the bevy of botanicals (which might trick the average eye to trust Purity's all-natural pretense), the formula tells a different story.

Starting from the top, the ingredients list gets rolling with plain water and disodium lauroamphodiacetate (which looks much scarier than it actually is), essentially an inorganic salt used as a surfactant. Additional surfactants such as coco-glucoside, sodium trideceth sulfate, and PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate ensure that your skin gets a thorough clean, though possibly at the expense of your health (since PEGs are known to contain harmful impurities that can lead to organ system toxicity). From there on, you may need your rose-colored glasses to find anything pure in Purity's formula.

Hexylene glycol, like propylene glycol, is widely used in industrial and household cleaners and can be a mild skin irritant. One of the most common preservatives in cosmetics, imidazolidinyl urea releases formaldehyde to protect against the growth of bacteria and, thus, has been shown to cause contact dermatitis and other health problems. Worse still is the pH adjuster triethanolamine, both an irritant and a potential carcinogen. It goes without saying that the evil twin parabens drag the formula further into the dark side. Philosophy's Purity is about as pure as New York snow...or Spitzer's marriage...or Oprah's diet. You get the idea.

Ingredients:

Water, disodium lauroamphodiacetate, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, coco-glucoside, peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate, aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, geranium maculatum oil, guaiacum officinale, cymbopogon martini oil, rosa damascena extract, amyris balsamifera bark oil, santalum album (sandalwood) oil, salvia officinalis (sage) oil, cinnamomum cassia leaf oil, anthemis nobilis flower oil, daucus carota sativa (carrot) seed oil, piper nigrum (black pepper) seed extract, sodium trideceth sulfate, hexylene glycol, cocos nucifera (coconut) alcohol, polysorbate 20, glycerin, carbomer, triethanolamine, methylparaben, propylparaben, imidazolidinyl urea, fd&c yellow no.5