Michael Todd True Organics

Strengths:

Several products contain a good range of anti-aging ingredients; products are packaged to keep the light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable during use; good moisturizing mask.

Weaknesses:

Many of the products are highly fragrant and/or contain fragrant plant extracts or oils known to be irritating; several of the serums contain the exact same ingredients, just listed in a different order, which makes things needlessly confusing; in a line full of anti-aging lotions and potions, there isn’t a single SPF product for the face or body (just one for the lips); no effective AHA or BHA exfoliants; no reliable options for treating dark spots, red marks from acne, or breakouts; the claim of aloe being special for skin is overinflated.

What do the popular hair accessory line called SCUNCI (aka "scrunchy") and the natural-themed skin-care brand Michael Todd True Organics have in common? Both are associated with a man named Lewis Hendler. Hendler founded SCUNCI in the early '90s and sold the company to Conair in 2005. Then, in 2008, Hendler acquired the little-known Michael Todd True Organics skin-care brand.

As we understand it, there really was someone named Michael Todd who played a role in the brand's history, but there's no mention of the real Michael Todd to be found on the company's website. We did find a press release explaining that he is or was a model and actor, but that's about it. Hendler is the brand's public face, along with a few lesser known celebrities.

This Florida-based company has captured the attention of many consumers due to its claims of using natural and organic ingredients coupled with active anti-aging and anti-acne ingredients (all of which, by the way, are synthetic, which is just fine for skin, just not as "all natural" as the company wants you to believe).

Like many natural-themed lines, Michael Todd True Organics promotes some of the most absurd and misleading information imaginable about skin and skin care. A big one—directly from the owner himself—is that everything we put on our skin is absorbed into the body … cosmetic ingredients go right past the skin and into the bloodstream. If that were true (it isn't, thank goodness, but we'll get to that shortly), then moisturizers couldn't moisturize, exfoliants couldn't remove the top layers of dead, dried skin, and sunscreens would not prevent sunburns or tanning. Most skin-care ingredients do their job by staying on top (or at least in the top layers) of the skin, not by being absorbed into the body.

In essence, if absorption into the body were true, then even Hendler would have to admit that his own products (many of which contain problematic ingredients like neem oil and/or lavender oil, which are toxic when ingested) would do little for the skin because as soon as you apply them—poof! They're in the body, just like as soon as you swallow food it's on its way to your digestive system.

The truth is that skin is a very good barrier, and that it's difficult to get cosmetic ingredients to penetrate much past the uppermost layers, much less into the bloodstream, as almost all cosmetics chemists will tell you. The good news is that keeping skin-care ingredients, such as moisturizing agents, skin-repairing ingredients, sunscreen actives, and antioxidants, in the skin's outermost layers is really helpful—it means that the skin's surface (its first line of defense) has a better chance of remaining healthy, smooth, and better able to protect itself against environmental damage. But assuming everything we put on our skin did get into the body, thinking that natural ingredients are safer is wrong; there are hundreds of problematic natural ingredients that could cause serious health problems if they routinely got into the body.

Michael Todd True Organics is big on promoting what their products don't contain, including water, which is bizarre given that water is one of the most natural ingredients on earth. But, more to the point, these products absolutely do contain water in the form of aloe juice; aloe is 99.5% water (Sources: Indian Journal of Dermatology, volume 53, issue 4, 2008, pages 163–166; and http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/6.html#Js2200e.6). This kind of chicanery is so classic in the world of natural-themed skin-care products we can barely contain our frustration. You're not getting a more concentrated product simply because it's based on aloe rather than pure water.

What's important to know is that there are good and bad natural ingredients, as well as good and bad synthetic ingredients. Seeing a preponderance of natural ingredients on a skin-care label is no guarantee the product you're considering is better or safer than one that contains natural and synthetic ingredients.

The Michael Todd brand also avoids the usual group of ingredients that have been given an undeserved bad rap, such as parabens, sulfates, triclosan, mineral oil, and synthetic fragrances, all of which we discuss elsewhere on our website (A quick summary: None of the aforementioned ingredients are dangerous for skin. If you still are concerned, don't think for a minute that this is the only line that leaves them out!)

What Michael Todd's product information doesn't tell you about is the extensive amount of research that shows how problematic the fragrant oils and plant extracts that they include in their products are. The irony is that the ingredients they brag about not using are comparably better and, yes, safer for your skin! That's not to say that this brand's products are unsafe; rather, it's to illustrate the point that synthetic ingredients aren't automatically evil, and that all-natural ingredients are not angelic.

Sadly, what you get with almost the entire Michael Todd line is a mixed bag. Product after product contains a frustrating mix of beneficial and problematic ingredients—and many of the products pose a strong risk of irritation, especially those with numerous citrus oils, and irritation is always bad for skin, whether the source is synthetic or natural.

The company definitely ups the beneficial ante with ingredients like retinol, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and vitamins (all synthetic by the way), but these great ingredients are surrounded by not-so-great ingredients, many of which are overly fragrant—and the research is clear: Fragrance isn't skin-caring in the least.

It must be said—because this just drives us nuts—that for all the anti-aging this and the anti-wrinkle that you'll read about regarding Michael Todd True Organics products and ingredients, the brand doesn't sell a single sunscreen, for the face or for the body. Not one! How seriously are we supposed to take any line's anti-aging claims when they don't offer the single most important product in any anti-aging routine? This single oversight really puts the entire line into perspective, and it's not a rosy picture. OK, it's rosy in terms of the Michael Todd products that smell like roses, but that's not going to improve your skin!

For more information on Michael Todd True Organics, call 772-343-0222 or visit www.michaeltoddtrueorganics.com .

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+ Rating Product Brand Category Price Size
Poor Wild Rose Petal Creamy Body Wash Michael Todd True Organics Body Soaps/Washes  $14.00 10.10 fl. oz.
Poor Pink Grapefruit Lotion Michael Todd True Organics Body Lotions/ Creams/Balms/Butters  $14.00 10.10 fl. oz.
Poor Peppermint Wake Up Wash Daily Body Wash Michael Todd True Organics Body Soaps/Washes  $14.00 10.10 fl. oz.
Poor Organic Aloe Nourishing Healing Oil Michael Todd True Organics Face/Body Oils  $14.00
Poor SPF 18 Tinted Lip Protector Trio Michael Todd True Organics Lip Balm With Sunscreen  $16.00 3.00 tubes
Poor Jojoba Charcoal Facial Scrub Michael Todd True Organics Scrubs  $18.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Average Blue Green Algae Antibacterial Toner Michael Todd True Organics Toners  $18.00 8.40 fl. oz.
Good Organic Cranberry Antiox Hydrating Anti-Aging Toner Michael Todd True Organics Toners  $18.00 8.40 fl. oz.
Poor Tropical Fruit Enzyme Exfoliant Scrub Michael Todd True Organics Scrubs  $18.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Poor Organic Lemon AHA + DMAE Toner Michael Todd True Organics Toners  $18.00 8.40 fl. oz.
Poor Charcoal Detox Cleanser Deep Pore Gel Cleanser Michael Todd True Organics Face/Body Cleansers  $24.00 7.00 fl. oz.
Poor Skin Defender AHA Creme Facial Cleanser Michael Todd True Organics Face/Body Cleansers  $24.00 7.00 fl. oz.
Poor Cleanse and Tone One Step Cleanser/Toner Michael Todd True Organics Toners  $24.00 7.00 fl. oz.
Poor Honey and Oat Gentle Deep-Pore Cleanser Michael Todd True Organics Face/Body Cleansers  $24.00 7.00 fl. oz.
Average Moisture Lite Non-Oily Hydrating Lotion Michael Todd True Organics Moisturizer without Sunscreen  $29.00
Poor Citrus Cream Moisturizer Michael Todd True Organics Moisturizer without Sunscreen  $29.00 2.40 fl. oz.
Poor Liposome Antioxidant Moisturizer Michael Todd True Organics Moisturizer without Sunscreen  $29.00 2.40 fl. oz.
Average Charcoal Detoxifying Facial Mask Michael Todd True Organics Moisturizing/Firming Masks  $34.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Poor Pumpkin Nutrient-Rich Facial Mask Michael Todd True Organics Moisturizing/Firming Masks  $34.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Average Kaolin Clay Detoxifying Facial Mask (Maximum Strength) Michael Todd True Organics Oil-Absorbent Masks  $34.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Poor Organic Pearl and Silk Facial Mask Michael Todd True Organics Moisturizing/Firming Masks  $34.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Poor Kaolin Clay Detoxifying Facial Mask (Normal) Michael Todd True Organics Oil-Absorbent Masks  $34.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Average Rooibos Tea Gel Eye Treatment Michael Todd True Organics Eye Moisturizers  $34.00 0.50 fl. oz.
Best Avocado and Mango Hydrating Facial Mask Michael Todd True Organics Moisturizing/Firming Masks  $34.00 3.40 fl. oz.
Poor Hyaluronic Acid + C Antioxidant Moisturizing Serum Michael Todd True Organics Serums  $37.00 1.00 fl. oz.
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