Eminence Organic Skin Care

Eminence Organic Skin Care At-A-Glance

Strengths: All of the sunscreens provide UVA protection via zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide; one worthwhile (though still pricey) moisturizer.

Weaknesses: Almost too many to list, but the main ones include a preponderance of irritating ingredients with no proven benefit for skin; lack of preservatives in every product along with jar packaging; limited choice of sunscreens; very irritating cleansers and toners; very expensive products that have short shelf lives (due to the jar packaging).

Originally hailing from Hungary, Eminence Organics is now distributed from Canada (don't ask; it's a long, convoluted, somewhat hazy story involving an allegedly disloyal employee and trademark infringements), and is a huge assembly of products sold primarily in spas. Naturally, their claim to fame is the use of organic ingredients. Moreover, they use more food-based ingredients than any other line we know of, except for Lush. But are "organic" ingredients enough reason for you to consider this overly expensive line? Possibly, if you're looking for lunch—but if you're looking for great skin care, you'll find dozens of options that are superior to this one.

The whole issue of organic cosmetics could fill a book, but to put it briefly there are still no FDA-approved standards to meet for labeling cosmetic products as organic. The same is true in Canada, except in the province of Quebec. Beyond that, another element that's complicating this issue is the fact that even though lots of cosmetics contain organic ingredients, it's rarely the case that the entire formula is organic. Why? There are various reasons, but mostly it's because a number of synthetic ingredients, such as preservatives, are essential components of many cosmetic formulas. And they're there for a reason: The organic ingredients are not stable and will deteriorate without them. It also helps to remember that you can't put avocados (or any other food item) on your face to "feed" your skin. To make a long story short, these factors help explain why, until acceptable standards are in place, any cosmetic can sport an organic label without having to prove the claim.

More important than getting labeling standards in place is the fact that lots of plant extracts and essential oils have irritating properties that won't help skin in the least—so what difference does it make if they're organically grown or not? Environmental impact and sustainable farming notwithstanding, peppermint is a problem for skin, whether it's grown with or without pesticides. And lest we forget, the process of extraction is anything but natural.

Not surprisingly, there is a consortium of natural product–based companies attempting to standardize the definition and labeling of United States–sold cosmetics as organic. They are not only doing this out of frustration at seeing so many products mislabeled as "organic," but also no doubt were inspired by what occurred with regard to organic cosmetics in Europe in 2006. According to the Web site www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com, the Organic Farmers and Growers developed a cosmetics and body-care standard for companies that wanted to lure consumers with an organic label. Products that meet this group's standards (which are rigorous, but still respectful of current European cosmetic regulations, including the issue of animal testing) are allowed to sport the group's logo on their products, indicating to consumers that they meet organic standards. According to a July 2007 report in Organic Monitor, "With the absence of any major regulations and private standards for natural & organic cosmetics in the USA and Canada, North American companies are increasingly making products according to European standards." But keep in mind that this addresses only the issue of plant origin, not good skin care. Again, we aren't talking about diet.

Regardless of how things shake out in the United States and Canada, no one in the cosmetics industry doubts that organic products are a passing fad. Until the United States has formal standards, companies (such as Origins) are relying on third-party certification of their organic claims, a process tied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Getting back to Eminence Organics, we find it surprising that there is so much interest from my readers about this line. After all, if you're familiar with my work and my previous reviews of similar lines that use essential oils and other questionable natural ingredients, you can't expect me to give Eminence a glowing review. It's almost as though we are being asked about this line with the hopes that it will finally be the one that causes me to exclaim, "This is it! The search is over for all those seeking a pure and natural skin-care line. These products really do work and your fear of synthetics is over." Well, it's not. Eminence is not the answer, and in fact, unlike many other so-called natural lines, Eminence doesn't offer state-of-the-art, efficacious products. Many of these products are full of problematic ingredients, and other concerns abound.

For example, not one of the Eminence products contains a reliable preservative system (or any ingredients with known preserving qualities, at least against a wide spread of molds, bacteria, and fungi). This in itself is a problem, but it becomes a bigger problem because Eminence uses so many spoilage-prone food ingredients, including fruit pulp, yogurt, and pumpkin. Also, jar packaging is rampant, which means these light- and air-sensitive ingredients will degrade much faster than they would in better containers. According to correspondence we had with the company, they preserve their products with a blend of honey, lemon, and salicylic acid. Honey is not known to have any preservative qualities in the small amount present in cosmetic products. Lemon oil has some preservative ability due to its limonene content, but it must be present in at least a 4% concentration unless it is paired with other preservatives (and that amount would most definitely be irritating), and that is not the concentration used in these products. Salicylic acid is the most reliable preservative of the three, but even this is subject to formulary restrictions that Eminence doesn't consistently follow. Considering that salicylic acid is not a broad-spectrum preservative, you'd likely end up with a microbial soup (Source: Preservatives for Cosmetics, 2nd Edition, Allured, 2006).

Another questionable issue is Eminence's incorrect listing of certain ingredients. Of course, the plant and food ingredients are spelled out clearly, but the phrases "natural cream base," "glycine derivative," and "natural moisturizing factor" keep consumers in the dark about what these products really contain, and they don't meet the labeling regulations of any country on this planet. We suspect that the wordplay has to do with Eminence's goal of making sure that their labels appear to list only natural ingredients. If they truthfully displayed their full ingredient list according to labeling regulations, then their marketing slant and their credibility would be out the door.

There really is very little to recommend about this line; even their decent products could easily be made at home with food ingredients, oils, and a blender. We wouldn't recommend making your skin-care products in your kitchen, however, because your skin deserves better support. (In the same way, we wouldn't recommend that you run or exercise in your bare feet, though that would be pretty natural—just not healthy.) But for those who are intrigued by the concept the homemade option would beat spending way too much money on Eminence Organics products.

For more information about Eminence Organic Skin Care, call (888) 747-6342 or visit www.eminenceorganics.com.

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