Mario Badescu

Mario Badescu At-A-Glance

Strengths: Inexpensive; the company includes complete ingredient lists on their Web site (though as revealed in the introduction above, many of the ingredient lists don't follow FDA labeling requirements); most of the products are fragrance-free; some good serums and a handful of worthwhile moisturizers; a good self-tanning lotion that's fragrance-free.

Weaknesses: Repetitive, lackluster moisturizer formulas; terrible products for acne; no options for lightening skin discolorations; none of the sunscreens list active ingredients, and so cannot be relied on for daytime protection; poorly formulated AHA products; mostly irritating masks; boring toners; potentially problematic scrubs; several moisturizers contain irritating ingredients.

Fashion magazines have been mentioning Mario Badescu products for some time, and in New York the Badescu salon has been around since 1967. Unfortunately for your skin, most of the products seem to be stuck in that era, when the state of skin-care knowledge was vastly different (meaning backward, simple, and naive) from what it is today. The company claims to use natural ingredients with advanced technology, but the formulas only support a small part of that assertion.

A tempting hook for this line is the number of celebrities and models who not only have facials and other services performed at the Mario Badescu Salon but also claim to use the products. We can't confirm whether or not celebrities really use these products, but even if there are some who do, plenty of other celebrities are using lots of different products, so that's no way to make an educated skin-care decision.

It probably goes without saying, or at least you won't be surprised when we mention it, that none of these products are natural in the least. They contain all the same old standard ingredients that show up throughout the cosmetics industry. The prices are more than reasonable, especially in comparison to other spa or boutique skin-care lines, but products that leave skin vulnerable to sun damage or cause irritation are never a good idea at any price. The sparse amounts of skin-identical ingredients, antioxidants, and anti-irritants included in the preponderance of products here is not in line with current skin-care science. The cleansers are unimpressive, the acne products are an irritation waiting to happen, and the AHA moisturizers either don't contain AHAs, don't have enough of the ingredient, or have a pH too high for them to be effective as exfoliants.

Several of the Badescu products contain an ingredient called "seamollient." As exotic as the name sounds, it's just a fancy term for water and algae. Given that the Creme de la Mer products also brag about algae—and charge an astronomical sum for it—if you want algae on your skin, you may as well put it there via the Badescu products for far less money. (Actually, algae is not the fountain of youth for anyone's skin, which is why its continuing popularity befuddles me.)

As consumers become more savvy about ingredients and insist on examining a product's contents before purchasing, it should be pointed out that the Mario Badescu products engage in a bit of deception by disguising their use of commonplace ingredients such as mineral oil and petrolatum with trade names. For example, rather than listing mineral oil or Vaseline in their products, Badescu uses trade names such as Sonojell or Protol. Further, and most distressing, is that doing this means Badescu's products fail to meet either FDA or European labeling requirements. This act of cloaking ingredients in trade names and ignoring FDA labeling guidelines doesn't help the consumer, though it does help the cosmetics companies make their ordinary products sound more mysterious and natural.

For more information about Mario Badescu, call (800) 223-3728 or visit www.mariobadescu.com.

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