Carol's Daughter At-a-Glance
Strengths: Company provides complete ingredient lists on their web site; one good facial moisturizer.
Weaknesses: Almost every product contains one or more irritating fragrant oils; under-performing skin care; the body-care products have mundane, often greasy, and repetitive formulas whose main difference is fragrance; sunscreen does not provide adequate UVA protection.
There has been an intense amount of curiosity about this line, clearly correlated with the amount of attention it's been garnering in fashion magazines along with the generous comments from several celebrities as it being their favorite. Of course, the preeminent hook is that Carol's Daughter is yet another line whose emphasis is on natural ingredients.
As the story goes the Carol's Daughter line was created by Lisa Price, who began mixing her own moisturizers at home in the early 1990s. She gave them to friends and family as gifts and, before too long, the brand launched as a mail order business with ensuing pomp and circumstance, and eventual distribution in Sephora and in major department stores.
Regardless of celebrity endorsements, what counts is whether or not the products contain ingredients that are helpful for your skin. Once you put the hype and marketing lingo aside you can get a clear picture of what is real and what is nonsense. It turns out that even though Carol's Daughter includes plenty of natural ingredients, it also has a fair share of synthetic ingredients, including preservatives, synthetic vitamins, triethanalomine, detergent cleansing agents, polyethylene glycol, and thickeners. What is particularly disappointing is that many of the natural ingredients are potent skin irritants, while the rest have little to no proven benefit for skin beyond folklore or anecdotal claims.
State-of-the-art ingredients and formulas are lacking; instead, fragrance reigns supreme, playing a central role in every Carol's Daughter product. This vast line has repetitive formulations with little rhyme or reason for their existence other than creating a product with a new name, label, and fragrance. The body-care products have the same basic formulas between sub-brands, with the only notable difference being a change in fragrance. Sweet, citrusy, or musky fragrances waft from these products like steam from a hot apple pie, but that's actually bad news for your skin.
Women often assume that the risk to skin from fragrance in skin-care products applies only to synthetic fragrance "chemicals" and not to fragrant plant extracts and oils, but that is absolutely not the case. Regardless of the source, most fragrances, natural or synthetic, can cause problems for skin, including damaging the skin barrier and breaking down collagen (Sources: Chemical Research in Toxicology, January 2008, pages 53–69; British Journal of Dermatology, August 2007, pages 295–300; Contact Dermatitis, July 2007, pages 1–10; Journal of Infection and Chemotherapy, December 2006, pages 349–354; American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, April 2003, pages 789–798).
One other marketing angle this brand asserts deserves mention. The company insists that all of their products are made by hand (reminiscent of Kiehl's original claims before they were bought by L'Oreal). We're not disputing the love portion of that claim (though once you get the product home, love has nothing to with efficacy), but the handmade part is completely irrelevant. First, technically, all cosmetics are made by hand, because robots aren't doing the work. It is ludicrous to imagine that Carol's Daughter products are being batched up in some way that's different from a million other products from hundreds of other companies. How would that work for thousands of pounds of one product anyway? Hopefully, all cosmetics are being made in labs and manufacturing facilities that meet FDA standards for controls over the purity of the water and product contamination, to name just a few issues, and given that humans are doing the work, that counts for being made by hand as well.
As for the products themselves, they are, in many respects, a giant step backward in quality of formulation. The homemade, fresh-from-the-kitchen story is indeed sweet, but current science and research is what you want for your skin. Just like you wouldn't use a 10- or 15-year-old computer, given what we now know skin needs you would be trading good skin care for folklore and homespun tales. Carol's Daughter's formulas are more like using products from the 1950s than anything else. The packaging is as basic as it gets, the facial-care and most of the body-care products are loaded with irritants, and the hair-care products are mostly an oily, greasy mess that perpetuates the idea that African-American hair needs to be greased up or oiled down for it to be manageable. This company didn't even get sunscreen right.
For more information about Carol's Daughter, call (877) 540-2101 or visit www.carolsdaughter.com.