Saturday, June 30, 2018

Real + Fake

"Let me tell you about an incredible marketing opportunity to sell cool products, make fast cash, and alienate all of your friends from high school." 

First of all, the whole MLM (multi-level marketing) or "network marketing" (as they prefer to be called) scheme has lost its flavor with me, and gone the way of all of the other in-home-party businesses.  I find them both sketchy, and completely antiquated.  The fact that it can now be done from behind the comfort of a computer screen doesn't make it any more modern, or palatable to me.  I don't care if it's pants that stretch fourteen sizes, or housewares, or essential oils, skincare, make-up, candles, smokeless candles, just the wax formerly used in candles now warmed in a little light-up dish ... If I have to join a "team" to do it?  Thanks, but no.

So, admittedly, I'm already well past biased by the time the recruitment emails start hitting my inbox.  Add to it that we probably haven't spoken in 20 years, and the first thing you have to say to me after a long sabbatical is that you've got an amazing, "life-changing" opportunity for me that ultimately makes YOU more money ... We're not exactly going to get off on the right foot.  Yes, of course you're thinking about me, and how I can improve my life the same way you have, but can we just cut the crap already?  I know full well this isn't about your dire need to help me upgrade my life.  Of course you want me to be successful, and do well raking in lots of dough after I've joined your "team," that's how YOU make the majority of YOUR money; not by punting product, but by how many punters you can get under you who can move product but, more importantly, sign up more punters ...

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to "win / earn," or rather, lease a Lexus in my own name, and have the monthly payments directly deducted from my sales account (don't lose any customers ... NO pressure!), or treat my lover to Hawaii, or four people to Paris just from vending skincare products, but I can't in good conscience tell people friends no less, to rub a product line whose ingredients are so objectionable they've been BANNED across Europe on their bodies, especially knowing what I know now.   Beyond what we all learned in elementary school about our skin being the body's largest organ, it's also an important part of waste removal, so why, at a time when we are so bombarded with pollution, and toxins would anyone want to burden such a vital organ with more toxins it has to figure out how to help eliminate?

All of which leads me to my utter disdain for the company Rodan + Fields also known as the makers of the ProActiv Solution 3-Step System ... or what I affectionately called it in high school: Chemical-shed in a bottle (which has no other super-special active ingredients beyond what you'd find in a regular jar of face wash & tube of zit cream at the drugstore) that left my mother's face looking like she'd been pulled from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound -- but not to worry, as per their claims in the 1990s, "breakouts get worse before they get better" newsflash: The only thing that made her breakouts end was stopping the 3-Step Oil Slick System.  Likewise, there is nothing special in the R + F collection today that warrants the high price, nor the "exclusivity" of procuring it from a "consultant," and because of its non-prescription status it is, therefore, not regulated by the FDA - as useless as they are - meaning (but not limited to) there are no fewer precautions one should take with these products than with anything else you'd purchase from the corner market, the trunk of someone's car or ... Wherever.

A quick scan of any consultant's marketing materials will reveal the same buzzwords, and shtick as parroted for most commercially available products: Promises of "healthier looking skin", products that "really work!" coupled with an almost cult-like following of whatever "our Doctors" say their products do, and how ever safe they profess their ingredients to be completely handing over individual thought to Rhinestone Rodan & her sidekick Ms. Fields.  Huh?  Lemme get this straight, (mostly) college educated, (nearly) middle-aged, successful women are happily turning off their own thought processes because two doctors who made terrible products in the 1990s say they have the answer to all of our anti-aging questions, you know, as long as we don't actually ask them out loud?  I find this deeply disturbing, especially when doctors are never wrong, and people with a product to sell are never biased.

Surely, there's something of value here if the company's worth a billion dollars!

Let's keep it real.  The money, the real "growth" comes not from customer purchases.  It comes from the recruitment, and enlistment of NEW consultants and the purchase of all of their introductory kits, and sales portfolios, and product they predict they will be able to move.  What on earth could possibly go wrong with this business model?  A little thing called over-saturation, perhaps?  What happens when you seem to cap-out on potential new consultants in America?  Open sales in Canada, and lo, there is a huge influx of consultant / customers, and income.  And then when that starts trending toward a plateau, what next?  Australia, of course!  Once again, there is another influx of people, and profits giving, not only Katie & Kathy, but also old and new consultants alike excellent talking points for how the company grows by X-amount each year, and makes the company a lot of money, but it does absolutely nothing to help the local Queen of the Cul-de-sac move more product, or increase her income.  From a marketing standpoint, it's genius.  From an ethical standpoint, it's not exactly the definition of transparency.  From the consultant's standpoint, it should look like the gentle let-down from your high school crush that it is.

Now with a couple of years in Australia under the company's belt, keep your eyes peeled for an announcement of a 2019 expansion into the absolute gold-mine that is the Asian skin care market.  I suspect the first moves will be toward South Korea, and Japan to set a stable grappling hook, and then later, India.  It will be even more fascinating to see if any strides are made to break into the Chinese market, since every single cosmetic, and skin care product sold in the country requires animal testing ... And if R + F's somewhat questionable ethics haven't caught up with them just yet, I'm curious to see what happens after animal-rights activists get their paws on them if they ever try to dip a solitary well-pedicured toe into that ocean, especially knowing that they had no qualms selling R + F to Estée Lauder (a company who most certainly does test on animals as required by China) in the early 2000s to get their product behind department store counters.  By 2007, however, the duo purchased their company back, and created their MLM business model, and as recent as last year confirmed they are not currently testing on animals.  Like Estée Lauder, however, they may set their PR team loose to craft ambiguous statements that leave a lot to imagination unless absolutely pressed on the topic when the time comes.  It certainly wouldn't be the first time the company demonstrates its appreciation for irony, or hypocrisy.

Just this summer, the company hosted an annual retreat for its top tier earners ($95k+ per annum) in Cannes, France ... In the European Union ... Where Rodan + Fields is banned from selling its products.  I understand the desire to create a much-coveted global brand perception now that the company has begun to reach beyond the shores of America, but come on.  This is a little too rich, even for me!  Hordes of women in ballgowns, slathered in poison, prancing all over Thailand, Greece, England, and most recently, France when the company they're shilling for can't even pass the most basic of standards, and testing to get a foothold in the same locations?  I know this phrase is incredibly overused, but

I.  Just.  Can't.

When confronted with the question, "Why does Rodan + Fields use parabens?" a substance banned in several markets, and easy enough to remove from products since countless companies have already figured out how, the Doctors double down:
Rodan + Fields® is committed to product safety and efficacy, and compliance with cosmetics regulations. Adequate preservative systems, including parabens, are essential when formulating safe and effective cosmetics. (Jul 19, 2017)
Which, I believe, leads the casual reader to think that products without parabens are somehow less safe, and less effective, while also establishing the notion that R + F really cares about their customers, and this is a company to be trusted.  Can we be so sure about that?

A company who couldn't be bothered disclosing the very serious side effects of a crucial component found in one of its most popular products cares about the consumer?  Okay.  Let's also revisit their quote above for a moment, "Rodan + Fields® is committed to product safety and efficacy, and compliance with cosmetics regulations."  Really?  Let's also take a minute to reflect on the fact that laws and regulations pertaining to cosmetics in the United States of America haven't changed since 1938.  

If I were at the helm of a skincare company today, I wouldn't be bragging about adhering to 80 year old beauty industry laws, and standards of practice.

I'm convinced this company doesn't care about a single thing past its own bottom line.  Are the preservatives they insist on using really about keeping the consumer safe from a tiny pot of cream they'll use up in a month?  Or is it to protect the inventory they're not sure their consultants can peddle?  What's more likely?  An overpriced, modestly sized product teeming with dangerous bacteria in your make-up bag before you can replace it, or a warehouse of stale supply a billion dollar company can no longer move?  It seems fairly obvious to me, who exactly they're looking out for.

I know that talking about this often raises the argument: If people only knew how many of these ingredients were in the majority of their detergents, household cleaners, shampoo and other toiletries, cosmetics, and home and personal fragrances they wouldn't worry so much about a skin care regiment with the same contents.  I happen to think that's exactly why people should be concerned about what's in their bathroom cabinet.  This is precisely the point so many people willing to speak out are making.  Our homes are often, unbeknownst to the consumer, saturated with carcinogens, and toxic agents connected to myriad problems including a multitude from skin and lung irritation, to infertility, to organ disease / failure.  Because companies, like many college professors who believed their classes were the only ones you were enrolled in and piled on exorbitant amounts of work, seem to operate in a manner that concludes you are brand or product exclusive, and are only using their commodities, which works out great because, through in-house control and testing, they've formulated exactly how much of their noxious materials you can come into contact with prior to becoming litigious.  The reality is much different.  We have countless items in any given home, on any given day that have suspect ingredients packed right to the threshold of safety, and the more we talk this through, expose what's happening, and remove dangerous substances from our daily use the better it will be for all of us, and the environment as a whole.

Another popular rebuttal to anyone discussing the inclusion of toxic-ingredients in beauty or body-care products is: Everything's a chemical (smug smirk optional).  Yes, Your Royal Highness of all things Pedantic-

Of course, everything's a chemical, but I'd wager on a hot day you're more likely to reach for a cold glass of water to drink, and not laundry bleach, yes?

If not, get the hell off my blog, and never come back.  For everyone who made it through 7th grade science, it is not a shocking revelation that an item with mass that takes up space is matter, and matter's particles are comprised of chemicals.  If you had mono, or were in detention that day, it's okay, just Google it.  For a full list of the (yes) chemicals banned from cosmetics in the European Union, go here.

Several of which are found in R +F products, including:
Redefine Daily Cleansing Mask
Redefine Intensive Renewing Serum
Reverse Deep Exfoliating Wash
Reverse Skin Lightening Treatment
Soothe Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Soothe Sensitive Skin TreatmentUnblemish Acne Treatment Sulfur Wash
Unblemish Clarifying Toner
Unblemish Oil Control Lotion with SPF

Don't take it from me, or Danielle Andrews.  The warnings published on the Rodan + Fields website (placed on their ingredients on their own website as required by the State of California) are enough on their own to raise an eyebrow, and if they are to be heeded or believed, frankly I can't say they're making false claims with their "Life-Changing Skincare" catchphrase.  They're just not the kind of changes I'm interested in.  I'm not looking for products that temporarily "control" my skin issues through regular / repeated use, no matter the potential cost to my wallet, and overall health.  I want to solve, and eliminate my skin irregularities safely, and permanently.  What I know for sure, is that I have never changed the appearance of my skin on the outside without changing what I put inside my body.
Anything that can't be changed, I'll be happy to embrace.  Beauty and aging gracefully, to me, has always been more than skin deep.  It's not about how you cake your face, or attempt to preserve a youthful appearance, it's about what you feed your body, and what you feed your soul -- that's what radiates throughout your being, and ultimately shines through.

Anyone committed to trying to convince me to spend nearly $400 USD on enrollment kits, please feel free to spend the same amount supporting my side-hustle on any of the shop links at the top of my sidebar, and I'll consider reciprocating.  I view my products as life-changing as well, like, when you're cold you can put on a hat, and get warm.  Voila!