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Interview With Paula Begoun

Aired June 17, 2003 - 20:35   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Face cream. There's a war going on at your local department store. The battlefield is the seemingly benign looking cosmetics counter. It's a war over face creams, or rather, over the money that's spent on them, and there's a lot of money. In the quest to look younger, people are gobbling up the creams. Not actually gobbling, thankfully, to the tune of $300, $400, even $500 a jar, like a little tiny jar. So how much is beauty worth? Let's bring in consumer advocate Paula Begoun. She's written a book "Don't Go To the Cosmetics Counter Without Me." She joins us from Seattle.
Paula, I had no idea about all of this. The amount of money people are paying is just amazing. I want to show people a product that sells for $500 an ounce, it's made by some company called La Prairie, called cellular radiance cream. What is in this thing that makes it $500 an ounce?

PAULA BEGOUN, AUTHOR: Well, you're asking me or La Prairie? I'm sure La Prairie thinks there is a whole bunch of stuff they stuck in there that's worth it. From anything I can tell, it isn't worth $500. I'm sure it's a very well formulated product. The first ingredient is water, the second ingredients...

COOPER: Wait a minute, the first ingredient is water?

BEGOUN: Water. And the second ingredient is vasoline, petrolada (ph). And then there's other -- there's thickeners in there and there's some silicon, nice-feeling ingredients, will be good for dry skin, and then there's a handful of plant extracts, teeny, teeny, teeny amounts of plant extracts that are probably good antioxidants and will be good for skin.

But the claim that they're going to get rid of anyone's wrinkles is La Prairie's claims. There's no substantiation.

COOPER: They sent us this statement. Let me just say.


COOPER: What they said to us is: "The efficacy of the products warrants the price. We put a great deal of research and technology into the development of all our skin care products."

BEGOUN: So does that mean their other products -- they sell a lot of products, by the way -- making claim about getting rid of wrinkles, so should they stop selling their 30 other products that they say gets rid of wrinkles, because this is the one now that really works?

COOPER: They are certainly not alone. There's this other product...

BEGOUN: Oh, God, they're not alone at all. No way.

COOPER: There's this other product called Revive. Pardon me, I don't really speak French. So Revive Intensite Creme Lustre. Well, whatever. It's $375 a jar. And by the way, it's not from France, it's from like the United States. It's all just a made up name.

BEGOUN: I think it's from Kentucky. Dr. Brown, I think it's from Kentucky.

COOPER: And they sent us a statement also. I'm going to read you what they said. Revive or revive, I'm not sure which, "Only uses natural occurring protein molecules in the body. There have been extensive tests on the long term effects of EGF. Those clinical trials have been approved by FDA. In those tests, there is no evidence of proliferation of cancer of any kind." Now, what are they referring to?

BEGOUN: So what they are referring to -- well, actually the products they sell is actually unique. Dr. Brown's formulas contain epidermal growth factor (ph) and insulin-like growth factor. There's no clinical trials from the FDA about how these ingredients affect skin. What we know about from the FDA is how they work in terms of drugs. They feed some of these hormone-like factors, growth factors to cows, and they then show up in milk and what the effect in humans. However, that is incredibly controversial whether or not those are actually safe. A quick research of the literature shows there's concerns about cancer.

COOPER: The bottom line that you are saying, though, is that people don't need to pay all this amount of money, $500 for an ounce, $375, whatever it is, it's unnecessary. What products basically do you recommend?

BEGOUN: Not only isn't it necessary, it's a foolish game, because there are often inexpensive products. For example, from the Lauder company at the Clinique counter, there is advanced stop signs, and their antigravity at the drugstore...

COOPER: That's $35 for 1.7 fluid ounces.

BEGOUN: A bargain, and they're making the same claims, and there is the same great antioxidants. And then there's Olay at the drug store saying a line called Regeneration (ph) with great antioxidants that will perform well for skin.

Let me just make a comment. No matter what line you're shopping, those women out there, you're looking for those great products with antioxidants. If that product is packaged in a jar because of the nature of antioxidants being unstable in the presence of air, when you screw that cap off, those ingredients go bye-bye. So that $200, $300, $400, $500 price tag, when it's packaged in a jar, the product doesn't last.

COOPER: So avoid the jar, go for a little squeeze tube or something.

BEGOUN: Right, an airless container, right, exactly.

COOPER: All right. Paula Begoun, appreciate you joining us. I thought that $500 an ounce just seemed ridiculous. I'm glad to hear there's some sort of alternative for $19.99.


COOPER: Good to know. Thanks.


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