The plainly packaged line markets itself as a “botanical” brand by an unseen facialist from Romania who founded the company in 1967. It’s sold in popular stores like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie and has managed to get a fair share of celebrity and social media endorsements over the years.
But “disappointed” customers is an understatement. The number of people who reported feelings of dry, itchy, red, irritated, and broken out skin after using Mario Badescu products is significant enough to constitute a trend. Considering this is a brand claiming to use only “simple, gentle, fresh-botanical-based ingredients,” it’s even more intriguing to dive into.
Mario Badescu has been hit with legal repercussions for the excruciating, disfiguring results of some of its formulations. In 2013, the brand settled a class action lawsuit brought against it for failing to disclose the inclusion of strong steroids in at least two of their products. The steroids, hydrocrotisone and triamcinolone acetonide, can trigger enlarged capillaries and dermatological misery, including skin atrophy. This is where the skin becomes so thin that it easily perforates, leading to infection, diseases, fungal growths, rashes and blistered skin that oozes, burns and peels. Of course, this looks as awful as it sounds. Worse, skin atrophy can cause problems with other medical issues; even removing a bandage can rip open the afflicted skin.
Should You Try Their Products Now?
According to beauty guru and self-proclaimed Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun, the answer is no. Out of the 60 Mario Badescu products her team reviewed for Beautypedia.com, 55 achieve only one or two stars out of five. Five nabbed three stars, but none made it to four. Phrases like “incredibly irritating” and “no-go” are found all over in the detailed reviews.
More worrying, Begoun’s team found inaccurate assertions about product formulations. “This does not contain any type of AHA, as claimed,” Beautypedia notes of the brand’s Kiwi Face Scrub. Her examiners were scathing in their audit of Mario Badescu Glycolic Skin Renewal Complex, saying: “Lubragel CG on the ingredient list is a trade name for the film-forming agent glyceryl polymethacrylate (think hairspray)…Why does Badescu ignore FDA and European ingredient regulations? Perhaps he’s ashamed of his formulas?”
The products are not the brand’s only problem. As noted by Hirons and other industry players, Mario Badescu doesn’t seem to invest many pennies in user-friendly packaging. Meanwhile many cult brands prove you can deliver superb skincare in protective, functional packaging that is both streamlined and easy for customers to use (think PIXI). Mario Badescu’s approach seems to be taking the highest possible margins for poor products contained in the flimsiest, cheapest vessels available.
Overall, always make sure to read labels, evaluate claims, and do at least a cursory Google search before investing in any brand.