Beautycounter Review: As "Clean" as the Brand Claims?

Beautycounter Review: As "Clean" as the Brand Claims?


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Beautycounter is a multi-level-marketing (MLM) cosmetics brand that positions itself as cleaner than the competition. The brand claims to restrict over 1,800 ingredients in their formulations, which is more than several countries.

But are Beautycounter's products really cleaner than competitors', or is this just a marketing claim? Does the brand use research-backed active ingredients? What's the controversy over the brand's partner earnings? And how do real Beautycounter customers rate and describe the effects of the products?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in two of Beautycounter’s most popular products (sunscreen and makeup) based on clinical studies.

We'll give our take on whether or not these products are likely to be safe and effective.

We'll also highlight a controversy related to the low earnings of Beautycounter Brand Advocates, feature unsponsored customer reviews and share our concerns about some of the clinical claims made by Beautycounter.

Beautycounter Sunscreen Review

Beautycounter sunscreen ingredients

The ingredients in Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, which is one of the brand's most popular products, are shown above.

Zinc oxide is the sole active ingredient, and was shown in a meta-study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science to be an effective and safe "physical" sunscreen ingredient.

The study authors documented that zinc oxide was effective at blocking UV rays, and that there was no absorption of zinc oxide into the bloodstream. We consider this to be the safest and healthiest physical sunscreen ingredient available.

Vitamin E (tocopherol) is another effective ingredient in this sunscreen, as it's been shown in a medical review to provide photoprotective effects, which means it can protect skin from UV damage.

Citrus limon (lemon) peel oil and Citrus aurantium (orange) peel oil are strange ingredient choices for a sunscreen, as both may be phototoxic (which means they may enhance UV damage to skin) based on results from a 2010 clinical trial.

While Beautycounter's sunscreen contains some research-backed ingredients, it also contains four ingredients that we consider to be questionable from a health perspective.

Phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative shown to be toxic to human cells in a test tube study, as we documented in our review of another cosmetics brand called StriVectin.

Citral, limonene and linalool are fragrance ingredients, and at least one of these may be skin-sensitizing according to a 2019 clinical trial.

Overall, we consider Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion likely to protect the skin from UV damage, and somewhat likely to improve skin quality overall.

We don't currently recommend this product due to the use of phenoxyethanol and three fragrance ingredients.

A YouTube creator named Katrice Taylor reviewed two Beautycounter sunscreens (including Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion), in a video with live product demos:

Beautycounter Controversy

There has been much controversy surrounding Beautycounter’s MLM status and the relatively low earnings of the company's Brand Advocates.

Beautycounter publishes data on the income of their Brand Advocates (we respect the transparency here), and their most recent report from fiscal year 2022 documented how the median total income in the first six months of joining was only $42, before expenses.

52% of New Brand Advocates earned zero income in six months, and only 1% of New Brand Advocates earned over $3,700. This is significantly less earnings than working a minimum wage job, and these figures are before expenses.

We don’t necessarily think it’s unethical for Beautycounter to have a marketing model that favors them over their Brand Advocates, so long as they are transparent about how much they pay their Brand Advocates (which it appears they are).

We would recommend against joining Beautycounter as a Brand Advocate, since the average income appears to be low.

It's also notable that these average figures have decreased since we initially published this article (and used fiscal year 2020 data).

Beautycounter does not require Brand Advocates to purchase their products, which is a more ethical MLM model than many other MLM companies which do require inventory to be purchased.

A popular YouTube video published by a creator called "iilluminaughtii" highlights some of the controversy surrounding the brand, including the low earnings of Brand Advocates.

We've timestamped the video below to begin at the discussion of Beautycounter Consultant earnings:

Beautycounter Foundation Review

Beautycounter Skin Twin Featherweight Foundation ingredients

The ingredients in Beautycounter Skin Twin Featherweight Foundation, which is one of the brand's most popular makeup products, are shown above.

Iron oxides are used as natural pigmentation ingredients, which is a safer choice in our opinion than artificial dyes.

Titanium dioxide is an effective UV blocker according to medical research, which makes it a great choice for a foundation because it will sit atop the skin and prevent UV damage.

Sodium hyaluronate is one of the most research-backed anti-wrinkle ingredients available, as we referenced in our Dermalogica reviews article.

Overall, we consider Beautycounter Skin Twin Featherweight Foundation to be one of the healthiest foundations that we've reviewed to date.

Not only may this product have aesthetic effects like contouring, but it also may have anti-aging effects due to the ingredients discussed above.

A YouTube creator named Dani Smith has a video reviewing five of Beautycounter's most popular makeup products including a live demo of each:

Questionable Clinical Claims

Beautycounter questionable clinical claim example

Some of Beautycounter’s product pages contain claims that the product is "clinically proven" to work, such as the above claim that's currently on the Mighty Plump Ceramide Water Cream product page.

In the citations section, there is no link to the full study and the brand simply states that the clinical claims are "based on a 32-subject clinical study after eight weeks."

We recommend that consumers entirely disregard claims of clinical efficacy unless the clinical data comes from a trial published in a peer-reviewed journal, which is the gold standard of product research.

We take no issue with brands highlighting results of clinical studies in their marketing materials, but using this data to suggest a product is "clinically proven" to work, without providing a link to the full clinical study for consumers to review, is ethically questionable.

In Beautycounter's case, we can't find any evidence of trials published in peer-reviewed journals.

Our Clean Skincare Picks

There are skincare products containing ingredients shown in clinical trials to be effective for reducing wrinkles and improving skin quality.

Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum is our top anti-aging serum.

It contains hyaluronic acid which was described as a "skin-rejuvenating biomedicine" in a medical review due to its ability to reduce wrinkles and signs of facial aging.

HYDRAGLOW by CLEARSTEM is our top moisturizer pick.

It features bakuchiol as an active ingredient which was described in a 2014 clinical trial as "clinically proven to have anti-aging effects."

Bulletproof Collagen Powder is our top skin supplement.

Collagen supplementation was shown in a medical review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology to reduce visible signs of skin aging as well as improve skin elasticity and skin hydration.

All of the products recommended in this section are entirely free of ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy or unsafe.

Real Customers Review Beautycounter

Amazon is a better resource for honest customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion.

An anti-aging cream called Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream is currently the brand's most-reviewed product on Amazon, with 60 total reviews and an average review rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

The top positive review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "Katherine Y" who gives the product a 5/5 star rating, and claims it improved skin quality:

"This facial cream has done wonders for my skin. I’ve been using it nightly for weeks to reduce fine lines around my eyes and mouth. According to the Environmental Working Group, the product has earned its highest rating for safety."

The top negative review comes from a user named "Buyer" who gives the product a 1/5 star rating, and claims that too high of a dose can cause side effects:

"This cream did seem to work fine for a while, But I put on a very thick layer one night by mistake when I quickly applied it. And I was very sleepy and went to sleep the next day my eyes were totally swollen and bright red."

Beautycounter currently has an average review rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Facebook.

Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion currently has an average review rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Google.

Beautycounter currently has an average review rating of 2.33 out of 5 stars on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, but the company responds to the majority of customer complaints, which is a sign of a high-quality brand.

Pros and Cons of Beautycounter

Here are the pros and cons of Beautycounter in our opinion:

Pros:

  • Sunscreen contains healthy "physical" active ingredient
  • Sunscreen should protect skin from damaging UV rays
  • Foundation has no unhealthy ingredients
  • Foundation has ingredients that can support optimal skin quality
  • One of the healthiest foundation products we've reviewed
  • Company transparently publishes Brand Advocate earnings
  • Mostly positive online customer reviews
  • Great packaging/branding
  • Company restricts many unhealthy ingredients

Cons:

  • Sunscreen contains phenoxyethanol
  • Sunscreen contains fragrance ingredients
  • Brand Advocates make very low average earnings
  • Company makes questionable clinical claims
  • MLM business
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

From a formulation perspective, Beautycounter is arguably the most impressive MLM brand we've reviewed to date on Illuminate Health.

Both of the Beautycounter products we reviewed (sunscreen and foundation) were effectively formulated with a number of research-backed ingredients.

The foundation was entirely free of ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy, which is rare for a makeup product.

Beautycounter also transparently publishes their Brand Advocate earnings which we commend the brand for, and which is a more ethical model than most MLM companies which keep that information proprietary.

While we don't recommend that individuals become Beautycounter Brand Advocates due to the relatively low pay, we cannot consider the brand unethical because they transparently publish the pay, so anyone considering becoming a Brand Advocate has the ability to make an informed decision.

Beautycounter makes claims of clinical efficacy based on clinical studies without linking to the full clinical studies, which we disagree with from an ethical perspective.

Online customer reviews of Beautycounter products that we came across while researching this article were mostly positive.