Direct Marketing Personal Care in Shades of Green

Debbie Campbell and Lauren Barber Sample Skincare Products with
Natalie Mcpherson of HBHNaturalSolutions
Wine and hors d'oeuvres were served while friends chatted around the kitchen island. Parenting topics and small talk filled the air until the women finally sat down for their consultations.  They took turns chatting about nutrition with one sales consultant and sun-damaged skin with another.  Finally, everyone sampled skin cleansers, toners and moisturizers.  

This women's gathering was much like any other direct sales party you might have attended twenty years ago.  Except that the direct sales marketers were sure to point out the source of organic ingredients grown in California, and they described the main ingredients of many products as natural botanicals.  New health and beauty consultant Natalie Mcpherson of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, said about the product line,  "I tried it and it works.  I have no doubt that it's from the natural ingredients in it."  You have to look for the smaller print to see that the Nutrilite, Artistry and Legacy of Clean products Mcpherson and her associates offer at are affiliated with the well established Amway company.
Arbonne Consultant Joanna Garza

Busy mom and high school teacher Joanna Garza of Anderson, Missouri found her niche with another company that claims it's always been green.  Garza wanted to slow down signs of aging with makeup  that wouldn't be heavy or harsh on her skin.  She says that's what she found in Arbonne, "I saw immediate results on my skin and the more I learned about the company's philosophy, I fell in love with the botanical ingredients."

Garza said that when she hosts get-togethers with friends, education is part of the presentation.  She noted that Arbonne products do not contain parabens and are vegan certified.  Like many direct marketing companies that offer cosmetics, the line also includes wellness and weight loss products.  Packaging has recently gotten more streamlined and sustainable.  Arbonne's website reads, "We're taking 'pure, safe and beneficial' to the next level through our efforts to match the purity of our ingredients with the earth friendliness of our packaging."

For independent consultant Ana Kniesel of St. Louis, it's the absence of certain ingredients of concern that's the best selling point of her favored product line. Kniesel started using Ava Anderson Non Toxic a couple of years ago when the upstart skincare line only include six products.  Kniesel felt so passionately about keeping toxic chemicals away from her family, that they made a big switch, "I kid you not, we used those six products for everything."  The small company started by an entrepreneurial teenager is quickly expanding to include sunscreens, baby products and household cleaners.

Kniesel's sales parties include a mention of the independent Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and how Ava Anderson Non Toxic's ingredients tend to not include any chemicals of concern on its lists.  Why did Kniesel herself choose this cosmetics company?  "Because it was exactly what I was looking for.  I made sure its products were zeroes on the Cosmetics Database.  I use the Cosmetics Database as my tool to find safer products." Kniesel believes using the safest ingredients can be part of an overall effort to safeguard the health of her family.

Both Ava Anderson Non Toxic and NYR Organic have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics Pledge and earned top status for efforts to follow higher standards in ingredient formulations and disclosures.  Tennessee mom Rhonda Dishman says she feels good sharing NYR Organic because the British-based company sources its ingredients there and has a Soil Association Organic seal from the UK certifying group.

United States consumers are allowed fewer protections than those in much of the developed world when it comes to product safety.  So, the Environmental Working Group provides independent, science-backed information to help us understand what is and isn't on the product label.  

EWG Spokesperson Leeann Brown explained:
"It is important and unfortunately necessary for consumers to take cosmetic safety into their own hands. Environmental Working Group aims to give consumers that power with our Skin Deep database, which is designed to educate consumers about how much or little is know about personal care products and ingredients and the the hazards associated with certain personal care products. The Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency tasked with keeping cosmetic products safe, has very very limited authority to regulate the products we put on our bodies. Companies are not required to prove products are safe before selling them, and can get away with nearly any marketing claim. Terms such as "natural," "green," "eco-friendly" and even "organic" (at times) can be completely up to the discretion of the manufacturer, with no burden of proof to pass."

The EWG and other watchdog groups are calling for better policies so consumers can have more peace of mind about what they're buying.  Said Brown, "It's important that we have basic protections in place for all cosmetics sold in this country. Ingredients should be proven safe before coming to the marketplace, and in the event products turn out to be unsafe, the FDA should have full recall authority. The U.S. is far behind other countries when it comes to cosmetic regulations, it's high time we began utilizing our technology and research and set the safety standard."

In the United States, there is only a government-backed seal for USDA Organic Certified food products that indicates foods were grown to certain written standards; but there is not a parallel certification for personal care products. Therefore, the term "organic" on makeup or shampoo may not mean the same thing as it does on fresh vegetables.  Additionally, any number of unlisted chemicals of concern can hide behind the term "fragrance" on a product label.

While consumers are left to sort through the claims of most direct sales products on their own, it's clear that both new and established companies are responding to the mom-centered market with various shades of green.