A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog in which I wore makeup and enthused about the company, Alima Pure, that made the makeup. I bought this makeup many years ago, and it’s still in great shape. I even linked to them. The big deal was that they made the only makeup I’d been able to tolerate since I developed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) in 1995. I had tried other brands that were sold by MCS catalogs, even, and not been able to tolerate them.
All of this company’s products are basically loose mineral powder (blush, foundation, concealer, eyeliner, eyeshadow) that must be applied with a brush of the correct size. So, it’s a fair amount of work. However, since it’s just minerals, there’s no gunky stuff that makes me sick. And no smell.
The problem is that I’m not all that interested in most of those products. Back when I used makeup, I wore eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, and some powder to take the ever-present shine off my face. (Since I developed MCS and rosacea, I am even more naturally “rosy” — aka face-like-a-beet — than I was before.) Thus, I have never used blush in my life, and I doubt I ever will. I rarely bothered with eye shadow, either; it just wasn’t my “thing.”
What I really wanted was lipstick. Alima doesn’t sell lipstick, but they sold a wide variety of lip glosses that were tinted. I bought several samples of the darkest shades they had, and there were some I liked quite a bit. It was pretty miraculous that I was able to use the lip gloss, because I had not been able to use anything on my lips, even plain beeswax lip balm, since I got sick.
I decided that eventually I would buy a full-size tube of gloss, because the little pots that the samples came in had to be sort of scooped out with my finger, which was messy and wasteful. However, since I only use makeup about twice a year — and if I do, I have to make sure not to wear a mask, or it will smudge all over the place — this was not a huge priority.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I got a note that the company was having its seventh anniversary. I’m not sure how I got on their mailing list after having not been on it for many years. Anynoodle, they were giving away free eye shadow and offering a discount on any purchase. I thought, “What the heck?” And went to look at the lip gloss.
I was disappointed to see that only a few shades were offered now (used to be a couple dozen, currently there are nine), none with the same names as the ones I’d bought before. There was also very little information about what they looked like. I scoured the information on the pages for the glosses that looked promising, but the detailed descriptions of shades were not part of their new look, either. I took my best guess — buying the two darkest reds — and placed my order.
Normally I put a lot more care into buying things — reading all the details and double-checking everything. But I was sick and exhausted, and I found their website confusing and difficult to navigate. I thought about calling them before I placed my order, but it was the weekend, and if I waited for their customer service hours, I would miss the sale.
Some of my confusion was because there was one page that said, “Lips,” which was the introduction to the lip gloss, but which did not contain any detail on any of the glosses. You had to go to separate pages for that. Also, the writing was minuscule. I am used to enlarging the print on my screen, but I was tired, my eyes were tired, and I guess I didn’t enlarge it enough. I was assuming more detailed information about the lip glosses would be on the pages that included the actual information about each lip gloss.
I read the “description” of each gloss (which consisted, usually, of one or two words, such as “sheer red,” and that’s it) and the ingredients. The ingredients were another long list in tiny, tiny font. I skimmed them, and it seemed to be pretty much minerals, like what I’d bought before. I did not read every single of the couple dozen ingredients, as it was all sort of blurring together, and I had already purchased products from them, so what could have changed so much, right?
Obviously, from the title of this post, you know I was wrong.
A week later, my box of luxurious new products arrived. It was all very long and non-smelly and clean. There were the free eye shadows, a couple of free samples of eye shadows I hadn’t ordered, and the two tubes of lip gloss, each in their own long, thin cardboard box. I opened one, pulled on the wrong end for a while, then pulled on the right end to remove the cap, and prepared to . . . ack! What was that smell? Why did my lip gloss reek of mint? Was I imagining this? What was going on?
I hurriedly replaced the cap and looked at the ingredients list on the box. Buried in the middle of a an 88-word ingredients list was “Organic Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Essential Oil.”
They had added a freaking fragrance essential oil to their lip gloss! AUGH! I checked the box on the other one, and it had the same mint oil as its last ingredient. AUGH!!
I had been looking forward to this for so long — my full-size tube of lip color! I’d been so excited, and now I had spent twenty bucks (including shipping) on worthless stinky crap!
I called them up and spoke to a customer service representative. She was not apologetic. She was defensive, and she did not listen to me. She kept saying things like, “All our other products are unscented. The lip gloss is the only thing that is!” And, “We made it gluten-free!” And, “We announced this in our newsletter!” She didn’t seem to get why none of this was relevant or helpful.
One of my main points was that they should have made it very clear on their website that there was added fragrance to the products. That it should say in big, bold letters, on all the lip gloss pages, “These lip glosses contain fragrance from essential oils.”
She kept telling me how they’d sent out announcements to their email list that this change was coming. I told her repeatedly that didn’t do me any good because I had not been on their email list, but either she didn’t believe me or she just wasn’t listening. I don’t know. She just kept repeating that.
Then we got into an argument over whether there was, in fact, any information on their site warning customers that the lip glosses were scented. It turned out that buried in a small paragraph, in tiny print, on the “lips” page — not the page that actually gives you any information about any of the individual lip glosses, mind you, but what seems to be an introductory page that just says, “Hey, we have stuff to smear on your lips!” In their minuscule, five-sentence blurb on the “lips” page — which was basically the only thing on the page — they included these two sentences: “Lightly scented with a touch of organic peppermint oil. Yes, you deserve it.”
Oh, I deserve to have my face burn and turn red? I deserve to be gifted with a headache and a sore throat and brain fog? Swell.
Obviously if I had seen that, I would not have bought anything! But I didn’t see it, because it appeared to be a page that was basically devoid of information or actual products!
She also kept repeating that if I had read the ingredients lists, I would have seen the mint oil. Oh, well, obviously I deserve what I get because the fact that there was fragrance didn’t LEAP out at me from the ingredients list, which looks like this (except much, much tinier):
Organic Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Organic Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Organic Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Fruit, Organic Beeswax, Organic Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Organic Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract, Organic Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa Seed) Butter, Organic Punica Granatum Linn (Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Organic Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Essential Oil, Organic Punica Granatum Linn (Pomegranate Extract, Tocopherol. May Contain [+/-]: Mica (CI 77019), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).
That fragrance mention — the single word, “essential” — really arrests the eye, doesn’t it?
Of course, they don’t allow returns because these are personal care items. The service person offered me store credit to buy any of their other items, but since it will take me the rest of my life to use them, that’s not very helpful.
Pretty much, I kept trying to get my points across, and she kept arguing with me, not apologizing, not agreeing that I had anything to be upset about, and not offering me any compensation. My points were, in order of importance to me:
1. You should put in BIG BOLD LETTERS EVERYWHERE that the lip gloss that is sold on your site is FRAGRANCED.
2. I want my money back on these lip glosses, since I will never be able to use them.
3. Why the fuck did you add fragrance to something that was perfectly good beforehand? Every other makeup company in the world puts fragrances and toxic crap into their products. Why on earth would you screw up the thing that made you a viable alternative?
I was much more polite than this in person, which got me nowhere. Finally, I was so upset, I started crying and said that I lived on a fixed income, that this was a really big deal for me, that I had been looking forward to it, and that I did not feel I was being heard.
That seemed to make a dent. She stopped defending and parrying and listened to what I was actually saying. That turned things around.
She said she would tell the owner — who made these decisions, not her — my very strong request to have very blatant warnings about fragrances in their products, and my plea to get rid of the fragrances as soon as possible. She also said she would refund the cost of the lip balms.
She did tell me again, however, that they had made the lip balms gluten-free for some of their customers, and then someone else had complained that they have soy in them! (As if, you know, I should join in on her righteous indignation that someone dared indicate to them that they have a soy allergy.) She sort of insinuated that removing the gluten had been a reason for adding the fragrance, which makes no sense, since so many of us who are allergic to gluten are also sensitive to fragrance! And also, I’ve never heard that gluten or essential oils are required for making lip gloss; clearly they aren’t, because they used to make unscented lip gloss, and now they make gluten-free lip gloss.
She also said that I was just one person, and that therefore my complaining about the fragrance wouldn’t make any difference. They would have to hear from a lot of people that they had an issue with the fragrance before they’d consider changing anything.
On one hand, her saying, “You’re just one person,” didn’t feel so good. It kind of underlined the sense I’d had throughout our encounter, which was, “Your needs aren’t important.” On the other hand, she was being honest with me, and I appreciated that. I know that usually a large number of people need to complain about a product before a company will change it. The logical course, it seemed to me, was to write a blog about it and ask YOU to contact this company and get them to switch back to fragrance-free products!
However, I did not write this blog soon after it happened. For the last six weeks, I’ve been too sick to deal with this. Now, I’m finally writing about it, and I just checked their website and — surprise! — they now have eliminated the useless, irritating introductory “Lips” page and combined it with the actual list of lip balm products. So now, at least, that one tiny sentence that indicates there’s fragrance is at least on the same page as the lip glosses themselves. However, it’s still just that one obnoxious little sentence in tiny font at the end of their twee little paragraph about the lusciousness of their products. They have NOT indicated on the pages for the individual glosses, “NOTE: This product contains fragrance.” It is not in large or bold font. It’s still very easy to miss.
So, my friends, I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact Alima Pure, using whatever method works best for you:
Telephone: 503-786-8224 or 1-888-380-5420
Alima Cosmetics, Inc.
18342 SE River Rd.
Portland, OR 97267
E-mail: Use the form on this page, http://www.alimapure.com/alima-pure/contact-us. (I don’t think there is any word verification/CAPTCHA, thankfully.)
Here are some talking points for your phone call or email or letter:
1. Alima Pure should reformulate their lip gloss to make it fragrance-free. Fragrance is unnecessary and only makes the product unavailable to those with chemical sensitivity.
2. Until Alima Pure changes their lip gloss formula, all pages relating to lip gloss should contain a notice in highly visible — large, dark print — indicating that the lip glosses are scented.
3. One-third of the population has a sensitivity to chemicals, with fragrance being among the most common source of symptoms. They are losing customers by following the herd and making all their lip products unusable for people with fragrance sensitivity.
4. Creating a gluten-free product is not incompatible with going back to fragrance-free. It is possible to do both, and in fact, there is a large overlap between those with gluten intolerance and those with chemical sensitivity.
5. If they do remove the fragrance from all their products, you will be happy to tell your friends with fragrance and/or gluten sensitivity about them.
Thank them for their time.
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If you have a blog and you’d like to cross-post this piece, I’d appreciate it very much! I only ask that you cite me as the author and include a link back to After Gadget with your post.
-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT