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Is BeautyCounter a Clean and Sustainable Company? We Investigate.

Better Goods

Sep 27, 2021

BeautyCounter is a large cosmetics brand that heavily advertises themselves as selling clean beauty. Founded in 2013, the brand quickly blew up thanks to its controversial multi-level marketing (MLM) business model.

Often promoted by their 55,000+ independent reps as clean and natural, the brand has developed a reputation for being such.

But is BeautyCounter as clean and natural as they claim? Let's take a closer look at the brand to rate them on our three pillars: ingredients, sustainability, and animal rights.

Ingredients (Rating: Good)

Surprisingly, BeautyCounter's ingredients do mostly "walk the walk" when it comes to being clean. They maintain a list of usual suspect ingredients that should be avoided, which is commendable.

However, the brand still allows things like:

  • Synthetic dyes
  • Phenoxyethanol (a relatively safe preservative, but there are better alternatives)
  • Dimethicone (silicones, derived from fossil fuels)

Don't go thinking that the brand is 100% natural or organic, either. There are synthetics to be found, but it's virtually impossible to have a cosmetics company that only uses natural ingredients.

However, you could do much worse when it comes to ingredients in beauty products. Contamination with heavy metals is a common concern with cosmetics. These heavy metals aren't ingredients, but are rather contaminants that end up in the products, often from the dyes and pigments used.

The brand claims that they do rigorous testing on their products for the presence of heavy metals on all products before they hit the shelves. However, the results of these tests are not made public, so it's impossible for us to independently vet them.

All in all, the brand does well in the ingredients department, and although we would prefer if they skipped the ingredients like synthetic dyes, this is currently almost impossible for a cosmetics brand.

Sustainability (Rating: Iffy)

BeautyCounter's website has a page dedicated to their sustainable packaging practices. Theyclaim that by 2025, 100% of the brand's packaging will be recycled, recyclable, refillable, reused, or compostable.

This may sound like a great thing at first glance, and it's not terrible, but it's not quite as sustainable as it might sound.

Recycled plastic is still plastic, and even if its labeled recyclable, most plastic is simply not recycled. It's estimated that around 10% of plastic sent to recycling facilities is actually turned back into a reusable material. Ultimately, this plastic will likely end up in the dump where it's estimated it will take 400+ years to break down.

While it's commendable for them to be making changes toward sustainable packaging, what we truly are looking for

Animal Rights (Rating: Good)

BeautyCounter isn't a vegan brand, although they do manufacture some vegan products. They're also certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny.

MLM Business Model

While we generally rate brands only on their ingredients, sustainability, and stance on animal rights, it's important that we touch on BeautyCounter's multi-level marketing business model.

The MLM business model is highly controversial, because it depends on having independent reps join the company to promote and sell the products. All reps are recruited by other reps, and receive a commission for signing up other users to the program.

New reps are required to purchase a signup package that ranges from $50 to $730, of which the person who convinced the new user to join gets a commission on. The average new rep spent around $187 to signup.

MLMs get a lot of flack for what essentially boils down to a pyramid scheme business model, and for good reason. The majority of people who pay and signup to sell BeautyCounter products make an average of $71 per month, with the bottom 25% making $0.

While their business model can't factor into our objective rating of the brand, it's important to know this information before making any personal decision on joining or supporting the brand.

Brand Ratings

Our rating scale ranges from "Best" (for having the best practices) to "Bad" (for having unacceptable practices). We rated BeautyCounter as follows.

INGREDIENTSGood - The brand has a surprisingly clean list of ingredients, and works hard to be a clean brand. As with any cosmetics company, they do use synthetic ingredients and dyes.
SUSTAINABILITYIffy - BeautyCounter provides information as to how they are working to sustainability, and recognise the work required going forward.
ANIMAL RIGHTSGood - The company is cruelty-free, but not vegan.

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