Éminence Handmade Organic Skin Care of Hungary has a mission “to enhance your well-being naturally” using only healthy ingredients containing organic and biodynamic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The line is free of parabens, petrolatum, mineral oils, propylene glycol, and sodium lauryl sulfate. Additionally, Éminence does not test on animals and uses environmentally friendly packaging. With rare exception, previously reviewed products from the line have largely received rave reviews. Adding to the allure of Éminence are celebrity endorsements from known vegan actors, such as Olivia Wilde and Alicia Silverstone.

However, despite Éminence’s organic commitment, it was named in a 2010 complaint filed with the USDA by the Organic Consumers Association and various organic brands for falsely promoting products as truly organic. I couldn’t help but notice the amount of digital real estate dedicated to the green factor on the company’s site. Éminence is (now) a member of the North American Organic Trade Association and holds certifications by the USDA National Organic Program (in Oregon) as well as USDA accredited Agricultural Services Certified Organic, LLC. Éminence also holds various international certifications including Biokontroll, the main certification organization in Hungary. It’s important to note that certifications from said agencies do not apply to the entire product line, as evidenced by Éminence’s USDA collection, comprised of a mere three products.

Éminence is sold exclusively in salons and spas because, per its FAQ, “without the assistance of one of our professionals, you could select the wrong products for your skin type and fall short of your desired results.” If this were a medical-grade line, I would agree but I can’t see how it’s necessary to consult a professional for an organic line, many of which are sold en masse.

Nonetheless, the Firm Skin Acai Cleanser ($38), which I was recently given to test, indicates it is made for all skin types (more on that later), especially mature and dehydrated skin. I have mature and dehydrated skin and held high hopes that this cleanser would suit my skin’s needs. Upon dispensing the product from the pump, I noted this is a cream cleanser, which I felt should have been disclosed somewhere on the packaging.

The cleanser contains an abundant amount of fruit juices, including acai berry, raspberry, and blueberry juices as well as blueberry essence, a pure fruit essence recovered from blueberry juice prior to concentration. I’m uncertain as to why both blueberry juice and the essence are needed. The Éminence ingredients glossary simply lists blueberry, so I didn’t get any answers there. There is some debate regarding the effectiveness of using certain antioxidants topically vs. orally, and I’m not convinced that slathering blueberry juice on my face will protect me from free radicals. The ingredients also include Biocomplex, a proprietary antioxidant blend containing vitamins A, ester C, E, coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid, all of which are effective topical antioxidants (ester C in particular). While adding antioxidants to a cleanser can’t hurt, I wouldn’t rely on it as an alternative to a separate topical antioxidant. Well-formulated topical antioxidants are highly concentrated and designed for optimal absorption of the active ingredients.

The cleanser also contains several oils, of which corn germ and sunflower oils are listed as the first two ingredients, thereby having the highest concentration in the cleanser. Corn germ oil, containing essential fatty acids and vitamin E, is a rich emollient used as a primary base for many products that claim to reduce wrinkles for a youthful look. Sea buckthorn oil, another emollient, is derived from a fruit rich in vitamin C. There is also vegetable glycerin, commonly found in facial cleansers and also an excellent emollient. There are small amounts of lactic and salicylic acid which are cosmetically used as skin exfoliants. Interestingly, water is not included in the formulation. But I wouldn’t consider this an anhydrous cleanser because fruit juices contain water. I find the inclusion of hyaluronic acid on the ingredients list a bit deceiving as the ingredient used is actually marshmallow plant extract, which Marta noted isn’t hyaluronic acid and cannot “erase fine lines” as stated on the packaging. Marshmallow plant extract has an inhibitory effect on hyaluronidase, the enzyme that degrades hyaluronic acid in skin tissue. I found it strange that I didn’t see any ingredients that are known (or even unknown) cleansers in the formulation.

The purpose of a cleanser is to remove makeup as well as oil, sweat, dirt and bacteria that accumulates from both internal and external factors. Cleansing creams are generally oil and water emulsions. Oils attract dirt and other oil but require water to be washed away. Water, not listed as an ingredient, isn’t available in a large enough in quantity to effectively cleanse (upon use of the cleanser, I realized the lack of water wasn’t the real problem). In fact, the “cleanser” is largely a concoction of emollients and antioxidants. By definition, emollients are lubricants used to help spread other ingredients (corn germ oil) and guard the skin barrier, lying on top of skin, preventing dehydration. Moreover, both the root and the leaf of the marshmallow plant contain a mucus-like substance known as mucilate, which becomes slippery when wet, and does not dissolve in water. While marshmallow extract can be found in many products, the addition of copious doses of emollients along with minute amounts of exfoliants (lactic/salicylic acids), not cleansers, render this to be an ineffective cleanser.

Every time I used this cleanser, I felt as if a filmy residue remained on my face afterward. I tried to ignore the feeling, telling myself that my face had just been washed with several organic, healthy ingredients. However, my face just didn’t feel clean and actually felt a bit oily after using the cleanser. In fact, I couldn’t resist using a mild physical exfoliator to wash off the filmy residue. Rinsing this product off the face is an uphill battle - I even brought out the Clarisonic Mia, which I would not normally use with a manual exfoliant. I certainly wouldn’t consider this cleanser to be appropriate for all skin types and feel those with very oily skin might just find this cream cleanser to be a product nightmare. I found the cleanser’s formulation to be fundamentally flawed - it just doesn’t serve its purpose, which is to cleanse.

Ingredients: Corn germ oil, Sunflower oil, Acai Berry Juice, Blueberry Juice, Rasberry Juice, Vegetable Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid (derived from marshmallow plant), Lactic Acid, Sea buckhthorn Oil, Sodium Benzoate, Xanthum Gum, BiocomplexTM (Vitamin A, Vitamin C Ester, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid) Salicylic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Blueberry Essence, Lemon Oil