Myth busting with Paula Begoun, Cosmetics Cop

I have a suspicion that if you’re an avid beauty blog and magazine reader you’ll see quite a few of these in days, weeks and even months to come as a number of Cape Town and JHB beauty editors and bloggers had the opportunity of meeting with Paula Begoun this past week.

To be honest, I expected her to focus on her Paula’s Choice product line that launched in SA some time last year but instead Paula set out to educate those not familiar with her research and beliefs.

If you thought I was opinionated, you should experience Paula. But then she’s earned her stripes – she’s been in the cosmetics industry ever since she was old enough to work, she’s written 20 books on cosmetics and their ingredients (Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me and The Original Beauty Bible are best known), and for the past 18 years she’s been very involved in the formulation of Paula’s Choice products.

Paula Begoun with Paula's Choice products on the left and her very well known book Don't Go To The Cosmetic Counter Without Me on the right
Paula Begoun with Paula’s Choice products on the left and her very well known book Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me on the right. BTW – Paula’s motto is ‘Wasting money isn’t pretty’

So before I share some of Paula Begoun’s favourite myths busted, I’d like to point out that I’ve been advocating some of these principles for years and I’ve hammered on about some of them to no end. Some just seem like common sense, don’t they? And others just seem like a result of marketing, baby.

1. You don’t need a separate eye cream

Everyone tells you that you do. Ask them why, and the answer is usually that the skin around the eyes are more delicate and that products for the area should not contain any irritants. Paula’s rebuttal? No product should contain any known irritants, and if it’s good enough for your face, it’s good enough for your eyes. Eye creams also seldom contain SPF, and with regards to specific eye concerns you should rather address the cause of the problem (e.g anti histamine or SPF for dark circles, depending ย on why it’s there).

2. You shouldn’t use cosmetics that come in jars

The Cosmetics Cop rubbishes any formulation that comes in a jar – a combination of air, skin cells and bacteria will void whatever good was in there in no time. I like to believe that formulations have come a long way and that they’re more stable and so on and so forth. But I also know what kind of filth hangs around even on hands that appear clean, and I never even thought of the skin cells. And there are SO many variables, why would you want to take a chance with a face cream you pay hundrends of bucks for?

3. Natural does not equal better, synthetic does not mean bad.

Everything is chemical, even water. Manufactured ingredients often mean greater stability, predictability and efficacy.

4. Roughly 70% of all ageing is sun damage

I TOLD YOU SO. Look at your inner arm and weep.

5. Dry skin does not cause wrinkles

I’ve honestly never thought this far, but having a skin that has less lipids does not cause collagen to degenerate faster. Mind blown. But if I look at my mom, who turns 54 this year and has a super dry skin, I get it – she has very little wrinkles.

6. Scrubs are bad when used incorrectly

Sugar-, salt and kernel scrubs tear the skin and breaks down collagen fibers (how many I told you so’s am I allowed?). Turns out we’re not just talking face, we’re talking body too. First choice would be exfoliators with AHA (Glycolic, Lactic) or BHA (Salicylic) acids, second choice is gentle manual exfoliation. Often a washcloth is all you need. Paula also mentioned that the Clarisonic does a good job, but that it’s a very expensive way to do it compared to a good ol’ washcloth.

I was very sad to have my beloved enzymatic exfoliators completely dismissed here. Paula believes them to be too unstable to formulate with. I’ll remain stubborn and continue using mine, because few things beat Nimue’s Exfoliating Enzyme and Lamelle Cathepzyme 2 for instant smoothness without a hint of irritation.

Gandalf says: The sun will age you faster than anything else
Gandalf says: The sun will age you faster than anything else

7. Fragrance (in cosmetics) is bad

I was basically fist pumping the air at this point until I heard that that included natural fragrances derived from essential oils too, specifically Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Lavender. I’m aware that the first two are flagged as possible skin irritants (Aromatherapy is my day job, you know) but Lavender surprised me as it’s one of only two oils that is readily applied to the skin undiluted for burns, grazes, chafing, rashes – any type of irritation, basically. Guess I have some serious research to do!

8. Expensive sunscreen is dangerous

We were all staring at Paula like proper idiots at this point. Because everyone knows a sunscreen’s price is an indicator of it’s quality, right? The key to decent sun protection is liberal application and if your tube was very pricey, you’re going to skimp. Very good point indeed.

9. There are no miracle ingredients

Skin needs a cocktail of things to function optimally – anti oxidants, cell communicators and cell identical ingredients. And sunscreen. Not the leaves of a flower that only blooms when there’s a blood moon.

10. I don’t have a 10th point

I do have a funny story though. Afterwards I went to greet Paula and thank her, and also introduce myself since I walked in halfway through introductions due to the despicable Grayston offramp. When I slowly told her my blog’s name and immediately translated/explained ‘poppie’ to her, she laughed and said “Oooh, so a poopy is like a bimbo?”

It’s poppie, Paula, almost like poppy, the flower – but you’re spot-on with the definition ๐Ÿ™‚

I have a Paula’s Choice 2% BHA gel (it’s a leave-on exfoliator gel) that I bought more than 6 months ago that I’ll be revisiting and reviewing. Unfortunately I started using it just before my epic skin havoc so it was one of the products I stopped using completely until I could figure out what it was that I was reacting to. 99% sure it’s not it, giving it a go again. I also received a cleanser which I’ve already started using, I’ll report back on that as well.

C xx

PS – This lady sticks to her guns. There isn’t one eye cream in her range (my mom actually instructed me to ask her, even after I explained it –ย “Nee Sussie, vra haar net”ย – because she bought herself the full range a while ago), there’s a wide variety of AHA and BHA exfoliators, and everything is in tubes, for example. You can shop online for Paula’s Choice products here.

PPS – I have a title amongst family and friends too, you know. This past December I would only allow people to be in the pool for 20 minutes at a time, even if they were slathered in SPF. By then I would be verging on panic and they had to go under the umbrella or get themselves covered. The Man thought Sun Police was a very appropriate wordplay on Fun Police, but my mom got confused and started calling me the Sunscreen Cop. Whatevs, they’ll thank me later.




  1. Jul 17, 2013 / 5:21 PM

    I use the skin recovery super antioxidant serum, and it really has helped my skin. I don’t necessarily take every word as a fact, but what she says makes sense. I think the lavender oil might potentially irritate a very few highly sensitive skins, but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Same for the enzyme exfoliators which work wonderfully for a lot of people.

    • Jul 17, 2013 / 8:34 PM

      She’s a walking encyclopedia. And funny on top of that! But I do bear in mind that there’s opinion and preference mixed in with that wealth of knowledge, so we don’t have to agree on 100% of it ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Jul 18, 2013 / 9:45 AM

    I love Paula’s products! Love this post! I can’t give up my Clarisonic though.

    • Jul 18, 2013 / 10:49 AM

      Luckily it’s been declared all good, just an expensive way of exfoliating.
      (And thank you for loving the post :))

  3. Monique
    Oct 15, 2016 / 2:41 PM

    I have recently (3 months ago) started using paulas choice products and my skin is loving it!

    I am however kind of worried about wether these products are in SA to stay

    There is currently a sale on all products on Paulas choice SA website. As soon as a product is sold out, it is completely removed from the website. When I enquured regarding a product i wish to use I was told that all shipping to South Africa has been stopped.

    This seems weird to me. Were sales in SA not satisfactory?
    I would be devastated if I wont be able to purchase these products anymore

    • Chantelle Bester
      Oct 16, 2016 / 7:14 PM

      Glad you got such great results! Unfortunately it sounds like they might be leaving the country from what you’re saying. Would be such a pity!

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