Weleda

Weleda At-A-Glance

Strengths: Most of the formulas contain less than a dozen ingredients, which in some instances is better for someone with sensitive skin; the packaging works to keep the plant ingredients stable during use.

Weaknesses: Expensive for what you get; no sunscreens; no exfoliants; no products to address the needs of those with acne, blackheads, or skin discolorations; heavily fragranced; lack of a robust, broad-spectrum preservative system is cause for concern; most products contain one or more irritating plant extracts, and many contain volatile fragrance components that the European Union recognizes as known allergens.

Switzerland-based Weleda (pronounced "wah-lee-duh"), whose founding principle is to strive to be "in harmony with nature and the human being," created a range of skin-care products capitalizing on plant extracts long before such a concept was mainstream or even trendy. It isn't a stretch by any means to say that Weleda's beginning in 1921 paved the way for modern-day plant-centric lines like Aveda, The Body Shop, and Jason Natural. The concepts of using organic ingredients and working with farmers to support sustainable crops seem commonplace now, but decades ago this was trailblazing stuff. On the other hand, while those aspects of the company are admirable, it is readily apparent that what Weleda believes is necessary for us to be in harmony with nature remains rooted in ancient and anecdotal information without a shred of current skin-care research or scientific research to back it up. (Think of Weleda as using a pen and quill instead of a computer; that's pretty much the state of their products).

That's the only rational way to explain why so many of the claims they make for their products have no basis in modern-day science, and why they chose to completely overlook the issue of sun protection. It seems that by Weleda's standards, people uniting with nature involves exposing their skin to the sun without protection, which is a daily invitation to wrinkles, skin discolorations, and other mutagenic changes. Rather than focusing on what cumulative research has shown to be true for skin and skin-care ingredients (and keep in mind that much of this research involved using natural ingredients to the skin's benefit), Weleda has decided to enlist only a small roster of natural ingredients throughout the line; in most cases one or more of those ingredients is a skin irritant, and most lack the potential to behave on skin in the manner Weleda describes. Some of their natural ingredients do have antioxidant potential, but this is all too often blocked by the effects of the plant and fragrance components that have a detrimental effect on skin. In that same vein, alcohol (the drying, irritating, cell-damaging, and free radical–generating kind) makes frequent appearances throughout the line, as does witch hazel, a plant whose natural alcohol and tannin content doesn't make it a must-have ingredient.

Along with no sunscreens, Weleda's lineup is also void of any type of exfoliant or any product capable of addressing the needs of acne-prone or discolored skin. Instead, you're asked to believe that all it takes to regenerate skin cells and create a complexion glowing with health is a series of plant oils, plant extracts, and waxes. As you can imagine, this is a completely inappropriate product line for anyone with oily skin.

The medical doctor and philosopher who developed the Weleda line were likely doing what they thought was necessary and helpful at the time. But what we know now about how skin ages and how to keep it healthy with skin-care products is far removed from what passed for state-of-the-art information in the 1920s. Though this line captures the attention of and appeals to consumers seeking natural products, your skin will be shortchanged when you consider the mundane nature of their formulas. There are many other product lines available that include natural ingredients of proven worth for maintaining healthy skin and improving its appearance. Agreeing to a Weleda routine is tantamount to believing that skin care peaked with the advent of Ivory Soap and Vaseline. Still, for those so inclined, Weleda is widely available in the United States at Walgreens stores.

For more information about Weleda, call (800) 241-1030 or visit usa.weleda.com.

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