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Allure has unveiled its 2014 Best of Beauty winners, but taking a closer look, I’d say many of these top picks are lackluster, at best. Between the toxic preservatives, skin irritants and silicones, these products boast ingredients lists that leave much to be desired. I’ve used my skin care savvy to assess the merits of a handful of these award-winners and reveal which ones are worthwhile and which are simply a waste.
Kora Organics Daily Hand Cream ($43)
The Kora brand is fronted by Aussie supermodel Miranda Kerr. Although there is much to like about this hand cream, it doesn’t quite live up to the “Organics” moniker, nor is it entirely a “natural wonder.” About half the ingredients are organic and they do include some nice botanicals, including noni fruit, a member of the coffee family that is full of antioxidant compounds called iridoids, and Kora’s signature rose hip oil. The preservative is dehydroacetic acid, and it seems to have no toxicity issues. On the other hand, potassium hydroxide, typically used as a pH balancer, is highly corrosive and a skin irritant even at low doses.
Shiseido IBUKI Refining Moisturizer ($45)
Synthetic solvents (glycols) are among the dominant ingredients in this moisturizer. Although it isn’t great to know that this is where your money is going, it is comforting to know that they are unlikely to be irritants at low concentrations. Then there’s some silicone and a triglyceride (type of glycerin), more silicone, a PEG (controversial because they are penetration enhancers and may contain impurities), alcohol, a neurotoxic preservative, alcohol, chemical fragrances (including one that is a well-known allergen) and the dismal roll-call goes on. Eventually, we get to witch hazel and peony extract, but it’s not quite enough to redeem Shiseido IBUKI, let alone justify its awarding-winning status.
Dr Brandt XYY Xtend Your Youth Face Cream ($59)
Allure loves XYY because it supposedly has more antioxidants than other wimpier brands. I am not so sure about that. I counted at least eight (possibly 10) obvious antioxidants such as grape seed, rose extract, green tea and wine extract. There are 11 ingredients that are “butters” from plant seeds and some, like mango, have antioxidant properties. Others, such as shorea or murumuru are less obvious, but their emollient properties will counteract the drying effects of the two alcohols. However, Dr B’s formulator made the preservative, phenoxyethanol, one of the top ingredients.
StriVectinLabs Anti-Wrinkle Hydra Gel Treatment ($69)
Allure says that this treatment de-puffs eyes in 15 minutes, but most of the ingredients are synthetics that are irrelevant as far as de-puffing and anti-aging claims go or are just mediocre at best. So, I’ll be nice to StriVectin and focus on the ones that could be helpful. The best thing in the Anti-Wrinkle Gel Treatment is a peptide, and sodium hyaluronate is a useful hydrator, while betaine could be there to exfoliate. There is a baffling absence of any ingredient that could be said to de-puff. Same goes for the Anti-wrinkle Smoothing Balm, although it does have some peptides, soy protein, apple extract and a couple of ingredients associated with skin brightening (bearberry and licorice).
Living Proof Neotensil ($500)
I took a look at Neotensil when it was launched earlier this year by Jennifer Aniston and her co-owned company, Living Proof. The secret sauce in this eye treatment is Strateris. It turns out to be a high-tech version of the old egg white trick — an invisible film that temporarily tightens the skin. Basically, it is a polymer (a substance that Living Proof is partial to and uses to control frizz in its hair products) that adheres to the skin and gives an instant tightening effect. Even Allure admits that it’s a pain in the neck to apply, doesn’t have a day-long effect if not applied properly and only works on mild under-eye bags.
Roloxin Lift ($270)
Allure sure likes a quick fix and is prepared to spend on it. Roloxin is an unusual sounding product in that it gives an instant lift after being rinsed off. It all comes down to a film former called chitosan glycolate, which dries to form an overlay on the skin that makes it feel tighter. After 10 minutes, it becomes a white powder that is rinsed off but leaves a tight feeling behind. Even the Allure reviewer admitted that it doesn’t lift – although if you are willing to spend nearly $300 on a pore tightener, Roloxin could be your thing.
3Lab H Serum ($220)
3Lab H Serum tries very hard to be a cult anti-aging product but somehow just can’t pull it off. Here are the kind of solvents and thickening and bulking agents that are often found in expensive department store brands and make me feel that my money is going to waste. But then there are two peptides that deserve our attention at least. Oligopeptides 4 and 5 are, as I’ve mentioned before, in most 3Lab products. Oligopeptide 4 may function as a skin whitener, but there is very little information that I can find on either of them. And apart from sodium hyaluronate, there’s not much to write home about.
Jergens BB Body Perfecting Cream ($12.99)
Allure likes Jergens BB body cream so much that it also appears in the Beauty Breakthroughs category. I’m not sure why it is a breakthrough, other than that it may be one of the few alphabet creams to go beyond the face. But having said that, I’m not even sure how it qualifies as a BB cream. For example, Jergens BB Body Perfecting Cream doesn’t have an SPF, or much in the way of brightening ingredients. There are, however, a couple of anti-aging ingredients – hydrolized collagen and elastin – way down at the end of the ingredients list. Jergens starts off well with shea butter and there’s also cocoa and mango butters, but they are drowning in a sea of petrolatum, mineral oil, parabens, silicone, chemical fragrance and DHA, which makes the skin susceptible to free radical damage.
Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.