Mary Kay

Mary Kay At-A-Glance

Strengths: Most of the products are fragrance-free; some noteworthy sunscreens; every sunscreen offers sufficient UVA protection; packaging that keeps light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable during use; very good eye-makeup remover; filler for lip lines; two good foundations; the Brush Set (individual brushes are sold separately but these are a mixed bag).

Weaknesses: The overall collection is a mixed bag of exciting and disappointing products; several outdated moisturizers and greasy cleansers; no AHA or acceptable BHA products; mostly disappointing anti-acne products; unexceptional topical scrub; irritating lip balms.

The last few years haven't been glamorous for one of the world's largest direct sellers of cosmetics. Mary Kay lost a lawsuit filed by TriStrata, the company whose founders hold over 100 patents on the use of AHAs in skin-care products. It was revealed that Mary Kay's former AHA products infringed on three of these patents, and, after some back-and-forths in court, Mary Kay ended up paying royalties of over $40 million (interest included) to TriStrata. Perhaps because they're still licking their wounds after this defeat, the company has not launched any new AHA products, and no longer sells the ones that were in question during the legal battle (Source: www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2006/04/03/daily26.html).

However, the company's spin on the issue of AHAs is that they no longer use them because skin-care technology has advanced. That's an interesting twist, but the fact of the matter is that AHA products, when well-formulated, are still considered advanced and capable of doing far more for skin than the alternatives Mary Kay has devised (including an at-home microdermabrasion scrub and products with vitamin C derivatives).

Although they're not a company for you if you are looking for exfoliants (though you should be looking for a good exfoliant), Mary Kay has recently developed a surprising number of excellent products. With over 1.6 million Mary Kay consultants selling products in 30 countries, this family-owned company (founder Mary Kay Ash passed away in 2001) has slowly been proving that they intend to remain competitive with the best of the best. A refreshing change of pace is the omission of fragrance from almost all of the products. Now that is what we call progress!

Despite its size and capital (wholesale figures were $3 billion in 2012), Mary Kay still has a lot to learn. For instance, although their guiding philosophy of empowering women is admirable, the assortment of products still leaves much to be desired. Yes, things are looking up, but there are several weak spots that keep Mary Kay from being in the same league as Avon, Estee Lauder, Procter & Gamble (Olay), and Johnson & Johnson (Neutrogena, Aveeno, RoC). These include outdated cleansers, toners, and moisturizers, along with letdowns in products designed for oily, blemish-prone skin. The TimeWise product range has expanded considerably, and offers a few state-of-the-art products worthy of its name (although, as with all skin-care products, they're not going to turn back the hands of time and erase all signs of aging).

If improvements like those in Mary Kay's latest products were translated to the entire line, it would be standing much taller, at least as far as what current, substantiated skin-care research indicates is optimum for creating and maintaining healthy skin. As is, this is a line to approach with a keen understanding of what to focus on and what to avoid. One last bit of good news: Mary Kay offers well-packaged samples of selected products, either directly or from your consultant.

Unless mentioned otherwise, all Mary Kay products are fragrance-free.

Note: Mary Kay is categorized as a brand that tests on animals because their products are sold in China. Although Mary Kay does not conduct animal testing for their products sold elsewhere, the Chinese government requires imported cosmetics be tested on animals, so foreign companies retailing there must comply. This requirement is why some brand’s state that they don’t test on animals “unless required by law”. Animal rights organizations consider cosmetic companies retailed in China to be brands that test on animals, and so does the Paula’s Choice Research Team.

For more information about Mary Kay, call (800) 627-9529 or visit www.marykay.com

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+ Rating Product Brand Category Price Size
Good Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush Mary Kay Specialty Skin Care Products  $50.00 1.00 set
Good Bronzing Powder Mary Kay Powder Bronzer  $20.00
Poor CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Mary Kay CC Cream  $20.00
Good Timewise Even Complexion Dark Spot Reducer Mary Kay Skin Lighteners  $40.00 0.34 fl. oz.
Good Clearproof Oil-Free Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin Mary Kay Moisturizer without Sunscreen  $18.00 3.00 fl. oz.
Poor Clearproof Acne Treatment Gel Mary Kay Benzoyl Peroxide  $10.00 1.00 fl. oz.
Poor Clearproof Blemish Control Toner Mary Kay Toners  $15.00 5.00 fl. oz.
Average Clearproof Clarifying Cleansing Gel Mary Kay Face/Body Cleansers  $16.00 4.50 fl. oz.
Average Clearproof Pore Purifying Serum Mary Kay BHA  $17.00
Good Translucent Loose Powder Mary Kay Loose Powder  $16.00
Best Lash Love Lengthening Mascara Mary Kay Regular Mascara  $15.00
Average Satinhands Fragrance-Free Hand Cream Mary Kay Hand Creams/Lotions  $10.00 3.00 fl. oz.
Good True Dimensions Lipstick Mary Kay Cream Lipstick  $18.00
Best Eye Smudger Brush Mary Kay Brushes/Applicators/Curlers  $10.00
Average Brush Collection Mary Kay Brushes/Applicators/Curlers  $55.00
Average Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Mary Kay SPF 50 and Higher Sunscreen  $14.00 4.00 fl. oz.
Best Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mary Kay SPF 30-49 Sunscreen  $17.00 4.00 fl. oz.
Average Timewise Repair Eye Renewal Cream-Volu-Firm Mary Kay Eye Moisturizers  $40.00 0.50 fl. oz.
Poor Timewise Repair Lifting Serum-Volu-Firm Mary Kay Serums  $70.00 1.00 fl. oz.
Average Timewise Repair Foaming Cleanser-Volu-Firm Mary Kay Cleansers/Soaps  $25.00 4.50 fl. oz.
Average Timewise Repair Day Cream Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30-Volu-Firm Mary Kay Moisturizer with Sunscreen  $50.00 1.70 fl. oz.
Good Timewise Repair Night Treatment with Retinol-Volu-Firm Mary Kay Moisturizer without Sunscreen  $50.00 1.70 fl. oz.
Poor Lash Primer Mary Kay Mascara Primers  $15.00
Average Lash & Brow Building Serum Mary Kay Lash Growth/ Lash Conditioners  $38.00 0.15 fl. oz.
Best Sheer Mineral Pressed Powder Mary Kay Pressed Powder  $16.00
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