Let's take a close look at Arbonne and see if they're truly as clean as they say.
Arbonne's ingredient policy states (source):
All of our products are safe and nontoxic. We’re vigilant about the newest research regarding chemicals to ensure we’re being mindful and cautious from formulation and beyond. We proactively search for pure, clean botanical ingredients.
You'll also find a section that looks like this:
There is much more in their marketing that gives the impression that the brand is clean and non-toxic.
Green colors and plant imagery:
A common tactic for brands who want to portray themselves as clean is using the color green along with plant imagery on their products and marketing materials.
Browsing their website and products will show that their use of this tactic is in full effect.
This screenshot is taken from the Arbonne website. This would lead you to believe that their products are plant-based ingredients, but that's simply just not true. Most of their products (if not all) contain many non-natural and non-plant-based ingredients. This is pure greenwashing.
The MLM business model
Arbonne is an MLM (multi-level marketing) business. This means that they're essentially a pyramid scheme, relying on their "independent contractors" to recruit others into the system.
While Arbonne's business model is outside the scope of this article, we believe that the MLM business model is unethical.
Strange Ingredients in Arbonne's "Not Allowed" List
Arbonne maintains a list of ingredients they disallow in their products—about 682 in total. The strange thing about this list is that they include drugs, including:
- 7 different types of amphetimines
- 12 different types of benzodiazepines
- 7 different types of steroids
- 9 different types of opiods
- radioactive substances
We feel as though including all of these illegal drugs (and radioactive substances) in their list of "banned substances" is greenwashing. Not only is this padding out the list to make it seem like they're more strict than other brands, when it's absurd that they'd include controlled substances in their products.
A Closer Look At An Arbonne Product
Let's take a closer look at a specific Arbonne product to see how clean it really is.
RE9 Advanced Extra Moisture Restorative Cream SPF 20 Sunscreen
Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3.0%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5.0%, Octocrylene 2.79%
This product is a chemical sunscreen, using four of the chemical sunscreen ingredients we recommend avoiding. This is because a 2020 study found that even a single application of these ingredients will absorb into the bloodstream, and the effect is accumulative.
Looking at the inactive ingredients, we have retinyl palmitate, which has been linked to skin tumors in studies on mice. We also see dimethicone (silicone) which feels good going on the skin, but can clog pores. Polysorbate-20 is an ingredient that can be contaminated with etylene oxdie and 1,4-dioxane, potentially harmful substances.
Needless to say, this is far from a clean and non-toxic product.
Arbonne Products Are Not Organic
Unfortunately, since Arbonne relies on 250,000+ independent reps around the world, a lot of misinformation gets spread.
One of the common claims is that Arbonne products are organic. That's simply just not the case.
This might stem from this claim the brand makes. Simply glancing at this might make you believe that their products are all certified non-GMO, but if you read the fine print, it says "A growing number of Arbonne Nutrition products are verified by the Non-GMO Project." This clearly means that some of their products are certified, but certainly not all.
Other False Claims The Brand Makes
This is another misleading statement. A simple example of this is the fact that their sunscreens use chemical sunscreen ingredients, known to cause damage to the coral reefs.
Again, this is simply not true. According to the Arbonne website, geraniol is found in 21 of their products—a derivative of essential oils. While this may sound safe, the ingredient is labeled as one of "high concern" due to being a known consumer allergen and skin irritant. (source)
The Verdict: Arbonne is a Greenwashing Brand
It's no surprise that we consider Arbonne a greenwashing brand based on the above information. This is just the tip of the iceberg—Arbonne has a lot of different products and a line of health and nutrition products we didn't even look at for this review.
We recommend avoiding Arbonne products for this reason. There are many brands out there that actually offer clean, non-toxic products and we believe Arbonne is simply using these false claims to mislead people into thinking their products are better than they really are.