"Many skin problems are a result of poor product formulation particularly in regard to products that use irritating skin care ingredients."
We caught up with The Cosmetic Cop, founder of Paula’s Choice and best-selling beauty author Paula Begoun. Her expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television, including The View, The Today Show, and ABC. As a child who suffered from eczema, Paula’s has been a remarkable journey, the stuff of dreams. Today Paula is a globally-recognized consumer expert for the skincare industry. She has been able to put her brilliant research background to work on developing revolutionary products for all skin types and concerns through her skincare line Paula’s Choice.
Her own suffering has led to an enduring and lifelong fascination for skin care and skin products. One thing led to the other and she has gained an expertise in cosmetics and skin and hair care that mildly put one can only dream of. In particular she warns against the traditionally held belief in ‘natural products’. Here she shares some invaluable insights about proper skin and hair products.
1. Tell us about how you became The Cosmetic Cop?
It started when I was very young trying to take care of my own problem skin that progressively got worse in spite of the professional help I sought. Acne, super-oily skin along with debilitating eczema over 60% of my body at the age of 11!
In school I had to wear gloves to hold a pencil
because my hands were so sore from my incessant
scratching of the eczema
I tried numerous options but all led to disappointment. But that didn’t stop me from trying again and again and again.
In early adulthood after working as a makeup artist to send myself through university where I was majoring in biology, I came to the realization that most skincare claims were either seriously misleading, just plain wrong, or at best delusional. I was determined and resolute to find out the truth about skin and skincare—it became a compulsion. In 1984 I wrote my first book Blue Eyeshadow Should Be Illegal and went on the Oprah Winfrey show (the first of 14 times).
She [Oprah Winfrey] is the one who
called me the Cosmetic Cop.
Since then I’ve 20 other books on skin care, makeup, and hair care and of course launched my own line of skin care products Paula’s Choice.
2. When you started your skincare line, did you think your brand would be such a success in this highly competitive industry?
I began my brand in 1994 and of course didn’t expect it to be a big success. I didn’t even expect my books to be such a success. I was simply passionate about my mission with a burning desire to communicate what I knew about skin care, makeup, and hair care, which eventually turned into creating Paula’s Choice. Nothing was more important to me than helping women around the world have the best skin of their life. That this has all turned into a global brand with distribution all over the world is hard for me to believe. I am grateful and humbled by all the attention and being able to continue doing what I love doing.
Perhaps the popularity of the brand is because of the information we have provided for over 30 years. We never make a claim we can’t support by extensive published research. All of the studies we use to develop our products are available on every product page, that’s something no other cosmetic company does.
Paula’s Choice does not use ingredients without research showing they can work.
Many skin problems are a result of poor product
formulation particularly in regard to products that
use irritating skin care ingredients.
3. Over the years you have spoken about the misleading claimsby the cosmetic industry.Tell us about some of the most outrageous ones you have heard.
The misleading claims are maddening and have fueled my work from the beginning. Some of the most consistent are that natural or organic ingredients are better than synthetic ones and that absolutely isn’t true, there are extremely problematic natural ingredients that show up in skin care products all the time.
the notion that expensive products are better
than inexpensive products is just nonsense,
in truth there are good and bad products in all price ranges.
Lots of products claiming to heal acne often contain ingredients that can make breakouts worse. Maybe one of the most persistent claims is the repeated promise of one magic ingredient that can do it all. Skin is too complex for one ingredient to ever be enough and in reality there are hundreds of brilliant ingredients. One company does not have the secret answer to your skin care needs.
Perhaps one of the most ludicrous is all the hype around essential oils. The fact is essential oils are nothing more than fragrant oils which causes irritation and irritation is always bad for skin whether the source is natural or synthetic.
No anti-wrinkle cream can work like Botox, dermal fillers, lasers, or light treatments. In Asian countries the number of products promising to lighten skin is frustrating because for the most part they can’t live up to their claims and certainly won’t work if you aren’t diligent about wearing sunscreen 365 days a year.
4. Cosmetic companies often refer to ‘Studies have shown’. Should consumers believe in these?
It depends on whether or not they actually show the study and supporting studies which is rare in the world of skin care. You always told about the remarkable results but you are rarely shown the actual study. How studies are conducted or if they were published is the only way to determine how “valid” the study is. Plus, one study never proves anything and especially not when it’s on a small number of people conducted or paid for by the company selling the product.
5. Consumers tend to believe that big brands with their overpriced products can’t get it wrong. What is your view on brand loyalty?
As someone who owns a skincare Company with my name on it is tempting to say I would love for women to be loyal to my brand but that would be disingenuous. The real answer is it depends on the products the company sells. If a brand is selling products with fragrance, or has products packaged in jars (jar packaging won’t keep important ingredients like antioxidants stable), contain irritating ingredients, or the products are absurdly expensive that is not a line to be loyal to.
6. In India we tend to think that natural ingredients are better?
People around the world are obsessed with the idea of using natural or organic skin care ingredients but there’s no benefit to using natural ingredients
if those ingredients are going to damage your skin and there are lots of natural ingredients that are indeed bad for skin ranging from peppermint to lemon, lime, alcohol, witch hazel, lavender, most all essential oils, eucalyptus, and on and on. Natural does not always mean better—we can all think of many natural things on our planet that are poisonous or dangerous and you shouldn’t be using those.
Many companies touting their natural ingredients are better than other types of ingredients are not telling the truth because, in fact, many synthetic ingredients are actually brilliant for skin. In short, there are good and bad natural or naturally-derived ingredients and good and bad synthetic or science-inspired ingredients.
In the next issue Paula talks to OFC of her experiences in India. Look out…
Written byOur Frontcover Desk