Aveda

Aveda At-A-Glance

Strengths: Effective use of beneficial plant oils and extracts in some products; an excellent moisturizing mask; a few good cleansers; phenomenal tinted moisturizer; terrific brushes and refillable compacts.

Weaknesses: Several products contain irritating essential oils or fragrance components known to cause sun sensitivity or skin cell death; disappointing anti-acne products; substandard exfoliants and toners; treatment products that can irritate skin; several lip color products contains irritating fragrant oils.

Aveda, part of the Estee Lauder Companies since 1997, offers natural-themed products that have evolved from a simple premise: what you put on your body should be as healthy and natural as what you put into it. Plants remain the major focus but—as has been true from the beginning—a quick look at Aveda's ingredient listings reveals many substances that aren't edible in the least. Who would want to eat isostearyl benzoate, cetyl ricinoleate, diazolidinyl urea, or octinoxate (a synthetic sunscreen ingredient)? We could go on, but you get our drift.

The company vigorously promotes its use of natural "pure-fume" aromas that create each product's scent. Yet regardless of whether or not a product's fragrance is natural or synthetic, the potential for irritation is still there along with a host of other problems. In fact, many of the essential oils used in Aveda products have a documented history of unpleasant side effects, including allergies, phototoxic reactions, and dermatitis. They may smell wonderful, but fragrance isn't skin care.

Aveda would truly like you to believe that it is in fact the flower and plant essences in its products that are doing the "work." If that were true, why bother using so many of the industry-standard ingredients seen in products from other cosmetics companies? Many of the highlighted plant ingredients merely contribute to the fragrance of the products. That's an obvious draw, but it's not enough to ensure a great (or even good) product. It has also been well established that once many of these plants and oils are purified and processed for use in cosmetics, they retain very little of their original benefit—though that doesn't mean they are worthless ingredients for skin. Furthermore, the manner in which Aveda discusses many of their plant ingredients on their Web site speaks more to historic and folkloric use rather than to published research that establishes a genuine benefit. It may seem intriguing to consumers that some plants have been "used for centuries to cleanse the skin and hair," but lots of things used a long time ago would be a problem today, including lead in cosmetics, not using sunscreen, absence of barrier repair substances and cell-communicating ingredients, and on and on. History doesn't always translate to eternal efficacy or safety, and it shouldn't be a deciding factor when you're choosing a skin-care routine.

One natural point Aveda has every reason to be proud of is its ongoing commitment to the environment and use of sustainable resources, including packaging made from recycled (and recyclable) materials. The company has many programs in place that support its mission statement of caring for the world we live in and giving back to society. What needs to happen to complement the philanthropy is a focus on weeding out the troublesome plant ingredients (perhaps saving them for use in their scented candles instead), and creating products built around plants whose benefits for skin are unquestionable because they are supported by substantiated research rather than referring to cultural traditions.

For more information about Aveda, owned by Estee Lauder, call 1-800-644-4831 or visit www.aveda.com

Aveda Makeup

Makeup has never been Aveda's strong suit, though it often bests their skin care line. They do their natural best to try to remain competitive and, lately, even trendy. Several of their complexion-enhancing products were reformulated, but with mixed results. For example, while the concealer improved and their already-great tinted moisturizer remained the same, the latest foundations and powders contain shine at levels ranging from subtle to showgirl. We're not opposed to shine, but am a proponent of using it judiciously and not over wrinkles because it only emphasizes them. Shade-wise, Aveda offers some surprisingly good foundation choices for fair to dark skin. The blush, eyeshadow, pencils, and most of the lip-enhancing options aren't impressive when compared to the best options in these categories from other lines, but they're by no means terrible.

In contrast and of note are the wonderfully soft, well-shaped synthetic-hair makeup brushes. They aren't as much of a beauty bargain as they were, but the improvements justify the expense and they still cost less than many department-store brushes. Overall, while Aveda's makeup isn't as extensive or all-encompassing as those from other Lauder-owned lines, there are a few genuinely superb products to consider if you watch out for the overemphasis on plant ingredients. Yes, most of the products contain plenty of plant extracts, emollients, and waxes. However, they're working in concert with many of the unnatural ingredients that are required to create modern textures and silky applications. Aloe and flax alone do not a spectacular eyeshadow make!

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