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You Take the Thigh Road . . . : Cosmetics Industry Critic Begoun Says Her Products Will Make No Wild Claims

February 01, 1996

After 15 years of warning women about expensive anti-aging ingredients that are all talk, wrinkle creams that don't erase lines and thigh creams that can't make you svelte ("Would my thighs look like this if any of that stuff works?"), Paula Begoun has switched careers.

The author and consumer advocate who loves to punch holes in the cosmetic industry's claims is hoping her righteous rap will find her a place in the $30-billion-a-year business.

She was pitching her new line of makeup and skin care, Paula's Choice, while taping her first infomercial in front of 300 people at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach on Saturday.

Isn't it a little like Ralph Nader selling cars?

"I'm prettier than Ralph Nader," jokes Begoun. "And as much as I complain about the industry, I'm not anti-cosmetics. I was a makeup artist and owned salons before I became a consumer advocate. Skin-care products and cosmetics are empowering to women if they do what they claim.

"But the fashion industry works hard to feed women hogwash, and that's where I could be like Nader. But he'd have to make an awfully sexy car that worked very well to be compared to me."

Known as the author of big-selling books ("Blue Eyeshadow Should (Absolutely) Be Illegal" and "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me"), Begoun promises that she'll never hawk smudgy mascaras, caking eye shadows, foundations with ugly overtones or skin-care products with alcohol, witch hazel or other irritants.

Begoun, who has appeared on "Oprah Winfrey" a dozen times, says that the only anti-aging product that works is sunscreen.

"If I could beg women to do anything, it would be to use sunscreen with SPF 15," she says. "I can guarantee in writing that you won't need a plastic surgeon.

"But the industry knows there is no glamour in sunscreen, so they throw up a lot of malarkey by creating the notion that there are wrinkle creams and products [with] anti-oxidants to stop free radicals and put oxygen into your skin. Let's say a product did have oxygen. There isn't enough in it to blow out a match, let alone help skin."

She continues, "It wastes our money and diverts our energy. We overdo something, then run in circles trying to undo it.

"A lot of dryness we cause ourselves: smoking, using bar soaps and washcloths and spending time in dry saunas, hot water or hanging out over a hot stove."

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