Aubrey Organics At-A-Glance
Strengths: A few decent moisturizer options; one good makeup brush.
Weaknesses: Too numerous to list, but major issues include a lack of sunscreens without a problematic active ingredient; consistent use of ingredients proven to be irritating to skin while offering no substantiated benefit; a complete lack of products to address common skin-care concerns, from acne to pigmentation problems; the makeup is abysmal.
If there is such a thing as a "natural" true believer, Aubrey Hampton is indeed one. His books Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care (Organica Press, 1987) and What's in Your Cosmetics? (Organica Press, 2000) articulately express his convictions. Foremost is his philosophic position regarding his products: "For almost 30 years I have collected herbs from around the world and combined them in 100% natural hair- and skin-care products. I make my natural shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions, masks, and so forth the way my mother taught me almost 50 years ago—without chemicals, using herbs known to be beneficial to the hair and skin." And yes, every plant is a miracle and every synthetic ingredient that he doesn't use is avoided solely because it's bad.
If Hampton is relying on information that is over 50 years old, people using his products, which launched in 1967, are in a lot of trouble. What we know about sun protection we've only learned about over the past decade—and Hampton did not offer sunscreens with sufficient UVA-protecting ingredients until 2006 (perhaps he has finally eschewed some of his mother's teachings).
Additionally, cell turnover (the life-and-death process of every skin cell) is a recent discovery, too, not to mention the role topical application of antioxidants plays, and options to maintain the skin's barrier function, a vital component of healthy skin for everyone. The whole complex physiology of skin, along with the nature of skin disease, is continually being investigated. Data regarding the exact chemical and biomolecular structure of skin fills volumes with new research, revealing astonishing information that has altered everything we once thought to be true about the skin. It's nice to think Mom knew it all, but we wouldn't make a skin-care decision based on such obsolete and fanciful thinking anymore than we would decide to exchange my laptop for an old-fashioned typewriter.
Hampton also lauds his position on animal testing: "I don't believe in animal testing and never use it. None of my products are formulated with data obtained from animal testing, and yet I know they're safe to use because they contain ingredients that have been used for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years by people all over the world. That's the best track record, don’t you think?" Well, we don't think so in the least. As nice as all that sounds, in some ways it's actually dangerous. By his own admission, Hampton has only anecdotal history to go by, and that is fraught with risk. "Natural" powders laced with "natural" lead were used by fashionably correct women centuries ago, causing necrotic skin and sometimes death. So much for history being an arbiter of good health. And there are lots of plants we wouldn't know are toxic if it weren't for animal testing.
Furthermore, while we abhor animal testing, over the past 20 years scientists have ascertained the benefits of most new skin-care ingredients, from skin-identical ingredients and the new anti-irritants to AHAs, BHA, Retin-A, and sunscreens, mostly on the basis of animal research. If Hampton is truly telling us that he ignores all that information, his products would be precarious to use and some of the most dated in the industry (and, it turns out, in many respects, they are).
Another Hampton phobia, shared by many other "natural" enthusiasts in the world, has to do with petrochemicals. (We assume Hampton doesn't drive a car, take a taxi, or fly anywhere.) He states, "Petrochemicals, [which] are infinitely cheaper and much more convenient for mass manufacturers to use... [make] our hair and skin suffer as a result. What's worse, the long-term effects of these harsh chemicals on both the body and the environment are still unknown...." Suggesting that all petrochemicals are harsh and all plants are good is as uninformed as thinking that eating any plant you encounter in the wild won't kill you because it is natural. Besides, petrochemicals have a decidedly natural source: they come from decomposed plant and animal life!
Ironically, many of Aubrey's products contain PABA, a synthetic sunscreen ingredient that has long been set aside by cosmetic formulators because it poses a high risk of irritation and sensitizing skin reactions (Source: Australasian Journal of Dermatology, February 1999, page 51).
Hampton still handles his skin-care ingredient lists with blatant inaccuracy, ignoring basic FDA and European regulatory mandates. They make no mention of standard cosmetic preservatives, and the ones that are listed—vitamins A, C, and E—have their own stability problems, with vitamin C being the most unreliable. Further, given that there are myriad types of vitamins A, C, and E, and there is no ingredient called "coconut fatty acid" (there are dozens of this type of fatty acid, each with its own pros and cons), there is truly no way to make sense of these misleading ingredient labels. This concern was echoed in an industry newsletter, The Rose Sheet (March 15, 1999), which stated that Aubrey Organics was "in violation of catalog mislabeling and Good Manufacturing Practices.… [The] FDA investigators also determined several Aubrey products … bear labeling that is not in compliance." In fact, because Aubrey's labels are not compliant with CTFA (Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association) or FDA labeling regulations, reviewing this line with any modicum of accuracy is a long shot, because there is no way to know what is really in these products and what is going on your face. A warning letter sent to the company by the FDA contained shocking revelations about how disorganized and noncompliant Aubrey Organics is.
For example, at the time of the FDA inspection, the company did not even have stability testing records for their products (Source: www.fda.gov/foi/warning_letters/m2393n.pdf). How that may have changed over the years is not information the company is willing to share, but what's right there on every product is inaccurate ingredient labeling, and that's reason enough to view this line with a healthy dose of skepticism and suspicion.
For more information, call (800) 282-7394, or visit www.aubrey-organics.com.
Aubrey Organics Makeup
Perhaps the two best words to describe the small assortment of makeup from Aubrey Organics are "Don't bother"—but "What were they thinking?" is a close second. What you'll find here, available as single products or in preselected kits, is a selection of loose powders and sheer lip tints.